"Chibakiya" - Shio-Tan Ramen- Kasai, Tokyo - Tozai Line
Every city, town, region in Japan is known for some kind of food. In the case of Sendai in Northern Honshu, it's beef tongue. It's usually grilled and topped with fresh onion. Capitalizing on this specialty, is a small Sendai based chain of ramen joints called "Chibakiya". The Tokyo shop is located in Kasai, a little bit out of the way in the very Eastern part of the city, but slightly famous in that area. (It appears as part of the area maps at Kasai Station). Although they've got several ramens to choose from, the "shio-tan ramen", which was featured in a print review/advertisement for the Tozai Subway Line, looked to be a real winner and a good way to take advantage of a particular specialty.
Shio or salt-based soup, makes total sense as a platform for tongue, which is more delicate and less absorbent than a chunk of pork chashu. Calling it shio actually is deceptive, as this is really a chicken broth. It actually reminded me of a nice matzo ball soup, though with less of a vegetable make-up, and well, there's probably pork in this soup as well. The real highlight was the beef tongue, smoked and slow cooked over 7 hours, the portion could have been bigger, but the taste was smoky, meaty, and very good. The shop takes a lot of pride in this. It reminded me of very good quality corned beef. (Hmm, matzo ball soup and corned beef tasting beef tongue sounds like it would fit in a New York deli...). Noodles were standard grade thin Hakata style, and the whole thing was topped with 3 kinds of diced onions and toasted sesame seeds. The combination of the hearty, but light tasting soup and the smoky tongue, along with the onions makes for a very engaging and relatively healthy bowl of ramen. I don't know why this ramen isn't more popular, because it's a good total package, especially if you don't want something too heavy.
If you're not full from this at Chibakiya, you can round out your meal with their "Aburi yaki buta sushi" (grilled pork sushi). This is a marinated, grilled piece of chashu press on some mushi rice, with bits of egg. Think meaty oshi-zushi. It's not for everyone, but it's apparently on sale at a shop in Haneda Airport as a sort of eki-ben.
Ordered: Beef Tongue Salt Ramen (Shio-Tan-Soba), Grilled Pork Sushi
Cost: 1000 YEN, 450 YEN
Location: Kasai, Tokai Line
Address: Edogawa-ku, Higashi Kasai 6-15-2, Tokyo