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Suzuran (中華そば すずらん), Ramen, Shibuya, Tokyo, Yamanote Line

One of the things I’m beginning to like about tsuke-men (dipping noodles) is that it provides you a bit more opportunity to get up close and personal with ramen noodles. Most of the time those noodles are buried in the soup under a pile of toppings and you need to trawl with your chopsticks to pull them out of their murky lair. But, with tsuke-men, they are served to you separately in a bowl next to the soup- stark, simple, usually unadorned, and coiled in a pile. At “Chuka-ka Soba Suzuran” they’ve got some very hearty looking, quite thick-guaged tsuke-men noodles that look just fine and tasty and certainly no different from other good noodles I’ve had recently (“Rokurinsha” in Osaki comes to mind). But what intrigued me about this shop, about 5 minutes walk from Shibuya Station, was that they were offering a wide and flat noodle for an extra 100 Yen. Somewhere between a fettuccine and a chow fun, I’m sure there’s a word on some continent for this particular gauge. Suzuran prides itself on these noodles and they are delivered to the shop daily and offered for a premium over the standard- a sure sign of pride in the economically competitive ramen market.

Another item they take an obvious pride in was their Kagoshima style pork belly (buta kakuni), which is stewed for a very long, stomach growling day. I’m just not sure I can get enough of this dish and over the last few years, it’s moved from a line item on menus all over Japan (particularly in it’s regions of origin down south), to a bona fide legitimate ramen topping. It’s difficult to argue against it, as it breaks up nicely in the soup. It’s often served to you on a separate plate, but in a obvious deliberate attempt to either save dishes to wash (highly unlikely) or a manner in which to show off the glory of your order, the cooks at Suzuran majestically serve your tsuke-men with the pork on top of the noodles, looking conspicuously Franco-Italian, rather than Sino-Japanese. There's no red wine in the recipe though- the pork is stewed in, among other things, awamori (Okinawan shochu).

Suzuran is no slouch with the soup. It's a standard blend of fish-pork-chicken base, the popular poison these days in Japan, with the difference being which of those elements the shop wants their broth to lean towards flavor wise. Since I orderd miso, I wasn’t able to distinguish the intricacies of the broth. (I had never heard of miso tsuke-men before and had to try.) With a tinge of sadness for ruining the beautiful looking side dish, I grabbed a healthy few ribbons of noodles and began dipping.

The whole combined savory, spicy, tangy soup was an excellent pairing with the wide surface area of the noodles. All the key culinary organs are fancied here: lips tingle as noodles come slurping up and are snapped in pleasant, toothy hold, the rich tasting miso laps across the palate, the broth slides smooth down the throat, settles in a warm, hardy manner in the gut,. And then there’s the pork, in all its rich, fatty, sinful, Kagoshima goodness. Although there’s already a medley of chopped vegetables and even bits of chashu pork floating in there, it would take only this most zennish culinary stoic to disregard a that pork belly, which is so supersaturated with its on marinade, you could hardly taste miso when you bit into it.

Suzuran is another hot ramen shop, run by a fairly young guy. He methodically assembles the meals with a small team and like a lot of the great shops around, you’re not going to be charmed by the service. But you will be by the food. And actually, Suzuran’s menu of different ramen is quite extensive. While I might try other soups, I wouldn’t miss those noodles or the Kagoshima pork.

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    1. I need a better camera though...

      1. Jay, excellent, detailed report/description.
        Will be in Tokyo next month, for two weeks. I usually make at least one trip to Shibuya when I go, probably more, and long for new and exciting noodle experiences. You say this shop is 5 minutes from the station...in which direction? Is it on the Dogenzaga or near? I know this is sometimes futile, getting and giving directions in Tokyo, but I want to try and find this place. Maybe we can use the dog as a reference point; standing in front of the shibuya dog, staring in the direction of the huge Starbucks....

        4 Replies
        1. re: Polecat

          It's on the east side of the station, not Hachiko or Dogenzaka side. It's behind the huge, rather new, Shibuya police station. Come out Shibuya Station East Exit and take the pedastrian overpass across Meiji Dori, on the right. Head toward the police station, which you can't miss. When you get to the other side, walk uphill on Roppongi Dori just past the station and take the second right. It is literally 5 minutes from the station. Avoid going right around lunch time on a business day.....For some reason, the system won't let me post a link to the map, but take the adress below and throw it into Google maps and it should work. Enjoy!

          渋谷区渋谷3-7-5 大石ビル

            1. re: E Eto

              Yep, RamenDB is where I learned about it. Recently, it's been ranked #12 on NTV's top ramen shops- http://www.ntv.co.jp/ramen/ . Polecat, you should try the #1 shop on this list and see how it stacks up-

              麺処 くるり

              1. re: Silverjay

                Thank you both. I will definitely check out the Ramen DB before I go. P.

          1. wow, it sounds fantastic. I'm there in a couple of weeks...

            1. As you can see from my icon, I love ramen with kakuni. That's interesting they used awamori in the stewing process at Suzuran (also the name of one of my favorite asadoras!), but from the picture, it doesn't look like they used kurosato to make it rafute.

              I think I might add this place to my list for next trip!