Tokyo ramen list
Hi fellow chowhounds!
In preparation to my Japan trip in May, I have been browsing for ramenya recommendations on this board and other websites (Ramentokyo.com, Rameniac.com, etc.) and after much reading, I present my list of ramen I hope to try while in Tokyo:
Mutekiya Ramen: Ikebukuro
Menya Musashi Seisan
Kyushu Jangara Ramen
Ganso Ebisu Ramen
Jiro Ramen (at any one of the locations)
Can you please give me your thoughts on this list? Is there any place that I shouldn't bother with, or any place that I am clearly missing? Many thanks in advance for your input!
As for Jiro, make sure you go to one of the nicer places. I'd definitely stay away from the Kabukicho location I last tried.
I'm curious to try the Hachioji location, ramentokyo said it was his favorite I believe.
For Jangara, there is a location near Kanda/Otemachi that is always far less busy than the Harajuku branch. For that matter, I think there is one in Akasaka as well that may be less busy.
To be brutally honest, it's a pretty vanilla list of shops. These are the types of places I would settle for if I couldn't find a destination shop in the neighborhood. Most of the list consists of chain shops (except Ivan Ramen and Mutekiya). Three of them are basically the same Kyushu style tonkotsu broth (Ippudo, Akanoren, and Jangara), one them is close to that style (Jiro). They are all good but there's so much better out there. I recommend at least dropping Ippudo, Akanoren, Ivan, and Ganso and redoubling your research efforts. You might want to also consider the ramen themed attractions like the ramen museum in Shin-Yokohama and smaller, but similar set-ups in Ikebukuro and Shinagawa.
Silverjay thank you for the feedback I really appreciate the input. As i haven't been to Tokyo I didn't realize that many of these places are chains. Thank you for recommending the places you think I should drop. I think I will have to go to Ivan ramen regardless because as a fellow NewYorker and ramen loverI want to go and see Ivan's ramenya. I see that you mention that many of the places that i have picked would be the places you would settle for if you could not find destination places, in that case can you give me some names of the places you consider to be much better picks? Thanks!
At the bottom, the first link is one of the best, most highly regarded shops, in Tokyo. The second is very high on the list as well. The third is part of a mini chain from Sendai (north of Tokyo). I researched, cross-referenced, and vetted these places before going, eating, and writing the reviews. Tokyo is really a huge geographical area and there are many types of ramen these days. Tonkotsu is very popular, but shio has been experiencing a boom and of course, Tokyo is more well-known for shoyu broth. All things considered though, it is the blended type of broth that seems to garner the most accolades theses days from ramen pundits. Blended broths mix pork, chicken, and fish extracts. I have my favorite chains and I like tonkotsu just fine, but it's the blended broths that are so dynamic and amazing that you want to eat another bowl while you are eating your first. In general, if you let me know where you are staying, I can point you out to specific places more easily. Or, I'm just as happy to refer you to the places I'm interested in, but they may be all over the Metropolis....
I saw a very nice feature story on Ivan when I was in Tokyo in December. He came across as a great guy. I"m sure he's on TV from time to time. His shop is well regarded locally in that part of town, though is not in the upper echelon of Tokyo ramen shops...yet at least...
Very nice recommendations! :) Thanks.
I, too, like "I heart ramen" am going to Tokyo soon. I'll be hitting all the major central Tokyo suburbs in my trip (Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, Ikebukoro, Roppongi, Asakusa, etc.).
I'm definitely willing to travel anywhere in Tokyo to get "Uber Ramen" while I'm there, so any other recommendations would be great.
(Or if the 3 links you posted are your Top 3 favorites, that's good enough for me. :)
Thank you very much for the thorough reponse and great recommendations! My mouth is watering after reading your reports and I will definitely tweak my list, drop some places and will definitely add your recommendations. We will be staying at Ikebukuro for part of our trip to Tokyo and either Shibuya or Shinjuku for the second part of out trip, so if you can recomend some places in those areas it would be great.
Rokurinsha and a couple of other blend shops are in the Tokyo Ramen Street mall inside Tokyo Station. There's another similar group operation in Shinagawa...Jiro has a branch in Shinagawa (I'm not sure how close to the station) and the original shop in Mita...Not sure if any of these are open during that time period but I suspect the one in at least Tokyo Station would be most of the time.
All I can say is if you plan to go to Rokurinsha, go at an off-hour time. Even then the line outside the shop was at least 12 people, but much better than when I passed by at lunch on a weekend. I didn't bother checking how far the line went up the stairwell because it was too ridiculous.
re: lost squirrel
I've enjoyed Rokurinsha in the past, but if the line's at the stairs I wouldn't bother lining up as you're looking at more than 45 minutes or so. If you're after a Jiro style shop you could try Bario in Jimbocho. Clean, and delicious. It may have been mentioned earlier, but the 'best of the best' page on ramenadventures.com has some nice tips, including Bario, under the Jiro style.
I can't offer anything on Tokyo ramen list, and I think you are in very safe hands with the likes of Silverjay. I just wanted to give you a heads-up - have you ever tried Japanese style pasta? It's a very different experience from the original stuff but I think it's definitely worth a taste.
If you'd like to give it a shot, this chain of shops is pretty decent - Goemon (go-e-mon), I'd recommend the maccha warabi mochi dessert. One of the better chains around!
List of shops:
I had a Tonkatsu ramen at Ichiran in Ropponghi two days ago. Real hole in the wall place with only 9 stools/booths. Ordered one ( on their English menu order form ) with extra strong broth, pork slices, garlic and scallions. Thank God I stick with their 'normal' special sauce 'cos it was really spicy. Ramen was thinner than angel hair but very al dente firm. Overall very delicious..
re: Charles Yu
What? No michelin starred swedish tasting menus in Ginza today?.........
Ichiran is another tonkotsu ("tonkatsu" being a fried pork cutlet) chain from Kyushu, along with Ippudo, Jangara, and Akanoren. A fall back, all night option if one is out drinking in Roppongi. I'm not ashamed to admit that they could probably put a plaque in my name on a stool at that shop as I was a regular the first year that branch opened. Anyhow, I think we've sufficiently covered the Kyushu-originated-chain tonkotsu ramen shops of Tokyo here- a momentary chowhound digression in an otherwise consistent source of the newly discovered and delicious.
I would wholeheartedly agree with Silverjay's recommendations of Rokurinsha and Suzuran (I have never been to Chibakiya but I think we can trust his judgement on that one too, my only concern would be that Kasai is a bit of a hike from the left side of the loop). W/r/t Rokurinsha, the hours (other than Tues) are officially 11:30 to 4:30, but if you assume a 30-60 minute wait, then that's effectively 10:30 to 3:30, and keep in mind you will be standing for most of that time. Assuming you are going there on a weekday, getting there between 3:00-3:30 is my recommendation. The line will start to shrink a lot after lunchtime but to be on the safe side I wouldn't plan to get there after 3:30. Lines of up to 100 people at lunch time are not unheard of, as the picture at the below link demonstrates:
(A few popular ramen shops now also have delivery services, where they make additional soup and noodles each day, presumably in a different location, and then have them delivered same day to people who prepay. You have to sign up and prepay for delivery for the day you want, and if you scroll to the bottom of the link you can see that Rokurinsha is sold out through April 7)
As for Suzuran (closed Sundays) since you don't want to miss the wide-noodle/kaku-ni pork combo, I would skip breakfast that day, and be on line at 11 or so for the 11:30 open.
On chain shops I agree with Silverjay in principle that they wouldn't typically be my first choice for any given area but I don't think that they should be completely ruled out. Following on from the discussion of tonkotsu gyokai, an example that I would give of this in the Shibuya area would be Kookai, I feel that they make a very strong (tsukemen) bowl of this type, especially for a chain store, and the broth runs thinner and "creamier", if you will, than places like Rokurinsha or Tetsu that will have more of a texture, some people might call it "grittiness" to the broth. YMMV.
Ippudo - there was supposed to be one opening in NY late last year - the web site now says 3/31:
I love Ippudo and I take visitors there regularly - if the Tsukumo recommendation below doesn't fly for you or it's too crowded or whatever then the Ebisu Ippudo is 5 mins walk from there
Ivan Ramen - I have met with Ivan, have tasted his ramen - it is really good - and he's a great guy who deserves to succeed. His place and a place like Menya Sou (http://www.menya-sou.com) in Takadanobaba (halfway between Ikebukero and Shinjuku on the loop) would be examples of one of the new things in Tokyo ramen recently, the concept of "ramen dining", the idea that ramen can be served along with other "real" dishes in a "real" restaurant setting.
So as for your list, you could start with the Rokurinsha, Suzuran, Chibakiya recommendations and then perhaps add these, I tried to keep you close to your home base, while concentrating on high-ranked destination shops and covering all the styles.
You'll generally have better luck and shorter lines on weekdays, either before or after the lunch crowd, so you might want to plan your itinerary accordingly:
Ikebukero Mutekiya - keep it in there, it's worth it for tonkotsu, however this place will have a long line too
Ikebukero Jiro (about a 2-3 min walk northeast from Mutekiya) - high on the Jiro cleanliess, taste and volume scales
Junk Garage in Osaki (coincidentally right next to Rokurinsha, but they don't open until 6) would be an example of good "shiru nashi" style ramen. Another new trend in 2007 - ramen with little or no broth, or some broth mixed with some more oil, sort of like abura soba. This is a totally different taste and with the raw egg and ground pepper on top it may not be for everyone, I include it only if you feel daring. You can ask for no egg.
Wadachi in Shibuya - a bit far of a walk from Shibuya station but you can take the Keio Inokashira sen one stop to Shinsen station and get off there, it's real close to the station. Shoyu tsukemen recommended. Very big volume here for both noodles and pork.
Hirugao in Shinjuku - shio tsukemen - excellent grilled pork - then take a break in Shinjuku Gyoen nearby
Tsukumo in Ebisu/Hiroo - miso ramen with Hokkaido cheese in it - this one can get a bit touristy due to the novelty but is worth it for the taste and the experience
HTH - please let us know how you do!
Wow, thanks for all your recommendations! :) If I may ask:
1. Rokurinsha: What do your abbreviations mean? "W/r/t"?
2. Rokurinsha: Yikes, so from 10:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. it's just all lines all the time?! (O_O) Would you recommend 10:30 a.m. or is 3:30 p.m. the better slot?
3. I love Tonkotsu Ramen (and I missed out on the tonkotsu discussion? that Silverjay is mentioning), so I don't mind trying a chain if there's a good Tonkotsu Ramen (Kyushuu style) that shows off Japan's true flavor. Of the ones you listed would you say
Ikebukero Mutekiya is the best one to try of that style?
1. It's "With regard to...", isn't it?
2. I know KamiO will agree that it's best to get to Rokurinsha as close to the opening as possible since the shop will close when they run out of soup- which is what the sign on the door says in Japanese. I queued up a good 45 minutes ahead of "shutter up" time in the morning and people got in line behind me very soon after.
3. Mutekiya is not a chain. There's only one of them. Of the chains mentioned, they are all very good. Can't go wrong with any of them. Of the 3 very popular Kyushu tonkotsu places, they rank in this order in terms of "porkiness"-
Most porky: Jangara
Pretty porky: Ippudo
Porky but not as porky: Ichiran.
They are all fine, often emulated, examples of their ilk. Ippudo is expanding overseas and I bet Ichiran will eventually too.
KamiO- What are your recs for your neck of the woods- Meguro? Have you broken down the shops along Meguo-dori between the station and Yamate-dori? RamenDB has generally good things to say about the Ikeda tsukemen place.
1. Yes it is, sorry exilekiss.
2. If you're on line at 10:45 or so, before the 11:30 opening, then of course you will get fed that day, unless there is a power outage or an major earthquake or something like that. But if you can't get there at that time, then I would say wait for a while and get there between 3-3:30. Point being that the line will definitely be at its worst around lunchtime.
3. As above.
Yes I have been to just about all of the shops within 10 mins walk of JR Meguro station. Ikeda was quite good but not exceptional IMO, the ramendb's 78 score seems a tad high to me but I won't dispute it.
I walk up and down Meguro-dori at least once a week for one reason or another - let me make a list of the shops in the correct order on both branches (I have to actually walk it to remember them all) and I'll come back with another post during the week or next weekend....
You asked for it, you got it. Here is a list of all the ramen shops on Meguro-dori, the north and south branches, going west between JR Meguro station and Yamate-dori. Various nondescript Chinese restaurants are left out. Shops marked with * are above average for the area, however I have to say that the Meguro station area doesn't really have any "destination" shops.
From JR Meguro station, go west on the north "branch" of Meguro-dori. The road will slope downward, and Sumitomo Mitsui bank will be on your left as you start down. There are no shops on the left-hand side of the road on this branch of Meguro-dori. So stay on the right-hand side, you will pass an AM-PM on your right and then the first place you come to about 30 secs after that will be:
Nogata Hope (野方ホープ)
tonkotsu, decent, nice wooden interior, noodles sort of plain though
* SouRyuToGyokuDou (蒼龍唐玉堂
)pretty good dan-dan men (red and black sesame, rich flavor, couple of other types) and sui gyoza - friendly staff - chain (but good)
Menya Kuro (麺家 黒) - yokohama-style tonkotsu
very salty - found pork to be plain - wide range of selections on machine - very small shop
* Ikeda Tsukemen (づゅる麺 池田
* Yoshu Shonin (中国ラーメン 揚州商人
---- you will now cross the Meguro River and then it will be 3-4 mins walk before you get to:
Katsumaru (支那そば 勝丸
---- if you keep walking another 5 mins you will come to the intersection of Meguro-dori and Yamate-dori, and if you've had enough of ramen for today then Otori Shrine is on the diagonally opposite corner. Or at this point you can go back to the last light you passed, just before the river, and cross to the other side of Meguro-dori. You will now go back east, up the slope back to JR Meguro station via this south "branch" of Meguro-dori.
* (left side) Gonnozuke (権之助
(right-side) Chin-mar Ya - chain
Chinese, supposedly famous for both fairly hot dan-dan men and ma-po tofu, never tried this branch but have been to the one in ebisu, it's good
* (right-side) Tamaru - Tokyo shoyu style
If your grandmother made shoyu ramen it would probably taste like this. Not much of an interior, cabbage is bland, but they serve the regular size ramen in interesting oval bowls and the broth is good.
(right-side) Kagetsu - chain)
http://www.ramentokyo.com/2007/08/kag... (review of different branch
(left-side) Gen-ya (源屋)
good sui gyoza, ramen average
* (left-side) Tenkaippin (天下一品)
)http://www.ramentokyo.com/2007/08/ten... (different branch
-- walk the remaining few steps to the top of the hill and now you should be at the corner directly opposite the west entrance to JR Meguro station. Atre 2 is on your right, and Wu Shang Lu is in there on the first floor for pretty good Chinese dishes at reasonable prices. Atre 1 (above the station) has both Kayu Santin (http://www.ramentokyo.com/2008/01/kay...) and a branch of the Shahoden chain, a bit upscale but a nice interior and good service. But our favorite upscale Chinese place in the area is Hong Kong En (http://tokyo.gourmet.livedoor.com/res...), in back of and to the right of Atre 2, right next to Tonki.
There you have it. Enjoy...
Thanks a lot. I know this area pretty well (and will be back again in a few months), but have never taken up the challenge that you have in trying so many of the ramen places, though I've always considered its' high concentration. It doesn't seem like there are any city-wide destination spots, but there are a few decent local options. (Jiro looms large of course, just round the corner a block or so on Yamate). There seems to be fair amount of construction in the area though so perhaps the population density can actually support so many of these shops. Meguro has really changed a lot in the last few years.
This one is my favorite - Tanaka Shoten:
I've only been there once and it was almost a year ago, but I think it's the best. It's a big place too so you shouldn't have to wait long, if at all. If memory serves they are only open at night.
My only concern is that it might be a bit far from the loop. If this is too far for you then I'll try to find a closer one, if you can tell me one or two stations to look near.
Thanks for your recommendation! :) I'll be staying in Shinjuku, but I'm willing to travel to try out the best restaurants. :)
Your favorite seems a bit far from Shinjuku... do you know how long it'd take by train from Shinjuku station?
If it's too far, I'll definitely try it on my next visit. Thanks.
Yes, it is a bit far. So try this one, which is on the northeast side of Shinjuku station. Keika Ramen is a different style of tonkotsu, from Kumamoto prefecture instead of Hakata prefecture. They are a small chain but they are one of the top ranked tonkotsu places on RamenDB, either in Shinjuku or elsewhere in Tokyo.
You can also buy Keika's noodles (refrigerated-fresh) in some supermarkets such as Mitsukoshi.