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Need Help with Soba, Ramen and Unagi places in/around Tokyo

So, my trip is coming up next month and I am trying to put my itinerary together (yes, i have an excel sheet all filled out- don't judge me), but I am still undecided on a few things. I'm hoping someone can help me out...

Unagi - I decided on having lunch at Kanda Kikukawa in Hibiya on a day I was sightseeing and shopping in Ginza. I'm not sure if this is the best, but wanted to hear your thoughts on this particular restaurant. Are there better unagi places for lunch? Or what are the MUST EAT unagi places?

Soba - In reviewing the other threads, I saw someone review on Kanda Yabu and Narutomi. Initially, I was drawn to Kanda Yabu because, well, I'm a tourist and I want to eat at a 100 something year old restaurant and take pictures. But, how is the soba? Should I skip it and go somewhere else?

Ramen - Man... I have been going back and forth with this one... as there are so many threads and reviews on ramen alone in Tokyo. I intially wanted to try Menya Kissou due to the rave reviews, but seeing an unfavorable review from Keizo (goramen) which also said they didn't allow photos, I have become relunctant. I wanted to try Bassa or Jiro or Ivan... but not sure which is best? I'm sure it's hard to actually pick what's best as everyone has their own preferences, but my favorite ramen (in SoCal) is Shio ramen at Santouka, if that helps. Oh and I don't really want to go to the ramen museum, especially if i have to wait in massive lines. I only wait in line for sushi. =P

Also, I'm considering to eat at these places for lunch, unless someone knows a FABULOUS MUST EAT soba/ramen/unagi place that I have to eat for dinner.

Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

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  1. My favorite unagi in Tokyo is Obana. Unfortunately it's not in a very convenient location. My second favorite is Nodaiwa. I've never been to kikukawa, but if you're looking for something in Ginza, Chikuyo Tei Hon Ten is good.

    I adore Narutomi. The soba there is excellent. It is my favorite soba restaurant in all of Japan. There are places with better atmosphere, but Narutomi is the one soba restaurant I consistently go back to. I've trained in a soba restaurant in Tokyo and many of the other soba chefs I know also like Narutomi. I cannot say the same thing for Kanda Yabu. Kanda Yabu is historic, beautiful, and extremely important to the soba world, but the soba's not really special. A soba chef I know told me they use automation in some of their soba making process. I can't really believe it, but I will say that the reason to go there is not for the food. Soba isn't really filling anyways, you could do both in one afternoon. I've eaten at four soba restaurants within three hours before, so two won't kill you. If you go to Narutomi try the anago nikogori, and if you're going to order any hot soba order the duck if it's on the menu.

    IMHO Kissou is not worth the trouble if you're not in the area because of the location and the wait. I waited forty minutes for something that I could have gotten a lot more conveniently at other top-rated ramen places. It's very good, but it's just not my pick if you're on vacation and limited on time.

    1. I think you need to understand that in Japan for really, really good ramen, you will usually wait in line. For really good sushi, you will make a reservation. For really cheap sushi, you will wait in line. If you want to avoid waiting for ramen, I suggest a branch of a good chain like Santouka, Jiro, Ippudo, Jangara, Ichiran, Tenkaippin, etc. Although even at many of the Jiro locations people will line up. You’ll also want to consider location- especially if you are a short time visitor in the city. Ivan is out there- like in an anonymous western part of the city nowhere near anything touristy. Kissou is on a more convenient line, but not in a convenient location either- though for the record, it’s still rocking out on RamenDB. Suggest honing in on a shop in a better location or if you are really at a loss, checking out the Ramen Museum or the ramen “yokocho” attractions in Ikebukuro or Shinagawa.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Silverjay

        Silverjay is correct - if there's no line at a ramen shop, chances are that it's not in the upper echelon of ramen in Japan. That being said, unless you're going to be around Kissou you have to tack on the round trip train ride to the wait, which may double the time it takes to get your ramen. I won't say that the quality was or was not the same, but as an example, I was with friends from LA, we happened to be at Shinagawa Station, we ate at Tetsu, and the wait was fifteen minutes. I don't know if the two hours it would have taken to go to Kissou from their hotel, wait, eat and then come back would have been worth it to them. I can see someone finding themselves in Shinagawa but most people don't find themselves at Kiba station very often.

        If you can't read RamenDB http://www.ramentokyo.com/ might be a helpful resource.

        Attached is a picture of the line I found at Kissou 25 minutes before they opened. Note that there are only (about?) ten seats and you can do the math. It was really good though.

         
        1. re: Silverjay

          I should have been more clear. I definitely know that I will wait in line for really good ramen shop, i just didn't want to go to the ramen museum since I heard it's line after line with people everywhere. I was making the sushi comparison because I was thinking of the wait at Sushi Dai in Tsukiji market, but alas I did not make that clear... Thanks for all the suggestions.. do you have a personal preference or favorite?

          1. re: nelehelen

            Weekends are busy at the ramen museum but other days aren't so bad. But it's not convenient from Shinjuku anyway. The Ikebukuro ramen alley seems to have closed. Here is the link to one in Shinagawa- http://www.shinatatsu.com/raumen/inde... .

            I like blended broths like Rokurinsha and Kissou. Fu-unji seems like a nice looking highly rated blended broth place near Shinjuku-http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/12119. I enjoyed Suzuran a few years ago- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/365264 . It's in Shibuya, where as a tourist you will probably want to explore anyway. They make their noodles in-house (most shops don't) and also make very good pork toppings. Also, Kururi is a few stops away from Shinjuku and is well-known for miso ramen.

            I would pick somewhere in one of the neighborhoods you plan to explore and that you can navigate to. As I'm sure you can tell, many of the highly acclaimed places are not in tourist convenient places. You can easily burn a half a day traveling to, hunting for, and then waiting in line for a meal that will take you 10 minutes to eat.

            1. re: nelehelen

              I was at the Ramen Museum yesterday (Sunday) at around 7pm, and only two of the nine shops had significant lines. It's a fun place to visit if you have time for the trip.

          2. Silverjay is absolutely right. There is always a line for those famous ramen shop. If you are on a tight schedule, and want to visit a famous great ramen place, you may want to consider Fuunji (風雲児). I like the ramen there with its really intense tonkotsu gyoukai (pork bone and fish) soup base. It is conveniently located near the Shinjuku JR station, only a few minutes walk. But then,you have to wait in line, although not as long as Kissou's.

            http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/12119

            1 Reply
            1. re: skylineR33

              I'm staying in shinjuku so that'd be a great place! Thanks! I don't mind the wait as long as it's worth it. =)

            2. My favorite unagi is Izumoya, in Kanda, but I'd consider the anago at Tamai's main shop in Nihonbashi too, behind Takashimaya. I wouldn't do the trip/wait to Obana.

              If you were in the neighborhood, you could stop by Yabu and take pictures outside and get most of the benefit. The inside isn't that special, and I agree the soba are good but not outstanding. My favorite is Muromachi Sunaba, fairly close to there, but I'm not a big soba eater.

              Kissou is near where I live, but again, the wait...I did it once and found it sorta worth it, but with the added travel time from elsewhere, I don't think so. I went to Ikaruga in Kudanshita last week and loved it; not quite the same style, but equally 'impactful'. And quite different from shio. There's a really good shio/shoyu place called Bigakuya near Kissou, again only if you're there. There's a similar place called Isono near Yabu. You could consider going to Takadanobaba for Ganko too, because the experience is so funny and the ramen is also very good. The Jiro in Kanda routinely has 20 people in line at lunch time, but there's a mock-Jiro place across the street called Yojinbo and an awesome place farther down called Fukumen. I guess I wouldn't stress - there are good ramen places everywhere. Why not pick your location first?

              http://iitokorone.blogspot.com/

              6 Replies
              1. re: jem589

                Yes, I was thinking of picking a location first, but I didn't want to limit myself from all the possibilities. I would be willing to travel for great food. But, since really good ramen is so abundant in the city I guess I'm better off just picking a location. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

                1. re: nelehelen

                  FYI only: I went to the driver's license center yesterday, and just for amusement purposes went by Kissou. There were just under 20 people in line at 2 PM.

                2. re: jem589

                  jem589 - did you actually eat at Fukumen (meaning did you go to get one of those member cards on the allotted day, or do they not do that anymore?)

                  nelehelen - as mentioned you can provide an area of the city then the recommendations will come a lot easier.

                  1. re: kamiosaki

                    I'm a proud member with 3 red stamps and one silver. Went initially on a Monday night and they didn't say anything about it, just gave me a card (after I drank all the soup, which again I don't think is a pre-requisite for membership). Practically, I think they enjoy doing it, and you get free toppings once you're a member (advanced members can even choose free hanjuku eggs). The younger master also told me they pretty much just wear the masks for TV crews.
                    http://iitokorone.blogspot.com/2010/0...

                    I would happily meet you there any time now that your reviews have restarted in volume and in earnest. I work just close enough to go for lunch. Alternately, I'd go up on the experimental day.

                    1. re: jem589

                      3 red and 1 silver! Sounds like you are now a high-ranking officer in the Fukumen Army. I guess I will have to salute you :-). Thanks for the invite, will try to PM at some point.

                      They didn't have the masks on when we went either (on a weeknight, but got turned away, even after we sent the only Japanese member of our party in first alone to reconnoiter), but we didn't ask why.

                      1. re: kamiosaki

                        I learned more about the membership system today - stickers are awarded for _strength_, not visits. Thus when I previously got spicy soup + two scoops of spicy miso, I got three red stickers. I expected to get another sticker today for my 'dragon style' ramen, but I didn't - I'd have to get a 'level up' in terms of 'spice points', like 3 scoops of spicy miso. For the shoyu ramen, you get stickers based on extra shots of tare, which would be punishingly salty. But it's worth having the extra stickers...

                        If anyone's reading, I also want to point out that tomorrow (10/23) is the monthly 'death match' where they make up something wacky. This month is shio ramen with raw oysters, Y1200.

                3. have eaten at Kikukawa in Ginza. had their unajyu and it was very nice....then read about Unashou on camemberu's webpage.
                  http://www.camemberu.com/2007/09/hits...
                  have been back multiple times for their hitsumabushi. our last visit yielded new wooden bowls, reduced portion size, but still same quality and they will ask you if you want the kimo in your soup.
                  for soba, chef morimoto took anthony bourdain to sarashina soba.
                  http://www.sarashina-horii.com/en/

                   
                   
                   
                   
                  3 Replies
                  1. re: tokyolo

                    Thanks! I came across camemberu's webpage as well and found outa bout unashou. Since I was going to be in Akihabara on a Tuesday during my visit, I was planning on stopping by Unashou for lunch. Which do you prefer? Kikukawa or Unahou?

                    1. re: nelehelen

                      I prefer Unashou....but I haven't tried this place yet :)
                      http://www.bento.com/rev/2744.html
                      should you find yourself in Ginza.
                      here's a few photos from Unashou. To access, use the escalator or lift IN theYodobashi store. And to clarify the photo's in the previous post, the unajyu is Kikukawa and the wooden bowl is Unashou's.
                      These photos show Unashou's entrance, menu board in the restaurant and menu...and recent size change in bowls...Njoy~

                       
                       
                       
                       
                      1. re: nelehelen

                        oh..if you're going to be in Akiba and feeling like ramen, you may want to check out this place:
                        http://www.sunnypages.jp/travel_guide...
                        Jangara Ramen...They serve tonkotsu style ramen.
                        Njoy

                         
                    2. Any ramen recs near harajuku/aoyama that are open on Sundays? Or Ebisu/Shibuya area that are open late (doesn't have to be a Sunday)?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: nelehelen

                        I've got one on my list in Shibuya, but I haven't been there yet. It's called 'Suzuran'. I would have got the name off of a review from one of the guys at goramen, or ramenadventures - somewhere like that. If you google 'suzuran ramen' I'm sure you'll get the info you need.

                          1. re: Silverjay

                            Great review, Silverjay. Looking forward to getting there even sooner, now!

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              silverjay..
                              always enjoy reading your posts: D...
                              thank you!

                        1. Just to confuse matters, you could always check out this ramen-ya......

                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKWxVU...

                          My advice is..... don't worry about what your favorite ramen in LA is. That may not have any bearing on Tokyo, and you should explore things you can't get in LA, right?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Steve

                            And while Santouka is good by US standards, it's nothing special in Japan so I would avoid it if I were you. In fact, the last time I was at Santouka in Tokyo (Gotanda location), it tasted the same but slightly more oily.