Geez! It’s been exactly 2 months since the day I left Japan and came back to Indonesia :( . Yes, I have been terribly sad and I am still wishing that someday something could bring me back to this country, where I’ve left part of my heart (or may be almost whole of it). Okay, I start to be over-exaggerating but I can’t lie to myself that I miss miss miss Japan so so so much! The fresh air, the hectic trains, the amazing queue, the extremely nice people, everything. And most importantly, the scrumptious foods, which always come with stunning presentation.
I have been waiting for this time to come, the time when I can start writing my Japan food and travel guide for all of you who have been asking me to make this for tons of time. So here it is, my very first Japan food guide and as the very first one, I pick Japan’s most wanted traditional dishes (well, according to me they are for most of the tourists), Japanese noodles! I’ll share with you the list of all Ramen, Soba, and Udon restaurants I’ve ever been in Tokyo and its surroundings. They’re somehow different one to another as you know that Japan has several styles of noodles, such as Ramen, Soba, and Udon. Moreover, for each of them, the dish itself might be various, depending on the origin or the prefecture where it comes from. Please note that the order is just random, but don’t worry as I’ll definitely tell you if they are on my must-try list!
1. Mutekiya Ikebukuro
1-17-1 Minamiikebukuro, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 10.30am – 4.00pm
My most recommended dish here is their signature, Nikutamamen (¥1,050). This Hakata style ramen, which is pork-based broth, is the best ramen I’ve ever tried in my whole life! So if you say you’ve tried the best ramen ever, please think twice if you haven’t tried Mutekiya. This is definitely a must-must try! The ramen is served with sliced roasted pork, flavored egg, bamboo shots, and seaweed with Mutekiya name printed on it. The best parts of this Nikutamamen are the extremely tender pork and the super rich broth. Trust me, you don’t even want to leave any single drop of the broth in your bowl. Warning, please expect approximately 30-minute queue, especially if you come during weekend or lunch time.
2. Gogyo Nishiazabu
1-4-36 Nishiazabu, Tokyo
Mon – Fri 11.30am – 4.00pm, 5.00pm – 3.00am; Sun 11.30am – 4.00pm, 5.00pm – 12.00am
My most favorite dish from Gogyo is their Burnt Miso Ramen (¥880). Yes, the color is black and it’s literally burnt. You can see the big fire in the kitchen when you’re dining in the restaurant. That burnt yet tasty broth is basically the distinctive point from Gogyo Ramen.
3. Yoroiya Ramen
1-36-7 Asakusa, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 11.00am – 8.30pm
Yoroiya serves shoyu (soy sauce) based ramen with clear broth. I tried this ramen stall when I visited Asakusa, the place where the famous Sensoji temple’s located. The queue was quite long as it’s been known as one of the oldest ramen stall. I had their Tamago Ramen (¥880), which was served with the double-yolk egg, their point-of-selling. However, personally I don’t think there’s something special with the taste and it’s just okay for me.
4. Kagari Ginza
4-4-1 Ginza, Tokyo
Mon – Fri 11.00am – 3.30pm, 5.30pm – 10.30pm; Sat 11.00am – 3.30pm, 5.30pm – 9.00pm
If most ramen in Japan is served with sliced pork and having pork-based soup, Kagari is the solution for you who doesn’t eat pork. Yes, they do sell sliced pork as the toppings, but their signature dish is their Tori Paitan (¥980), ramen with chicken-based soup and chicken toppings. If I nominate Mutekiya as the best pork ramen I’ve ever had, then Kagari’s Tori Paitan is the best for chicken one. I’ve never eaten boiled chicken as tender and juicy as theirs. It was perfectly cooked, which you might see from its pinkish color. The condiments were also unique, as you would get salmon roe and mushrooms. For mine, I also added sliced beef as I was so tempted looking at those pinkish medium-well beef as well, which were proven so yummy. Same as Mutekiya, you have to queue here and it’s even crazier as it might take more than 1 hour since the stall can only occupy around 8-10 people.
3-34-11 Shinjuku, 4-11-11 Roppongi, 7-1-1 Ueno, 6-5-6 Jingumae, 1-39-11 Higashiikebukuro, 2-8-8 Azabujuban, 2-14-10 Sangenjaya, 6-19-11 Haramachida, 1-3-3 Nishikicho, 13-7 Udagawacho, 3-12-22 Sakae (Tokyo)
Mostly opened for 24 hours
For those who have been to Japan, you must have known Ichiran as it’s probably the most famous ramen chain among tourists. First time coming to Japan, the only ramen stall I know was Ichiran as so many people were talking about it. Additionally, it’s available at almost every areas in Tokyo (they even have 3 stalls in Shibuya!) and most of the stalls open for 24 hours. If you’re a tourist just like me, you might find this ramen stall quite unique as there are walls between each guest, making you feel like you’re eating by yourself in a private room. Just like other chain restaurants in Japan, you just need to order your dish through the vending machine provided in front of the stall. However, you needn’t worry as you can request for additional order later.
Cut the story short, I finally try their Classic Tonkotsu ramen (¥790). I personally think the sliced pork were too thin and I needed to order more slices as I were not satisfied enough with the default one, which came with 3 slices of roasted pork and condiments. The broth was quite good, but to be honest it didn’t impress me that much. For me, it was delicious but not to crave for.
6. New Tantanmen Noppo Ingen
1-1-7 Nishikanagawa, Yokohama
Another variant of ramen is served here, it’s the Tantanmen, the spicy ramen with chili and garlic-based soup mixed with eggs and diced pork. They basically serve only one type of ramen, but you can adjust almost everything; the spiciness level, the garlic amount, the eggs amount, and even the diced pork amount. I go for its level 4 and yes, it’s so spicy, even for Indonesian taste bud who usually can stand quite high spiciness level like me. It somehow looks simple, but the taste is actually awesome. It’s just different style to enjoy your bowl of ramen! One note, beware of the garlicky smell which might come out from your mouth after having this. My Japanese friend even told me that people usually want to have this at Saturday as they’ll just stay at home and meet no one at Sunday.
7. Yamatoten Abura Soba
1-5-1 Shinjuku Nishiguchi MB 3F, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 11.00am – 12.00am
Just couple of weeks after I arrived for the first time in Japan, Yamatoten Abura Soba established their very first brand in Pantai Indah Kapuk, Jakarta. I was so curious to try as they claimed themselves as Tokyo’s best Abura Soba. I tried to ask my Japanese friends, but surprisingly only some of them know Abura Soba and they do say it’s not that common in Tokyo. I then tried to find out where the original one’s actually located and luckily I managed to go there. For you who don’t know what Abura Soba is, it’s basically boiled thick noodle with specially made sauce, served with roasted pork. People sometimes call it as soupless soba as well. When you want to eat it, you have to mix it with the special oils provided with the amount recommended. I tried their Half-boiled Egg Abura Soba (¥750), and my tummy was pampered right at the first spoon. That’s my first time trying Abura Soba and it immediately became one of my most favorite Japanese noodle! Even when I went back to Jakarta, it’s one of my top-priorities to try.
Aqua City 5th Floor, Odaiba, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 11.00am – 11.00pm
Located at the Ramen Village at Aqua City Odaiba, this ramen stall is just one of the many ramen stalls available there, each of which sell their own specialty ramen. Nishiesyouten captured my interest as they served Abura Soba (¥700). Different from Yamatoten, this one’s richer in terms of toppings and condiments, and all of them perfectly suited my palate. The taste was pretty different from Yamatoten but I did like this one so much! So for you who have tried Yamatoten and want to have different version of Abura Soba, this could be your perfect choice. Besides, you can enjoy the beautiful view of Odaiba while having your delightful bowl of soba.
9. Kazuga Tei
2-6-12, Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo or 7-10-14 Shinjuku, Tokyo
Another option for Abura Soba is Kazuga Tei, whose stalls are available in Tokyo’s 2 most famous places, Shibuya and Shinjuku. In terms of toppings and condiments, their signature Abura Soba is quite similar to Yamatoten as it’s not that much. However, the sauce is totally different. It somehow looks like cheese but please note that it’s not cheese. For you who love noodle with creamy sauce, this can be one of your to-have list. It’s quite hard to explain how the taste is because I can’t find any other food with similar taste, but simply said, it’s luscious.
3-14-12, Roppongi, Tokyo or 2-26-3 Kabukicho B1F, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Mon – Sun 11.00am – 5.30am
Different from the previous 9 restaurants, Tsurutontan is famous for their udon and highly well-known for their giant portion. Even the normal one is far bigger than your face. Actually they do serve other types of noodles like Ramen, but their udon is highly recommended. I tried their Tsuruton Zanmai (¥1890), which from the picture only you could tell that it must be super good. It’s clear soup based udon, served with beef, egg, prawn tempura and veggies tempura. You needn’t worry to be deceived by the photo as in Japan, the actual one is either same or even better than the photo. Don’t think that it’s overprice before you try it yourself. Looking at the super generous portion and abundant toppings, you’ll definitely think the price really worth the quality and taste. The udon has perfect texture and all the toppings come as flawless companion. One thing to note, they require each guest to order minimum 1 food/beverage. As the portion is so huge, I recommend you to share one for two and order only light bites or beverage for your sharing partner.
I still can’t believe that I finally finish writing my very first Japan food guide. Please be patient to wait for the next series as I have been extremely busy these days and it takes quite long time to make this type of guide as I want to make each of them as complete as possible. In case that you have any questions, feel free to drop me email and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible. I’m always excited every time I talk about Japan, especially all its foods! I really hope it can help you exploring Japan :).
Thanks for Reading! :)
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