This ramen shop in a residential district of northern Tokyo has been running for over thirty years, set up by Takeshi Shoji, whose uncle was a ramen chef. It is quite a long way out of the centre, 27km from Roppongi, but accessible via the excellent Tokyo metro system. The owner and chef runs things single handed, and makes everything from scratch, including the noodles. After waiting in line for a seat, you purchase tickets for the food and drinks that you want from a vending machine by the door.
The restaurant specialises in Chinese soba noodles or "Chyuuka soba”. The chef has offers just three main dishes because its takes a lot of time to make each soup base. The first option is a Chuuka soba with a soy sauce base and other toppings including charsiu pork, nori seaweed, wakame seaweed, bamboo shoots and naruto fish cake. The second is tsukemen with similar toppings and soup base, and the third is “Shio-ramen” (Salt ramen), topped with charsiu pork belly and thigh and other similar toppings. The thickness of the home-made noodles needs to be altered between the three dish styles. The salt used for the shio ramen is from Ishigaki island in Okinawa which is noted for its exquisite taste.
I went with a ramen expert and we tried an appetiser of roast pork, marinated seaweed, and bamboo shoots. There was also a little dish of seaweed with pork, which had enjoyable, punchy flavour. The ramen itself (a special ramen of the day) was impressive, with a well flavoured stock that was made with chicken bones, pigs feet, various further pork parts, dried sardines, dried bonito and some vegetables. The noodles themselves had very good texture and the dish was completed by a slice of pork, a pickled egg, bamboo shoots and kelp. This was a very enjoyable meal, and even with beer to drink the cost per person was almost absurdly low, just under ¥2,000 per person or around £15 each.
Tokyo is often associated with fancy sushi and kaiseki restaurants, but I love that the city has little places like this, serving very affordable and enjoyable food, made with real care and attention. No wonder that there was a line of people queuing out the door. Ramen is a cuisine that attracts devoted followers in search of the ultimate ramen bar, the deceptive simplicity of the core dish and the striving for perfection in each element - stock, meat, noodles, etc - reaching a cult status. This obsession for perfect ramen was explored in the wonderful comedy film Tampopo (1985) where a truck driver assembles a band of food obsessives, “Seven Samurai” style, to help out a struggling ramen cook whose husband has died. I don’t know enough about ramen to be offer a really expert opinion, but certainly the devotion to detail of the owner here, making every element of the meal from scratch, shines through in the quality of his ramen. It was definitely worth the lengthy journey from central Tokyo.