Ramen Tour of Tokyo
Want to try the real deal in Tokyo, Japan? My colleague Brian MacDuckston from ramenadventures chaperoned us to these six ramenya’s. I’d highly recommend them for a nice well-rounded tour to experience the different types of ramen available in Tokyo.
Most Tokyo ramenyas have very minimal seating, with seats at a bar and no waiting area. The chef is always present and is typically only accompanied by one or two apprentices, depending on the size of the shop. It’s quiet. The Japanese like to face the chef and eat without talking or socializing. It is the same at sporting or concert events in Japan, people stand side-by-side but there isn’t much interaction as they enjoy the show. It is their way of showing respect to the performer, and at a ramenya, to the master and his expertise.
Customers respect the line and wait without complaining, no looking at their phones or talking too much. They place their order and pay at a small ticket machine at the front of the shop, make a line outside and sometimes line up along the wall in the back of the restaurant as their turn draws closer. When a seat opens up, they are prompted. You sit down quickly, hand over your ticket, and wait for your ramen. Within minutes, the bowl is presented on a raised bar in front of you. They dig into their ramen, and finish within 15 minutes. With a polite “gochisosama”, they exit and the next person sits. This efficient system keeps the line moving quickly.
Some ramenyas are set up in more of a restaurant style with a waiter, a menu, and proper drink service. You are welcome to stay longer at these establishments but my advice is to show respect and do as others do. Eat, enjoy and get out. You can talk later.
1. Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta, Master Onishi-san
Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Sugamo 1-14-1
Closest station: Sugamo
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Don't let the name confuse you. "Soba" translates to noodles, so this is a ramen shop, not the traditional "soba" noodles you are thinking of. This was our first ramen stop in Tokyo and probably the most formal of all of the ramenya’s we went to. It had a long line at 11AM, it was the first time we used the ticket machine to place an order, and everyone was quiet as a mouse, except for the slurping of course. We were advised by Brian to only take pictures of the ramen but to do this very quickly. Our bowls were placed on the raised bar and it was as if we were paying homage by reaching for it with both hands and placing it in front of us to consume. My traveling partner and photographer for the trip, Andi and I each shared the Shoyu and Shio varieties and thought they were divine. The soup wasn’t too heavy so we were able to finish them both, the egg filled with liquid gold and just enough negi (green onion) and chashu. The Shio version had a delicious green pesto type topping that I think was made with anoriko, a powdered seaweed.