It’s been a while since I’ve done a restaurant roundup, and one of the Japanese foods I get asked about the most is ramen. I admittedly put off trying ramen when we moved here due to burnout from college years spent eating the packaged stuff and poor chopstick skills (you have to be fast!). Now I really do love it — even if it means my pants will be too tight for the rest of the day.
Craig and I have tried some of the best this past year, and when my friend Phil was in town we got the chance to return to our top pick, found in Kyoto. If you’re a ramen fan, get ready for some serious food porn. Once you’ve had real ramen, you’ll never go back to that crunchy block of noodles.
1-17-1 Minamiikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo 171-0022
Our favorite Tokyo ramen has to be this place in Ikebukuro. We waited a little more than a half an hour to get into this restaurant, which is a popular late-night spot known for its amazing pork that’s cooked for 16 hours. We were not disappointed — the broth had an incredibly rich pork flavor and each bowl has plenty of the meat to enjoy. What makes each ramen joint unique is also the condiments they put out for you to add to their ramen. Craig added a whole clove of raw garlic, while I went for the chili paste.
Tokyo Tower, Minato-ku
My doctor’s office is conveniently located right across the street from Tokyo Tower, which has quite a selection of restaurants for visitors. Phil and I stopped at this spot for a quick bite before my last appointment and it was a great introduction to real ramen for him. His dish had a salty, soy-based broth while mine had a pork bone broth (my favorite) with a bit of chili. Both were tasty, even if they were more of a fast food version. If you check out this attraction in Tokyo, go for the ramen instead of McDonald’s or the pizza joint in the food court.
Tokyo Station, Chiyoda-ku
Arguably the most famous ramen restaurant on “Tokyo Ramen Street” in Tokyo station, Rokurinsha was a must try for my friend Phil. The style of ramen they serve is tsukemen, which involves dipping cold noodles into a highly concentrated broth. This ramen has a fishier taste to it — they use dashi, a fish-based broth. I didn’t enjoy as much as other varieties but it was still very hearty and satisfying. Just be sure to wear the bib they give you!
Tokyo Station, Chiyoda-ku
Another spot on “Ramen Street,” Craig tried Kizo’s ramen one day for lunch. While it wasn’t his top choice, it was certainly delicious. You have to serve up some good ramen to earn a spot in this famous food corridor below one of Tokyo’s biggest train hubs. Topped with plenty of bamboo and green onion, it also had a strong pepper flavor, which was unique.
Takabashi Honke Daiichiasahi
845 Higashishio Kojimukaihatacho Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8213
And last, but certainly not least, out favorite. We waited about 30 minutes each time to get a bowl of this incredible ramen with its pork-based broth. Both times we were sad to reach the end of the bowl. This one had the most meaty flavor and the slow-roasted pork melts in your mouth. I like to add some of their chili paste to mine for an extra kick. We also tried their dumplings, or gyoza, which were quite tasty as well.