The Ultimate Bianco Guide to: The Best Ramen in Tokyo
*Update: I’ve added a google maps (here) to this guide now. You now will be able to see all the places I’ve visited, from Ramen to Izakayas (in the future) and Matcha greatness on a big map that puts them all together in one master list. Lovely right? Check it out here, share it and eat it. Actually, everything is perfect and tasty on this list, but if you’re close to one of the places marked as a star, you should stop thinking about where to go next and become Super Mario on Nintendo 64 and hunt those sites down.
Let’s be honest - there is no way to create an ultimate guide to Ramen in Tokyo. But still there is a ray of hope, I can create a list that will sure as rain make you happy because of every ramen drop (drop tops) that is cooking in a hot pot (cookie).
So there are about 10.000 to 20.000 Ramen shops (called Ramen-Ya) in Tokyo, and you will definitely find it pretty hard to choose the right one due to the sheer amount of options and bowls.
There are so many Ramen-shops and neon signs that you will inevitably find some streets somewhere in the middle of nowhere that will easily trump your whole city’s ramen game within a space no longer than ten metres, which probably means about 7 Ramen-Ya. Tokyo’s passion for ramen cannot be overstated.
So even though already every little ramen shop will likely kill everything your ramen town has to offer, there are some Ramen-Ya that have turned super Sayan, have become Godzilla-like figures, they are street legends, urban myths, and even holy institutions for the best bowls on the planet.
After spending the last three years low-key building up my ramen knowledge and Tokyo network, this time I knew I had to dig deeper into shoyu, shio, miso and tonkotsu flavored broths, so I started to build up a list of the most fire ramen places I could find.
Through the help of some Japanese Ramen nakamas, the internet, Instagram, and my forever-hungry attitude, this list will def please your tummy and will give you a zero to 100 start into Tokyo Ramen life with some extraordinary spots to go to.
The best thing about this list is that it will not stop (same as my Club sandwich list, check it out, its liiiit, no seriously its lovely).
Since I will visit Tokyo on the regular till the day I die, this list will turn into an ultimate guide over the years to come, and I will not stop till some ramen chef in Tokyo will recognize me with the words “You’re the German idiot with the stupid ramen tattoo, right?“
So, let us start this list and some basic information.
First of all, Ramen is not expensive. Not at all. From 550 to 1400 Yen (very rare) you will find every bowl of your dreams – that’s about 5 to 12 Euros. You can even have Michelin star ramen for 7 bloody euros, so do not believe the pricey hype of expensive Tokyo. This town treats low-key food lovers quite well. Don’t keep visiting the shitty hyped neighbourhood of your town to eat a 13 Euro/pound blow-up-doll bowl of ramen my friends, travel to Tokyo instead and get some real sex for less.
Another hint about finding good ramen in Tokyo is that you will always have a hard time finding the restaurant, even tho you have it on your google map, in your notes and laptops. These spots are hidden everywhere and most of em don’t have a big ass neon sign with their name written on it. I will still try to get you on that right geo tag and I’m pretty sure shit will work out quite well for you using this. You also can and should ask anyone around you if you are having a hard time finding the right spot. The Japanese are always there to help you and your belly to get fat.
Once you make it into your desired Ramen spot you actually could and probably will end up in front of a Ramen odering machine/chef/menu with no English skills at all. Don’t feel stressed now and either ask around in the shop if there is a specific ramen you want (use an image or google translate), or simply say “omakase“ to someone of the team that works in there. “Omakase“ became my best friend in restaurants all over Japan and it simply means that the chef gonna decide what’s best for you. So once they know you’re sure about that “Omakase“ way - sometimes they are afraid of bringing you stuff you don’t like so make sure to show your willingness to try real Japanese food - you will get the best food the chef is capable of. Use it everywhere where you’re having problems with your food game and be excited for what you get - enjoy it.
But now, let’s finally start with a collection of steaming bowls and slurping noises that will make you very happy… and a little bit fat. But that’s ok.
The ultimate Bianco Guide to: Ramen in Tokyo
Let's start with an OG Ramen-Ya called Kiraku. This place has been in the game for more than 60 years now and its chef is a Taiwanese immigrant so everything in this place is literally OG noodle “soupish“. There is no fancy schmancy interior design, no special bowls, and almost no service, but nonetheless this place is amazingly lovely. Even though this place might look like a train station in North Korea, you will really feel the vibe of authentic Ramen. Actually they call Ramen Chuka-men here, which just means Chinese noodles. The shoyu (soy sauce based) broth tastes really, really strong here, and the overall taste could be described as a combination of the essence of one big smokey and fried onion (which is as accurate a description as I can think of).
So Kiraku offers a really strong and good taste that you should absolutely combine with their perfectly cooked wontons, smart sliced pork, and some cold beer. Easy.
Not far away from Kiraku you will find Menya Owada, and if you go there at night you will get the chance to see your first glimpses of shady Shibuya nightlife filled with Yakuza, escorts, and other strange services people will offer you while walking down the path towards glorious ramen. So even though I love Shibuya I will always call it the Japanese Ibiza - everything is fine here (which is probably not the case in Ibiza), but you’re still surrounded by a couple of cheap and bad clubs and average restaurants, as well as some drunken casualties. Again, I still love this area a lot, but just make sure not to spend every day here. This is isn’t even close to everything Tokyo has to offer.
So to get your Ramen just pass all these drunken people (at night), and offerings of special massages (when you’re a boy, at least) and casual ramen spots (you’re looking for the real deal remember) and head to Owada to meet your real needs.
So let’s finally talk about the Ramen now! Owada has a very salty (I love that) and very tasty (I love that), broth that is much lighter than it actually looks. The place is really small and is filled with Japanese salarymen and hip hop music. In fact, when I was tasting that tricky and interesting spinach in the ramen mix Jay-Z was telling me that I cannot knock the hustle. I agreed and continued enjoying my Ramen hustle. On top of that there was some thick and sexy grilled pork on top and some really thick and sumptuous noodles which make this bowl perfect yet and a challenge to finish. So if you choose to go there at midnight get ready for a fight because eating Ramen at 1am is something new, lovely and sweat-inducing in your life. You will love it and likely start sweating.
Let’s head to a sweet angel called Afuri. You might actually come across this place a couple of times throughout Tokyo and you will be relieved every time by their light and soft Ramen. Some of the joints on this list will really play with your nerves and cause some beads of sweat to appear, but Afuri is a different breed. Their Ramen is infused with yusu which is a type of citrus in East Asia and the key in creating this light bowl. I recommend their signature chi yu (chicken skin) ramen with a perfectly grilled pork belly (char siu). This ramen is incredibly refreshing and something you cannot miss.
GINZA KAGARI / Update: Closed and will be relocated
After Afuri it's time for a change - so get out the way of that lightly flavoured Ramen and pull out the real guns, ok? Ginza Kagari’s signature dish, and the reason why people line up outside, is their Tori Paitan Ramen.
Tori Paitan is a Kyoto-style ramen with a chicken-based broth made by pressure cooking poultry. It is creamy, incredibly rich in flavour, and absolutely fucking amazing. While all the Tori Paitans I had in Kyoto before this were slightly lighter, I really cannot complain about the thickness of Ginza Kagari. This broth is amazingly tasty, as I said super thick and full of umami! On top of that they have some chicken slices as a topping and bamboo shoots from my favourite town Kyoto (read the guide). Again, this place is an absolute must, so follow my birdcall and get that Tori Paitan, brrrrrrrr brrrr.
MENYA MUSASHI BUKOTSU
Let’s stick with heavy bowls and go to Ueno and a shop called Menyamusashi Bukotsu. It is just around the Ameyoko market, where you will find lots of – well, everything. This market is insane, and luckily for us you will also find one of the ramen places straight out of your dreams.
The crew in this Ramen-Ya is pretty young, the music is loud, and their signature Ramen style is called Tsukemen, which basically means dipping soba, aka you dip your noodle into that sweet lovely broth instead of having everything already in one bowl. Their roasted pork filet almost melts on your tongue, and their boiled egg is perfectly on point. There really isn’t that much more I can say about the whole experience. This ramen really is amazing and the young crew behind it is more hip than young money records.
We actually went here for a second time because this Ramen really was (as I told you) amazing, and by the end we managed to taste all three broths including the squid ink ramen bowl. The Squid Ink is slightly more expensive than every average bowl you will get in Japan but definitely worth a try. Nonetheless, you should def go for the Tsukemen first, because we had a hard time finding something better than that, and one of our crew even put it in the number one spot of a long and heavy Ramen hunt. Again, having tried them all, I highly suggest you start with the Tsukemen on the very left upper side of the Ramen odering machine and get ready for some love.
I am really struggling to find the words to describe Kotetsu. Just look at the picture and try to imagine how good this one was. The chef again is very young, and his signature ramen is a very clean shoyu (soy) broth with a slight hint of fish. The broth is perfect and their char siu (roasted pork, remember?) is out of this world, not only because of the look, but also because of it is cooked until it is unbelievably tender. On top of that there are some amazing wontons, and moreover you just pay 650 yen for that one bowl (which is about 5 Euros). This definitely was one of my favorite ramen bowls of all time, and the neighborhood around that place is so lovely and perfect.
Shimokitazawa is full of vintage and second hand stores where you can dig for some really good finds. Also, the houses here are small so you will finally see some sky again and realize again how well Tokyo is treating you and that you should def explore all the small neigbourhoods on top!
But let’s head back to Shibuya now and go to Asuka. This place is a heavyweight champion of tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet) toppings, which are served upon a lovely bowl of Tantanmen. Tantanmen ramen is a spicy broth containing vegetables, chili oil, Sichuan pepper, minced pork, and scallions. On top of that (yes… on top of that) they also put that deep fried pork cutlet - and yes - this is just great. The spiciness of the broth is actually addicting. You just can’t stop slurping the broth even tho you’re full as you could possible be. It’s not too hot but still hot. It’s hard to explain but the taste is somewhere between bbq chips and fried onions. I really loved it even though I ate it while having one of the worst and most deadly hangovers ever and I was still full from some lunch before (don’t do that, it’s way too heavy for madness like that). The fried pork was super tender by the way and the thin noodles were perfectly cooked. Most importantly though, I survived that day.
Hayashi is straight out the picture-perfect Ramen books. This place is so straight and simple I really fell in love with it. There are just 3 options on the machine and the whole place is super quiet while everybody sits in silent concentration surrounded by walls full of awards and prices. Besides the slurping of your neighbours, you won’t hear a single voice utter a word while you enjoy a perfect bowl of Ramen. Lovely.
However, it’s actually not that easy to get your bowl at Hayashi because this place is only open for a few hours a day from 11:30 to 3:30, and it might even close earlier if they run out of Ramen. So since there is a line from the very first minute this place opens you should be smart and come here quickly and as early as possible.
But let’s talk about the ramen. The broth is probably the most balanced soup I tried in Tokyo, some might even say ordinary but I really loved it. The ramen is super straight, a basic monster, a concentrated version of a really good and authentic ramen. Do not miss it, go there and feel the power of the baddest basic bitch alive.
Yokohama is pretty close to Tokyo and is a place you should not miss, especially when you want to flee out of your Shibuya madness even if just for a day. A good friend of mine pointed out I really should go to Hitofunbari since this place is og and special at the same time.
Hidden in a casual Japanese housing complex you will find the doors of Hotfunbari and the old men behind the counter will serve you a seafood, bonito and tonkotsu mixed broth you def will like a lot. At the same time, this place will take you deep into the casual ramen and working culture of Japan. This is no buzzed and hype food guide place for ramen, yet still this Ramen-ya was always packed the time I was in there with people continuously coming in and sitting down next to me. The ramen was straight good without overdoing anything. A really fantastic ramen served by a friendly old man who seems to have been doing this forever. This place for me is the perfect example of how you find a delicous bowl of Ramen in almost every street, corner, and alley you come across in Japan and I cannot wait to go to all the other spots that my dear Kyoto friend put on my list for the next few years!
By the way don’t forget to check out Yokohamas China Town to dive into another Asian cuisine for a while. The lights, the food, and the people around there are something you should not miss when walking around Yokohma.
Sanji is a special place. First of all it’s in Ueno, where you find lots of nice markets as mentioned above. But most of all it is because this place serves a crazy crab ramen with a broth so tasty and salty it’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. The noodles are so thin and elegant and there are fresh onions in the mix that are incredibly refreshing. As if that’s not enough, you can even add a quail egg on top of that. To get the egg, push the 50 Yen button on the ramen machine, and be aware that this will get you three eggs.
I really really really liked this place, but I was not aware of the 3 eggs for 50 yen deal and ended up with 9 eggs and one badass ramen. Perfect.
MENYA HANABI SHINJUK
Since I had been to Kyoto last year and had Mazesoba for the first time (read it) I fell in love with this brothless Ramen. The amount of umami and sexiness you get when you mix the yolk with the rest of the bowl is just incredible and one of the best things I have ever eaten.
So Mensa Hanabi also serves this insane mix of amazing ingredients as well as adding its very own spiciness to the story and you really, really should go there and try it. Again, there are lines to expect so it is best to come about half an hour before it opens. It’s in a very grey and ugly part of Shinjuku so expect to only find beauty inside the bowl rather than outside of it.
The spiciness was just perfectly balanced (for me, my friend said it was supa hot fire), the noodles were amazing and the minced meat was super tasty. There is no way around a bowl of Mazesoba in Japan, so if you’re in Tokyo have one in this place!
SANMON NO TOKU
Let’s head to a strange, lovely, and totally tourist free place and dive into the world of Japanese after work madness. Sanmon No Toku (If I get that name right) is located one floor above an Izakaya mall which is simply a long hall full of little bars and restaurants where everyone from salary men to normal workers meet after work to eat, drink, and smoke. A good friend brought us down here and after we had our first armada of drinks and food we went upstairs to Sanmon.
This place also is an Izakaya, so next to your Ramen you also get raw liver, raw chicken (at your own risk) and lots of other stuff. The system here is slightly different and it’s called “cash on delivery“. You simply fill the bucket on your table with money and wait for the lady to bring you whatever she has to offer! However, you can still ask specifically for some Ramen and we were very surprised when she came back with two different broths, and absolutely nailed it with both.
We shared them all in a couple of smaller bowls, got slightly drunk and enjoyed the night. An Izakaya is a win-win situation and you def should try to find this spot (use the pictures).
Time for a ramen chain and probably the best of them all, open 24 hours a day and simply amazing. If you want to find more about it check one of my first Tokyo guides here (which also includes a lot of other amazing food).
KitaOtsuka is from a neighbourhood where you will find the only two ramen places with a Michelin star in Tokyo, so let it be understood that this area is blessed. Kita does not have to hide behind the stars because this place is amazingly good and heavy weight heavy at the same time. In here their special Char Siu ramen is packed with super straight grilled pork belly (a lot of it) that is smokey, oily and incredibly tasty. You can put some extra minced garlic on it if you want to create a big monster on your table that will easily send you to sleep afterwards. Therefore, I recommend NOT picking the big version of this dish and instead to just enjoy a small bowl with some big things and ridiculous taste inside. You can either sit at the chef’s table along the counter or go upstairs to find a cozy corner with an authentic vibe.
My good friend and ramen connoisseur Tomo aka poppo_jr brought me to this amazing place in the heart of Shinjuku. Once again we are diving into an old and og restaurant that has been doing its thing for an incredibly long time. The broth was slightly sweet and very clear, it reminded me of the perfectly cooked chicken broth your mother used to make you when you were sick.
Nothing against your mother, but these guys have finessed this thing to a whole new level and have added some really thick and juicy slices of pork on to it, then added an insane amount of noodles to it. It’s not easy to finish but def worth trying, plus the bamboo shoots in this mix were the best ones I have ever tasted.
I recommend going there in the evening and afterwards go 10 metres to the left into the Izakaya around the corner to start drinking and eating some small snacks. Sure, you just ate a heavy bowl of Ramen, but nothing can stop you now. Your body already knows what you are capable and a lemon sour in Tokyo is always a good idea. Do it.
BOKUSEI / Update: Permanently closed
Ramen Bokusei also is located around that lovely vintage neighborhood Shimokitazawa and again this places serves some light Ramen to please your tummy and fill you with energy. It’s almost like these people know that you will need energy to find some purple TNF labels and vintage sneakers.
Bokusei has no odering machine so just go there and “Omakase“ your way through it! You really will enjoy this one and the rock and roll music the old men are listening to while you eat your ramen. However, if this is your first time in Shimokitazawa, go to Kotestu from above first because it is one of the do or die places on this list!
Let’s finally talk about the Michelin star ramen and start with Tsuta. An insane experience, and easily one of the best bowls of my life. Here’s another link to another guide I already wrote including that place. Read it here, hehe.
Time for the Michelin star ramen number two and the temporary end to this list. On my last day in Tokyo I finally made it to the second star in Tokyo to complete my hunt/quest of never ever liking any Ramen outside of Tokyo (Except this one).
We arrived at Nakryu on a Saturday one hour before it opened and claimed spot 11 in the line. Only a few minutes later the line was packed with up to 40 people and there was no stop at all to this madness. You really should go there early, or be prepared to wait for a long time.
But again, let’s talk about the Ramen. Their signature dish is a tantanmen ramen which has two versions; spicy or super spicy. This is topped with some coriander and a really creamy broth. We had both versions and you can actually survive the super spiciness if this is something you have a little experience in. The broth really is amazing and it has a slightly nutty aroma that makes it one of a kind. The spiciness is at the perfect level and the coriander is something that is totally new for me on ramen, but is a very nice addition. The whole bowl is just amazing but hard to finish if you order some side dishes and a bottle beer to compliment it (I did that, don’t do it).
Since the Nakryu isn’t just known for its tantanmen, and since we were really trying to taste everything we could, we also got the shio ramen (there were three of us, and you only can order one bowl each). This bowl was actually (at least for two of us) better than the tantanmen because of the perfectly cooked, balanced, and seasoned broth as well as its super tender and buttery meat on top of the lovely won tons in it. This was a perfect bowl of ramen, a great assembly of ingredients, and I highly recommend you to vary your orders everywhere you go to get the maximum variety and taste out of every Ramen-Ya. There couldn’t have been a better end to the first entry in this never-ending guide, and all you have to do now book your flight to Tokyo to eat a damn bowl of Ramen and be happy and full forever (and wait for me to update this list soonish).
Only 4 weeks have passed since my last visit to Tokyo and I’m already back again. Since this time I’m only here for three very fast working days I only have time to add two new spots to the list, both in the heart of Shibuya (next to my hotel) - but better than nothing, right? So, let’s start with Sakura Zaka! This little Ramen shop is hidden behind the big flashing lights of Shibuya crossing, in a little back alley that you most definitely would pass by if I didn’t tell you about it. I was there with two German football journalists that I forced to try Ramen for the very first time within an hour of landing in Tokyo - cause that’s what you should all do too when you get there. We went there just about 5 minutes before the shop opened, and as is so often the case the tiny Ramen-Ya was crowded only minutes after it opened.
The selection is quite simple in this one, you can choose between a shoyu, shio and tonkotsu tsukemen style ramen, all of which come with a slightly clear and fishy broth. We actually tried them all, and luckily for me I think I chose exactly the right one. In my opinion you should just order the tsukemen (like most of the locals do) and experience a really balanced and smooth taste without overdoing anything. Even though the taste probably won’t knock you out Evander Holyfiel Style, you will most definitely appreciate it for what it is. But the real stars in this place are the noodles (Rocco Sifredi style) cause… It’s actually hard to find a proper description after dropping Sifredi that Is able to sum up the experience. Let’s just say these soba noodles were some of the best I ever had, and if Rocco Sifredi ran a ramem shop and one of his female colleagues would eat in that particular shop she would probably say “this all makes sense to me“ after tasting those noodles, ok?
IPPUDO SHIROMARU BASE
For the next one we’ll stay in Shibuya but this time stick to the flashing lights. Right next to the basketball street you will find Ippudo Shiromaru base - a special Ippudo tonkotsu concept ramen-ya - and if you go there at night (as I told you already) you will find a lot of drunken, Ibiza-style people, plus a lot of trash bags and even some rats. Tokyo is clean but this part is dirty, drunk, and lovely. So why am I even sticking to this glitteringlovely shithole Shibuya you might ask yourself? Because this particular part of Tokyo really never sleeps and next to trash cans, rats, and hot pants you will find shops like Ippudo that are still open at night.
So let’s talk about the shop and the Ramen. First of all the shop looks like a drunken Off-White store and their Ramen ordering machine is pretty new and high tech (but still cannot compete with the oldschool machines). The Ramen style in here is a heavy tonkotsu broth mixed with an insanely on point burned garlic oil and some awesome noodles. You can even choose how hard you want your noodles to be…
Again, as so many times before, you should think twice before going there at night with an already-stuffed belly. Actually, go there without having any food before and don’t order a big beer next to your bowl (again I did that and it was a fucking struggle not to Shibuya melt down immediately). All in all, even though this is a franchise chain run by young people (students?) with awful Virgil Abloh nightmare vibes, with rats in front of the door and drunk people everywhere you look, Simba, this place is perfect for a late-night ramen. You will def love the food, especially the super yolky egg that they add on top. Ippudo Shiromaru Base is on fire.
Big Winter Update:
After starting my guide, I managed to come back to Tokyo in total four times in the same year. Very good for me, very bad for my belly and very lovely for this guide! Since my last brief update, it now was time for some major additions to this list, and after spending two weeks in December in Tokyo working, I was able to find some more amazing spots to share with you.
It’s January 2018 right now while I'm writing this paragraphs on an airplane to Tokyo. Therefore the update might get even bigger... Let's see.
After slurping at almost 100 different Ramen-Ya in Japan, I realised that it actually got much harder to surprise me and the spots I visit now have to be really good to set some shit inside me on fire. As you will soon see, I managed to find some extraordinary spots, plus I’ve added some safe bets to the list. Using my new google map will make you very happy if you are spontaneously trying to get a Ramen in the neighbourhood you are in, or if you want some extra unique shit - go for the stars on this map.
I also started to take pictures of almost every front door of each Ramen-Ya, because some people wrote me that they had a hard time finding some spots. As I told you above, always try to ask some people around you and never trust google 100% in Japan. But if you work hard, you will find every spot, just look around every corner possible and ask the people around you! Check the map, read the guide, be happy. Let`s get it:
MENYA MUSASHI BOKOTSU-SODEN
Let's start this update and let’s go to another shop from some people we trust already. Menyamusashi Bukotsu-Soden is the second shop of the impressive young crew that is behind MENYA MUSASHI BUKOTSU. Same as in MENYA MUSASHI BUKOTSU, their speciality is tsukemen. Same as in MENYA MUSASHI BUKOTSU, they go for really big and insanely tender pieces of meat. Compared to the addictive perfectly grilled pork cubes from their first shop, Bukotsu-Soden serves large slices of pork on your soba noodles - and you will love them. As I told you the tenderness of their pork game is terrific, and this is also part of the reason they are so famous and why you probably have to line up a bit to get your desired bowl.
They now have an entirely English digital ramen machine that unfortunately puts some strange name tags on your ramen instead of telling you what broth you are ordering. I went for the „strong black simple“ Tsukemen and did the right thing with it. The noodles were perfect, their egg was on point, and the broth is thick but still not too hard to finish. Same as in their first shop I will come to try all of their bowls and so should you, also. Since both ramen-ya are close to each other I would still say you should go for MENYA MUSASHI BUKOTSU first, cause their ramen will blow your mind out. You can’t do anything wrong with Bukotsu-Soden, though, its just that MUSASHI is such an outstanding beast in this era.
Let's head to Kuwabara in Ikebukuro. A neighbourhood as busy as Shibuya - but with fewer tourists - that is famous for being one of Tokyo's Ramen battlegrounds. To kick off this area I went to Kubara - A small Ramen shop that is hidden in one of Ikebukuro's back alleys. It consists of just a tiny open counter, a little ramen machine and charming staff serving you amazing ramen. They are specialised in shio ramen which means salt lovers will be totally happy here. I went for the Shio Abura Soba which also is a Maze-Soba - broth-less ramen - people still just can’t work out what to call it.
This bowl was just fantastic, the salt levels were one of the best I've ever had, and the grilled and slightly yet perfectly burnt pork on top just made me even happier. All the other bowls the people ordered around me looked terrific too, so please go there and try it for yourself. If you love good ramen this is your spot, if you enjoy salty food, this is a do or die place.
TORI NO ANA
Let's stay in Ikebukuro and stick with shio ramen. Torinoa's Ramen is also salt flavoured, but their soup base is a rich chicken broth - a Paitan Ramen - as you might already know one of my favourite Ramen styles and something you should probably not miss.
The Ramen is just amazing; it has perfectly juicy bamboo shoots in it that almost reminded me of king oyster mushrooms, as well as a nice mix of green and white onion, a fantastic tender piece of chicken meat and the secret star - some minced chicken meat on top.
While R Kelly was singing me some cheesy Christmas songs, I started to fall in love with this bowl while also starting a painful struggle through a million Christmas songs, Christmas mixes and reggae versions of famous Christmas songs, I had to listen to for more than two weeks in Tokyo. At every spot I went, in every supermarket and sometimes even on the speakers in public streets, actually no matter where I was heading to, a Christmas song was already waiting for me there.
Torinoa is still worth going to, no matter how many times they will torture you with R Kelly and Christmas vibes.
Kikanbo is famous for their spicy miso ramen, again located in Ikebukuro and again there are lines to be expected if you come around the rush hour. So here is the thing with Kikanbo: Since they are the spiciness masters, you can choose between the levels of hell that are going to attack you. I would really recommend to go for a casual amount of hell and just tell them „Mutsu Masai“ after you give them your ticket.
It has an on-point amount of spice but nothing too painful to destroy your hours afterwards. Another big tip I got for you is something I wish I had known before. Their pork is just amazing, a tenderness level I have hardly experienced anywhere else. At the same time, the amount of meat you get in your ramen is small compared to the all-mightiness of its taste. So def go for extra portion meat and also add some extra coriander to the mix if you want as I did. It's an exciting approach that I would do again because the overall taste of the miso broth was just amazing on its own. Extra kudos for their bean sprouts, probably the best bean sprouts I have ever had in a ramen bowl. This shop is a no-brainer - as long as you like it spicy though.
The next Ramen is really tricky. I just wanted to add the best ramen of Tokyo into the list, so what is so tricky and difficult with Hopeken? First of all, the shop looks quite interesting, very industrial, and on their ground floor, you eat your ramen on a counter without any chairs. There are a lot of workmen and salarymen in this shop, and the bowls are huge as fuck.
Sounds quite interesting, right? So the problem with this shop is, Hopeken is famous for their very fatty ramen with an endless amount of green onions you can put on top. The whole shop, therefore, smells like you live in a Mars bar filled with Raclette cheese and minced cheeseburgers. The fatty Ramen is a total mess, it’s fattier than anything I've ever tried and my friend and me could only finish about 10% of it. Fair to say we had dinner before, but still, this bowl was a beast. I wouldn’t even say it was tasty; I was more suffering than enjoying it.
So why did I put Hopeken in this guide? Hopeken is 24 hours open, it is a very interesting and iconic spot and in my opinion only, only, only, only if you plan to drink a shitload of alcohol, beer, liquor, sake and everything you can think of, go there first and coat your inner belly in oily fat and even more oily fat. You will probably not get drunk anymore for the next 17 hours and will smell like a sweaty old fish in the next bar you are heading to. Plan B is to go there not before, but after you drank for 17 hours straight. It might taste great after a big night out, kinda the Japanese version of drunken McDonalds. If Plan A and B don't apply to you, just leave this one spot out; ok?
Let's head to Urinbo in Asakusa. A really quiet and lovely neighbourhood full of fancy private izakayas that gave me a tough time entering. After a hard night with zero success at these izakayas, I went to Urinbo to just eat a great bowl of Ramen.
Urinbo is the picture-perfect example for Hakata Style ramen and open till late night. It has mangas for you to read and the staff are really friendly and relaxed. Hakata style initially started in Fukuoka Prefecture and now its famous all over Japan. A tonkotsu broth, extra toppings that vary from each shop on your table and char siu. It's a simple principle but a very lovely one.
This shops speciality toppings were some pickled ginger and some tasty and spicy vegetables. If you are around Asakusa visit this shop. It's a lovely old school experience. Nothing too fancy and very good.
KOUZUKE TOMIRAI HONPO
Look at those eggs! No seriously look at those eggs. We are again in Ueno trying to survive the Bukowski nightlife vibes of a busy business district with lots of shops, markets and erotic massages. Almost like Shibuya, just without all the drunken tourists, except me. Lovely.
Kouzuke Tomirai is easy to find and very close to Ueno Station. A big ass lantern is in front of the store, its open till late night and you really need to pay them a visit if you are there. The menu gives you a tough time to decide and I'm 100% sure I will try them all someday, somehow. So this time I went for their special tonkostu and was very smoothly surprised by the lightness and sweetness of it. Did I mention the eggs? They also had minced garlic for extra seasoning, which always is a major plus for me, and a really, really tasty spicy paste to add on top. If you stick around late night in Ueno then definitely go there! It is also a perfect spot at daylight but wait for an even bigger Ueno champion to pop up on this list very soon. Continue reading!
Now let’s head over to Yakumo! This shop is placed in one of my favourite neighbourhoods Naka-Meguro and there were so many people were telling me about this place. For my last job, I met some heavy bosses of Japanese Streetwear and as always I've asked them about their favourite ramen places. Once they saw my ramen heart pumping in the right tact, they supplied me with their best and most favourite spots. So now and then you will see someone really talented in this guide guiding you on your way to their favourite ramen. With Yakumo, we actually found an all-time winner with almost all the people I've met.
From Hanae, who is the store manager of WISM Toyko, to Sand Naoki who is a Tokyo streetwear, graffiti and street culture legend from SAYHELLO Tokyo - everybody sent me to Yakumo and told me about their damn good Ramen and the extra damn good wan tans in them. I really, really, really don't have to add anything to this bowl. I maybe should have told you more about their amazing broth and one of a kind wontons inside, but fuck it: The shop is lovely, the ramen is bad ass, just go there and trust those Gs of Japanese street and sportswear (and me).
Sakamoto 1 has a unique story attached and will also introduce one of my main plugs for some of the best spots in this list. There is this guy called ramenadventures who really knows it all about ramen in Tokyo. He runs this old-school ramen blog since forever and definitely is a ramen saiyan god. So one day I was on my way to a supposedly insanely good spot, somewhere far away at some really early time, on one of my only days off after a long week of working in Tokyo. Ramenadventures sent me there, and when I finally made it, the shop was closed - I was pissed, angry and super sad, and for the first time ever I got in contact with him to tell him that I just got somewhere in between nowhere because of his blog and the fucking doors were closed. 10 minutes later he answered me and sent me to Sakamoto 1. What a legend and nice guy. And also a hint for you to check the opening times with every shop you go. Be careful.
What a long boring intro for one of the best places I’ve eaten ramen:
They have an insanely good broth - It's one of those moments where you take a sip and time freezes for 5 seconds. Fuck yes. No seriously, fuck yes, this broth was so amazingly good. On top of that its cheap, 500 yen cheap, almost 4 euros cheap.... and on top of that, I didn’t even buy the big bowl with extra wontons inside, which is supposedly even better. Sakamoto 1 is def worth a visit and def amazing, you probably have to wait but all will be fine once you have tried your first sip! DO IT.
So we had the fatty Ramen and now, again, I’m putting a ramen on this list which I didn’t really love and where I can’t guarantee you will get an amazing bowl. So why am I putting Due Italian on this list? First of all, I was just curious - An Italian version of ramen with some cheese inside? Gross! Wrong! Whatever! I’m not a ramen snob, I’m not a ramen professor and I like strange things. So that’s the reason this place is in there.
Me and my lovely friend AJ had two different soups. Mine was a holy moly big ass cream ramen with noodles inside. AJ had a more classic broth with a piece of cheese inside, too. Did we like it? Yes, a bit. Is the interior of this place ugly as fuck? Yes. Was it the right place to spend our last dinner together in Tokyo? No fucking way. Is it still worth a visit? If you are planning to stay longer in Tokyo, yes: It adds some strange things to your ramen life, and maybe you will like it. Is this your first time in Tokyo and your first sexual contact with ramen? You probably should skip it then.
KAMO TO NEGI
Welcome to one of my favourite ramen bowls of my entire life, welcome to Kamo To Negi. My friend Tomo, that you know from the Shinjuku spot brought me to this shop and again this guy was so on point! Tomo referred to this place as one of a new generation of ramen places: Kamo means duck - because the ramen has duck inside. On top of that, the broth is just made with onions, duck and water, no chemicals, no nothing.
The place looks insanely new and trendy but still keeps an authentic ramen vibe. Again, this spot is in Ueno (this is the champion I talked about before) right under the train station, and you can fall in love with the sound of trains running over your head while you eat this insanely good shoyu ramen.
Before you get your ramen you will have to decide on what kind of ginger you want to have with it (all three are good, but Tomo said u should go for the right one, japanese style ginger).
There is a lot to say about the tenderness of the meat, the broth, the noodles and the place, but actually just go there. Extra kudos for the grilled leek, this was one of the best leeks of my life, and I really understand why Tomo eats here once or twice every week. What a place. What a benchmark!
Taishoken Honten is the place where they supposedly invented the dipping soba aka tsukemen. I went there after having a ramen right before (still doing the same mistakes) and I really liked it. There was jazz music playing, I ordered a tsukemen without knowing what broth it was, ordered some raw egg on top, got asked if I really wanted to order a raw egg on top, and accomplished it with a can of Lemon Sour.
The whole tsukemen experience felt almost fresh since I ordered my noodles semi cold. Honestly, I was way too stuffed from before to fully enjoy this meal and I might have to go there a second time to get more specific knowledge about their ramen game. All I can say, it’s a good place, I liked it, I should not have had ramen right before of it.
MENYA FUJISHIRO MEGURO
Menya is one of those places which at first gave me a hard time to find. Once you hit the google map spot, you don’t hit the real spot. Be strong, stay hydrated and keep looking. It’s actually in a little underpass between two big offices, so look out for an entry into some concrete walls in front of you and get excited.
But let’s talk about ramen. The shop offers one of my favorite bowls, a paitan bowl. Means chicken bowl, means smooth sexy creamy broth and a lot of love. The kinda boiled beef on top of the soup was simply amazing, the egg was perfect and the rice I ordered on top was actually meant to be an Oolong tea but as always I screwed it up on the ordering machine. There was a really interesting mix of fried chillies on top of the bowl as well, and the whole taste and feeling afterwards was not a complete knockout, like ramen GINZA KAGARI for example. Please just go there and be happy. Again it’s really that simple.
Right after Menya Fujishiro, I went to Menya Ishin. First of all, because they were close and secondly because (again) I thought I could eat two bowls of Ramen right after each other. Let's see.
So Men-Ya Shin is famous for their oily, niboshi (dried sardines) broth and you usually have to expect lines here. Lucky for me, I did not have any problems getting a place in front of the chef and ordering my ramen was pretty fast. There was also a 150 yen special on the menu that you can only get for lunch and even though, I was already full, of course, I ordered it on top. Secretly I was hoping it was an Oolong Tea this time.
Of course, it was not a tea, but one of the best side dishes I have had in a ramen restaurant ever. A small rice bowl with a perfectly on point grilled beef on top. The chef only fried it up for a few seconds before finessing it with a burner and putting it in front of my sweating face. Next, to the side dish, he placed my ramen with two different kinds of chicken meat. One was insanely tender and tasty; the other one was insanely tasty as well. The noodles were thin and the broth, amazing. Such a perfectly oily coating all over everything, beautiful bamboo shoots, and me at the same time fighting against a Klitschko-like numbness in my belly.
So this is what you should do: Go there and have a beautiful bowl of ramen, they also have a seasonal special that looked like a way more attractive version of Due Italian, so I guess you really will love this place with their variety of ramen and side dishes. Don’t try to do my one-after-another ramen thing does not work no matter how much I try it.
Lets head back to Asakusa lets head to Kibi. This small shop close to the Asakusa Shrine is open till late and offers a variety of ramen. While sitting in a room full of wrestling posters, I went for the black ramen with burnt garlic, big slices of pork and noodles that looked like tagliatelle. All in all, an excellent overall deal, a little smokey, extra minced garlic on the table, noodles on point and excellent ramen. Nothing to kill yourself for but def a good late night option for sure. While I was leaving the place, I saw that you also could order a massive bowl of ramen there and get a picture on the wall if you managed to kill this one.
At this point, I finally came back to my senses and knew that I’m not up for big tasks like this anymore. Maybe you can try it and tell me afterwards how good/bad it was?
MATADOR GYUKOTSU RAMEN
Remember that I told you there was going to be star rated places on my google maps list? This is the reason why. Matador Gyukotsu is one of these places you have to go. You have to go. Its 100% top 3 in this big ass list, if not number 1 and I will tell you why:
First of all its in this lovely neighbourhood called Kitasenju. You probably won’t happen to hang around there so this is one of those ramen spots you drive to, sit on the train, get excited for the taste and anxious that the line might be too long or it ends up being closed or whatever. Luckily for me, it was not closed, and I was the first one in the line. I heard they close the shop usually a little bit earlier because they run out of soup before closing hours.
At around 11 the shop opened, and I was able to get the first seat in probably the tiniest and tightest place I ever ate my ramen. If you got long legs, have fun. But actually, once I saw them doing the ramen I wasn’t bothered at all anymore. The way they prepare your bowl is a flying orchestra. From warming up your bowls with warm water to mixing all ingredients like building a Swiss clockwork. This place is magic, watching them put their great minced meat mix under their gorgeous slices of beef made me almost cry (no).
So let’s talk about the taste. Hmmm, no. Let me just tell you to go there and experience it for yourself. Every ingredient in this bowl from the onions, to the egg to the minded meat hidden under the shiny beef, was perfect. On top of that Matador serves Gyukotsu style ramen, which means the broth is based on beef bones. This style is pretty hard to pull of and probably impossible to find on that level somewhere else.
And looking at this bowl, you can’t tell and see that all, right? So please just go there and enjoy this adventure same as me!
Let’s head to Usagi with my Yokohama buddy Ricky Kano. Usagi means rabbit; the ramen team wears t-shirts that say “no rabbit no life” which is a remix of the famous “no ramen no life shirt”. The team told me rabbit also means sex, and that they have no idea why their boss gave the shop this name. Ok cool.
At Usagi, we went for two options (there are more), the tan tan men with two levels of spiciness and a shoyu ramen.
So the tan tan ramen was spicy enough on level 1 and had a sweet sesame note. The spiciness came from a Szechuan pepper and man I hate Szechuan pepper. Mainly what it does to your taste buds and your tongue. This numb feeling is like someone is continually throwing cocaine snowballs in your mouth. At least for me a tough challenge to enjoy life while eating it. For someone hating Szechuan pepper, this was a good bowl of tan tan men; I have to admit. So if you’re in the Szechuan game, this might be your glory place.
The Shoyu Ramen was a whole other story, perfectly cooked, smooth taste and an egg made in heaven - no Szechuan pepper. Ole. The char sui on top had a sweet aroma, flavour and was perfectly grilled. Those two bowls really could win a beauty competition, just look at them! On top of that, they played Nujabes while we were sitting in this shop and a Spirited Away Jazz remix right when I started eating my ramen. Beautiful. And another reason why you should go here and try it for yourself.
Tanaka is a special place again. Its deep in the heart of techies favourite place, Akihabara, and its famous for their niboshi flavour which sets your taste buds deep into sardine bus and fishy waters. If you’re into that, then go for it. A lot of famous people been here before you. At least that’s what all the plates on the walls suggested, and the chef looks super serious about his job. The Tsukemen I had here was amazing, I love when things have been done differently, and this bowl alone seems so lovely and unusual compared to the bowls I have seen before. I mean look at the thinly sliced meat, the lemon and those shiny noodles.
The broth is a story on its owe, an intense and complex mix of flavours from sour to the deep sea in a second - fucking tasty. There are also a lot of other exciting things on the menu, and I will def come back again to this place! And to Tokyo! Cause this was my last bowl of ramen in 2017. But since I’m writing this sentence on a plane back to Tokyo right in 2018 there will be an immediate update soonish! Ole
TSUKEMEN GONOKAMI SEISAKUSHO
And I’m back for another week in Tokyo, but surprise motherfuckers, I just went to one unique shop of Ramen. I had way too much work to have time to figure out how to implement more special bowls into my Tokyo week, and my standards got so high, that all these shops that are still on my list need preparation, time and even more research. So all I can offer you for now is a shop called GONOKAMI.
I went there when the biggest snowfall in 4 years hit Tokyo, and no trains were running anymore, no people were on the streets, and everything looked beautifully crazy. My Japanese friends told me as soon as snow hits Tokyo and the trains stop driving, they always leave their house and run to their favourite restaurants. That’s the exact time when you can get a table there because no one can make it in time or at all to their reservation. You got to love Japan’s dedication to food!
So let us talk about Gonokami. This place is dedicated to Ebi flavours, aka shrimp flavours, and tsuekmen. So you get a beautiful bowl of tsukemen here and a couple of options regarding your broth. All will be end up with ebi inside. There was an ebi broth, a miso broth and a tomato broth on the menu and we went for number one and two. The miso broth had an even stronger ebi flavour than the ebi broth, so I’m not sure what you will get if you order the tomato one.
So ebi tsukemen are one of a kind, the whole broth smells and tastes like shrimp, the noodles are getting attacked by shrimp flavour once you dig in, and all you can think of is shrimp while eating this. I loved it. It’s so unique; words can hardly explain it what you will experience here. It’s another star on my google maps and my last spot till I come back to Tokyo hopefully soonish! Check my GOOGLE MAPS for updates! See you soon!