Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cheap Eats Review: Best Ramen Tasting in Tokyo and Kyoto

I have been told that I have not been paying my dues. So here's me contributing!

I am a MASSIVE ramen maniac.... I am constantly on the hunt for the best ramen since my first tonkatsu ramen experience. It is no surprise that the best ramens are in Japan, duh! I even watched Tompopo, a Japanese movie about ramen before our trip! (check out a young Ken Watanabe in the 1985 film!)

After some research, we headed to 3 different famous ramen shops: 2 in Tokyo and 1 in Kyoto. Interestingly, ramens are regional - different broth styles, ramen (noodle) types and toppings.

Menya Musashi  ***  

See the line in the background? The line was perpetual by the way!
The best ramen for us (confirmed on a repeat visit!) was Menya Musashi Ramen in Tokyo. Approximately 5-10 minutes walk from Shinjuku station, Menya Musashi is very popular with both locals and otherwise. There was an ongoing line through-out lunch and dinner services. Named after the legendary swordsman, this small ramen place is fun and animated - the ramen chef shakes off boiling water from the perfectly cooked noodles onto the kitchen floor in a single samurai sword swing action with a war cry followed by a group yell from the rest of the kitchen team. Better still, is the ramen itself. We tried the house special kakuni soup ramen and cold tsukemen (dipping) ramen. Options are regular or thick ramen, and strong or weak soup.

I am salivating as I rethink the taste of the kakuni pork.... SOooo.. GOOD!
This kakuni ramen is Tokyo-style ramen at its best. The thick ramen is perfectly chewy and the soup perfectly balanced - sweet, salty, hints of citrus (possibly yuzu) and robustly porky (but in a good way). The pork kakuni is heavenly - likely stewed slowly and has a beautiful melt-in-mouth texture and lingering Japanese wine flavours.

The tsukemen ramen is massive. Similar in content with the kakuni ramen except the dipping soup/sauce which has a sweeter and stronger herbal flavours. Probably best in summer. The special chilli bean sauce complements this well.

Rating for Cheap Eats: 19/20

Kyushu Jangara  **

Our next destination is in Harajuku. A Kyushu style ramen based on my favourite style thick (and milky appearance) tonkotsu broth.The noodles are thin and we chose the combination pork toppings of chashu and kakuni. While good, the chashu and kakuni never matched those of Menya Musashi. The tonkotsu soup options are strong or weak; the weaker option strengthened by more garlic.

The line started as we started eating! We got lucky without having to line up!
 Rating for Cheap Eats: 16/20

Takaraya **

In Kyoto, we searched for Takaraya Ramen in Pontocho area. The standout specialty only available in this ramen joint is the sumashi ramen. The broth is made entirely from chicken and comes in almost consomme-like manner....brilliant! 

The special marbled chashu ramen was good - the chashu was the standout; the broth slightly less robust but still well-balanced.

We also ordered a tamago kake gohan (rice with raw egg and seaweed) as side dish. Fantastic!

Hungry, anyone?

Rating for Cheap Eats: 16/20

By Gastronomic G.

Rating explained:
Scores 18 to 20 = *** (3 stars) = World class and close to perfection
Scores 16 to <18 = ** (2 stars) = An exceptional and special dining experience
Scores 15 to <16 = * (1 star) = Very good to great dining experience
Scores 13 to <15 = Good but not memorable
Scores 10 to <13 = Acceptable
Scores <10 = Are you sure you want to eat here?


  1. Oh my God, that looks amazing. I'm heading to Japan at the end of January and I can't wait to check out some of these places. Any other recs?

  2. I'll be posting a few more places soon but check out ones already posted.

    In Kyoto - try good kaiseki (if you are willing to spend, go for a Michelin starred destination), tempura kaiseki (at Yoshikawa) and a place called Omen for the best udon.
    In Tokyo - much to eat and see.
    Soba - Tawada (near Sensoji Temple)
    Shabu shabu - Restaurant Kurosawa
    Cheap but good tempura - Tsunahachi (several outlets in Shinjuku; we went to the original one)
    Katsukura has great tonkatsu in both Tokyo and Kyoto - very popular among locals for good reason without costing much.

    General advice - try all the crazy snacks, bento boxes and onigri (rice triangles/balls wrapped in seaweed) are great breakfast and all round snacks. Limited spots in Tsukiji market nowadays.


    P/S: Also a fan of TapaC24 - visited twice several years ago - enjoyed each time!

  3. Those ramens look fab!