The beloved ramen noodle dish, in its umami-rich broth, is cheap and incredibly satisfying. We tapped Brian Macduckston, author of Brian’s Guide to 50 Great Tokyo Ramen Shops and the latest addition to Palace Hotel Tokyo’s foodie guides, for insight into the best (and most unusual) places to try this tasty dish.
En is a classic, though a bit far from central Tokyo. Their niboshi (dried sardines)-rich soup is a great take on a classic style.
Model Chrissy Teigen visited the establishment while in Tokyo and absolutely loved it too!
Where: Yokoyamacho 21-21, Hachioji-shi (closest subway station: Hachioji)
Opening hours: 11am-2pm, 5-7.30pm; closed on Wednesdays
Rage uses local game fowl for a heavier taste in their shoyu ramen.
Where: Shoan 3-37-22, Suginami-ku (closest subway station: Nishi-Ogikubo)
Opening hours: Weekdays 11am-3pm, 6-9pm; Weekends 11am-4pm; closed on Tuesdays
3. Montenashi Kuroki
One of the best shio (salt) ramen dishes in Japan. The chef blends 6 different salts from the sea, mountains, and lakes for a perfect balance.
Where: Kanda-Izumicho 2-15, Chiyoda-ku (closest subway station: Akihabara)
Opening hours: 11.30am-3pm, 6-9pm; Wed 11.30am-3pm; closed Fri and Sun
An intense bowl, served tsukemen style (ramen eaten after dipping in a separate bowl of soup). The soup is heavy with pork and dried fish. There’s always a long line, but it’s worth the wait.
Where: Higashishinkoiwa 1-4-17, Katsushika-ku (closest subway station: Shin-Koiwa)
Opening hours: 11am-3pm, 6-8pm
This shop has become a sleeper hit with chefs from overseas. It’s not surprising as they have been one of the most popular back-alley shops in Tokyo for 10 years. The secret is clam in the soup, which gives it more umami.
Where: Hatagaya 2-47-12, Shibuya-ku (closest subway station: Hatagaya)
6. Tanaka Shoten
Classic Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen. Pork bones are boiled for many hours to create a thick, flavourful soup.
Where: Hitotsuya 2-14-6, Adachi-ku (closest subway station: Rokucho)
Opening hours: 6pm-4am
One of the few bowls in Tokyo that are 100 per cent chicken. Despite the fact that no pork is used, the broth is deeply flavourful.
Where: Nishi-Waseda 2-11-13, Shinjuku-ku (closest subway station: Nishi-Waseda)
Opening hours: 11.30am-3pm, 5.30-9pm; Sun 11.30am-5pm; closed Mon
Only open for a few hours each day, they shun media appearances and hype. Their rich niboshi-style broth can be a bit bitter to some, but it is one of the best ramen flavours for others.
Where: Nakajujo 3-16-15, Kita-ku (closest subway station: Higashi-Jujo)
Opening hours: 6-8.30pm; closed Mon and Thu
9. Ajito Ism
Pizza-inspired mazesoba (dry ramen). Despite sounding strange, everything in this bowl works wonderfully. Mix it all up and enjoy.
Where: Oi 1-41-1, Shinagawa-ku (closest subway station: Oimachi)
Pineapple-infused ramen. The soup has pineapple juice, the egg is soaked in pineapple, and pineapple chunks are a topping. The sweetness complements the soy sauce flavouring quite well, although it’s definitely not for everyone.
Where: Nishiogiminami 3-12- 1, Suginami-ku (closest subway station: Nishi Ogikubo)
Opening hours: 11am-9pm
They’ve opened a shop in New York, but the original is still a lot of fun. Everything on the menu is good, but the green curry ramen is the one to get. A little spicy, a little creamy, and a lot of umami aftertaste.
Where: Hanegi 1-4-18, Setagaya-ku (closest subway station: Shin-Daita)
Opening hours: Weekends 11.30am-3pm; daily 6pm-2am
Text and Photos: Brian Macduckston
Story originally published in Silver Kris
Additional Reporting Atika Lim