I had a friend growing up whose grandmother would make ramen for us whenever we went over to her house, which, during the summer, was almost everyday. This was, of course, just your average ramen that you can buy for ten cents in US supermarkets. However, I still loved it. The noodles, the salty broth, the MSG.. it was all so delicious and I have fond memories of her grandmother serving us ramen which we happily slurped down on her back deck before hopping back in the pool for an afternoon of swimming.
My love for ramen did not fade as I grew up but it was never really a staple of my diet, not even in college. I enjoy cooking and I always considered ramen to be a quickly made food that you could not have much variety with. However, my views of it began to change as our move to Japan got closer. First, when we lived in Newport, Rhode Island, there was a small ramen shop called Boru. I actually tried it when we went up to Newport to go house hunting and I was blown away! There was egg in the ramen, and bamboo shoots, and big slices of pork! I was intrigued by this ramen but also suspicious because the people who ran the place looked very hipster and I was not sure whether these ingredients were things found in actual Japanese ramen.
Once we got orders for Japan I started watching every YouTube video I could find on Japanese culture and cuisine so I would have an idea of what to expect. As you can imagine there were tons of videos on ramen, a staple of the Japanese culinary scene. I was so excited to try real Japanese ramen in a real ramen shop that it was the first meal we ate when we got here. That first bowl was everything I imagined it would be… a big bowl of delicious salty broth with thick, chewy noodles and a large slice of roasted pork on top. It was just what I needed after a long international flight.
Now that we have been here a few weeks, we have had a chance to try quite a few restaurants and lots of different types of food. But we have specifically sought out some of the better ramen around and it is becoming one of our favorite things to eat here. So, when we found out there was a ramen museum close by we made haste to go check it out!
The Shinyokohama Ramen Museum actually calls itself more of a theme park than a museum, and I can see why as there weren’t any large displays going over the long history of ramen in Japan. Instead, the inside was decorated to look like 1950s Tokyo and filled with famous ramen shops from all over Japan.
Each ramen shop had a traditional vending machine out in front where you ordered your ramen from. Once inside and seated, you gave your ticket to the cook and they prepared your ramen for you. The really great thing about this place is that they had smaller sample sizes so you could try more than one type of ramen while there.
We both agreed that the Ramen Museum had the best ramen we had enjoyed up to that point in Japan. However, we knew that there must be better places out there that were not in a theme park. So after hearing about a Michelin rated ramen shop in Tokyo, we decided it was worth making the trip to go check it out.
Tokyo actually has more Michelin rated restaurants than anywhere in the world, well over 200 of them. Most are very expensive fine dining establishments. There are a few, however, that the average person can actually afford to eat at. Tsuta is a nine seat restaurant down a sleepy alley in Tokyo and has the distinction of being the first ramen shop in the world to get a Michelin star, and for under ten dollars you can eat there.
Since James had the 4th of July off, we decided to spend the day in Tokyo and eat here for lunch. While we were on the train we researched the restaurant more and read many articles written by people who had gotten there first thing in the morning to get a ticket in order to come back later in the day… we were a little bummed since we had not even boarded the train until 8:00. Would we even be able to eat once we got there?
Well, we decided that the worst that could happen was we would not get a ticket and then we would just find another delicious spot to eat. Tokyo obviously has no shortage of delicious dining establishments. We spent a few hours at Tsukiji Fish Market before heading over to Tsuta about 11:45. Oddly, there was no one out in front so we knocked on the door and went in. Once inside we were politely informed that the line was around the corner… bummer.
We walked to the back of the line and asked the couple in front of us about getting a ticket. They said that they had also just showed up without a ticket from the morning and were hopeful of getting inside. About 15 minutes later someone from the restaurant came by and upon seeing that we were ticketless told us to wait, so we did.
After about an hour we were ushered inside, ordered our ramen from the vending machine, and waited for our meal.
We got different types of ramen so we could compare the two different flavors. James got a salt based broth with white truffle oil and I got the soy sauce based broth with black truffle oil. A few minutes later, our ramen was delivered to us, it looked so good!
The ramen really was so delicious. The broth of each type was full of flavor which the noodles absorbed wonderfully. The best part may have been the pork, which had clearly been slow roasted with delicious seasoning and was so tender you could simply pull it apart with your chop stick. The restaurant was incredibly quiet, but I think it was just everyone enjoying their long awaited for bowl of delicious ramen. Oishii!
After eating each bowl to the last drop we both agreed it was the best ramen we had ever had. I was happy and content after such a delicious meal, and just like I used to do when I was little, I got up and went off to enjoy the rest of my summer afternoon.