Takeshi Ramen – A Bowl on the Verge of Greatness

Takeshi Ramen – A Bowl on the Verge of Greatness

It is no news that Ramen is a way of life in Japan.  It inspires controversy, obsession, devotion and a cult-like secrecy. The closest example to what Ramen means to people in Tokyo (or Japan for that matter) would be pizza in New York City.  But on a much grander scale with hundreds of more permutations and distinctions based on regionalism, broth, toppings, flavor and type of noodle.  On one of my first trips to Tokyo I foolishly asked a cop if he knew of a good ramen restaurant nearby.  He was almost offended.  What kind of Ramen?  What kind of broth? What kind of stupid foreigner would ask such a stupid question regarding such an infinitely complex dish?  I learned my lesson and never again asked anyone without knowing  the details of what I personally expected in a bowl of Ramen.

I am not an expert but the simple distinctions are based on broth: Chicken, pork and the addition (or not) of dried anchovy and bonito flake.  Flavor: soy, miso or salt.  And thickness and springiness of noodle.  Each city in Japan has regional specialties and, of course, these regional flavors gather in Tokyo.

A few weeks back I saw a shuttered store-front reading: “Takashi Ramen – Ramen Has Become My Life.”  Taped to the shutter was a note apologizing for being late in opening, the owner simply felt that he needed more time to learn about Ramen. I was kind of charmed by this humble explanation.

On a lark, I decided to pedal over the other day to see what had become of the shop, It was open and as I fumbled around with my phone trying to decipher the menu (Google Translate sucks by the way) the chef came out and in quite good English introduced himself. He told me that he does classic Tokyo style Ramen (clear chicken and bonito broth).

The chef had worked in Hollywood for three years and was excited to use his English.  He told me that his Ramen teacher lived in New York and opened the widely acclaimed restaurant Nakamura Ramen ( that teacher, Chef Shigetoshi Nakamura is hailed as one of four living “Ramen Gods”). I mentioned the “Ramen Has Become My Life” sign and he shyly said, “Yes, Ramen is my life.  I am not sure why, but it is.” I, who have devoted nearly half my life to reggae music, understand that fatalistic submission to obsession quite well.

The Ramen I was served was elegant and clean.  The pork, seared with a torch before adding to the broth, was perfect. The egg, the bamboo shoots all emphasized the owner’s care and concern.  The shoyu (soy) flavor was light and I could tell that no MSG was added (this is neither a positive nor negative as I have no problem with MSG!).  It was an almost healthy Ramen leaving me full, but not stuffed, even as I supped the last drops of soup from the bowl.  $7 exquisitely well spent.

There are many skills in Japan that are taught by faithful copying and repetition. The final blossoming of skill into art is an act of transmutation — you become one with that long line of teachers who have handed down the skill set, and at last your own personality comes to bear. Takashi Ramen is about to blossom, the skill, the care, the love, the craft is all there and I will be excited to taste the moment when the chef himself joins that equation.

Takashi Ramen

2-19-8 Kitamachi

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