Yahman Rahmen: Great Ramen, No Bullshit on the Side

Yahman Rahmen: Great Ramen, No Bullshit on the Side

Given that my twin obsessions are Jamaican music and food, I am surprised that I did not find out about Yahman Rahmen on my own. In fact, it took an American (an American who neither lives in Japan nor cares about Jamaican music) to point out its existence about a mile and half from my home in the Nerima Ward. I had a some trepidation to be honest – such a perfect match can go terribly wrong as any user of Tinder well knows.

I put my daughter in the back of my bike and made plans to meet up with one of my DJ friends – who happens to be both a serious eater and a Buhddist monk– at Yahman. The restaurant is located in Ekoda, a quietly charming part of Nerima which I have long admired. I’ve never been to Northern Europe, but for unknown reasons, the streets of Ekoda remind of some small city in Denmark or Iceland or basically somewhere neat and pretty and prosperous. Small shops, coffee houses, boutiques, potted flowers lining the steps of tidy household – neither a cigarette butt nor a plastic bag littering the brick lined streets.

Yahman Rahman sits a little off the main shotengai (shopping street), a Jamaican flag blowing in the breeze, stools already full of waiting salary men even though the restaurant was not yet open. My fear was that Yahman Rahman would be like a tourist in Ocho Rios – sunburnt, in a rasta wig and tie-dyed Bob Marley shirt. My fears were allayed immediately by the sound of late 70s, Channel One disco mixes coming out the door – Ranking Trevor, The Jayes, Leroy Smart, I Roy, Jah Stitt. Not easy reggae, deep shit. There was nothing silly on the menu either – no jerk chicken ramen or curry goat ramen and thank god there wasn’t Mannish Water ramen. There was a line of serious eaters however. Not hippies, not obvious reggae fans, just cab drivers, construction workers, a retired couple – good signs when it comes to serious noodles.

We waited happily for a half hour or so, enjoying the music and the warmth of the sun in what is promising to be an early Spring. Once inside, the space was clean and nice, no tables, just counter space. Reggae posters, LP covers and flyers line the walls. Like any typical Jamaican restaurant from Brooklyn to Kingston, bottles of Grace Hot Pepper Sauce line the counters. Ramen is served in customized bowls subtly showcasing the Rasta colors of Red, Gold and Green. The owner, while perfectly personable, is a serious man. He likes reggae. He likes ramen. I ordered the plain, Miso ramen, my daughter got shoyu ramen and my DJ friend got the Miso as well (but remembered the egg…which I stupidly neglected).

It was a great bowl of ramen. Perfect temperature, the top quality noodles a bit thick and round, hefty enough to stand tough in the rich, fat-dippled broth; roast pork tender and flavorful; a hefty dose of bean sprouts, just out of the wok, added a smoky note alongside cabbage and perfect bamboo shoots. The shoyu ramen was very good, very clean with mustard greens and just a hint of anchovy – given a choice, I would go the Miso path as it was just a touch more interesting. Yahmen Ramen prides itself on serving ramen with no preservatives, no additives, no MSG but really I didn’t notice all that – what I did notice was how happy I was to be eating such a satisfying lunch for about eight dollars while listening to music that I myself would be happy to play.

I eat a lot of ramen because ramen in Japan is just so good. But, the reality is that it takes something for me to return again and again. I go to Tamashii (Soul Of Noodle) because it is sheer perfection; I go to my cheap Chinese spot because it warms my soul. I will return to Yahman Rahman because I can still taste the layers of that broth and can still pantomime the mouth-feel of the noodles. But beyond that, it just makes me swell with love for Tokyo, for Japan really,  that Yahman Rahmen exists. No other country indulges obsessions in quite the same way – an American Yahman Rahmen would be an abomination — a rasta themed shithole, Bob Marley’s “Legend” playing on loop and specials like a  “No Worries” vegan ramen with tempe cut like dreadlocks; instead, here in Tokyo, I can jump on my bike, pedal for 15 minutes to Yahman and have a $8 bowl of deliriously good ramen while being bathed in the obscure sounds of I Roy flexing his lyrical skills over Leroy Smart’s “Without Love”. All that and no rasta wigs. Yah man.

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