My Top Ramen Gets Crowned!

My Top Ramen Gets Crowned!

There is a general truth regarding noodles in Japan: people either favor udon or they favor soba, but everyone loves ramen.  This was true for me during my first year living here in Tokyo.  But somewhere along the line, I just tired of ramen.  It was very “un-Tokyo” of me, a kind of internal act of treason against my adopted land.  But what can you do?  I just did not feel like eating it. This ramen malaise bothered me.  I tried to force the issue. Went to a few semi-famous spots to see if I could re-ignite the spark. I had some good bowls, a spicy tantanmen in Otsuka, a wontonmen in Sakuradai, an interesting bowl topped with duck in Takadanobaba, but nothing brought that real deep down ramen lust back.  I ended up having a prolonged and passionate affair with soba — relishing the texture of those buckwheat noodles and the elegance of their presentation.

My son is much more of a true Tokoyer than I am.  Not only does he still lust after ramen, he is a devotee of Tsukemen, the dipping noodle style that is beloved in Tokyo (but not beloved by me!). He is also one of the all-time champion noodle slurpers with a style that effortlessly combines volume intake, a proper soup-to-noodle ratio, cooling power and a hoover-like auditory blast that resonates with all noodle eaters.  Because of him, I keep up with the ramen world even as my excitement has waned.  So it was that I was perusing the truly excellent Ramen Beast app and noticed that my favorite shop, Tamashii No Chuka Soba had been included and received a 4-star review.  I felt both proud of the restaurant and kind of justified in my own ramen taste and opinion: I had noticed something about the place and now the God Of Ramen Critics had noticed it as well.   Being that it was my son’s 13th birthday and we were all hungry, I decided to return to Tamashii and congratulate the owner.

I had not been to Tamashii for about a year and I was happy to be greeted by a six or seven person line at a fairly off-peak time.  Ramen Beast has legs.  Once inside,  I noted that the kitchen had expanded, the counter-space extended by a foot or so to give the master more room to work.  Prices were the same, menu limited to Shoyu Ramen and Tsukamen with options for shio, spicy sauce, egg, green onion and extra cha siu.  The chef/owner, Wakabayashi-san had trimmed his long goatee.  I have already written extensively about this ramen (you can read here) so I won’t go into a long exegesis.  Suffice it to say that Tamashii’s food is a model of how the creation of something simple can be transformed into a meal of great complexity through an exacting focus on quality.  The noodles, handmade every morning, are the best I have had in Tokyo; every detail from the sprinkle of green onion to a rapturous soft boiled egg is rendered to perfection.  If there was one thing that I had not 100% loved about Tamashii, it was the soup itself — it was delicious, remarkable, but it was made with just a touch too much dried anchovy for my taste.  This has changed.  The dried anchovy has been dialed back just a touch and the broth now has the balance of a perfectly EQed piece of music — deep, comforting, complex and layered.  This is not ramen created with Instagram in mind; this is a bowl of ramen aimed squarely for your heart and your tastebuds.

So, congratulations Tamashii No Chuka Soba and thank you for reminding me how exciting some noodles, hot soup, a slice of pork and an egg can be.  You have reignited my lust!





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