Tokyo’s best ramen bowls for serious slurpers!
No matter how nice a ramen bar you visit, the right way to eat ramen is to slurp. That is not to say that Japanese people condone of loud slurping elsewhere. Ramen, or to be more exact, noodle dishes are the exception.
Read about the origins of ramen here: Top 10 Ramen Bars in Tokyo – Part 1
Or skip directly down to our top 7 ramen bars in Tokyo
The tradition of slurping ramen can be traced back to the Edo period (1600-1886). It actually started with the slurping of another noodle dish: Soba. Compared to ramen, the fragrance nuances of Soba are a lot more subtle, which led to the concept of noodle slurping.
«Nodogoshi» is another concept that connects to slurping. You might be familiar with a cheap bear-like beverage called Nodogoshi. The name translates to «the (good) feeling of something going down your throat». The better slurp you get, the better the nodogoshi will become, and the better you can use all of your senses to experience the entire flavor array of the dish.
The slurping might be kept at lower levels in Michelin ramen bars,
but true ramenheads pay no mind and honors the ramen traditions of old
The idea behind the slurping of ramen bowls, is that it savors the aroma of the dish in a much better way. It is similar to the idea of sniffing a good wine before drinking it, or to inhale a little air while the wine still lingers on your palette.
In the case of ramen, the smell is said to be less dominant than the taste. When slurping, the full flavor of the dish will come to its right place. In fact, the loudest slurpers are probably your most serious ramen enthusiasts. And you will hear lots of slurping at Japanese ramen bars.
One particular ramen bar has vowed to make its visitors slurp their brains out. They have made a ramen bowl for loud slurping, and it tastes amazing. Hint: The Ramen style is tsukemen, and the chef features in a ramen documentary. Read on to find out which ramen bar it is ;)
Let’s move on with counting down from our top 7 ramen bowl in Tokyo:
Top 7 Ramen in Tokyo: Men Koi Dokoro Hazeryu
Location: Musashi Koyama
Just like the rocker couple that run this place, Hazeryu is a little rougher around the edges than the other ramen bars on our list. That being said, even though we have come to simply call this ramen bar «punk rocker ramen», the place is kept spotless and the bowls are chopstick-licking-good.
The ingredients are a little cruder, the flavors are a little rougher, and the noodles are on the brink of passing out. Somehow the chef at Hazeryu uses culinary grit to his favor, though, and makes one the most charismatic shio ramen bowls we have come across.
It is almost as the flavors in this bowl balances out the sharp, unrefined edges of each other, and therefore becomes interesting. The taste sensation is familiar, yet it possesses an indefinable quality that is simply impossible to get tired of.
How it can be, that a ramen flavor on the edge can become so accessible, is a mystery. We invite you to join in on the research, for we will definitely keep coming back to this favorite shio ramen bar of ours to do some more testing.
Top 6 Ramen in Tokyo: Menya Buraiton
Brighton has become quite popular in later years, and with good reason. This place specializes in «soupless ramen», aka «maze soba» or «abura soba» as it is called in Japan. It took some getting used to the very idea for me since I find the soup to be my favorite part of any good ramen bowl. Brighton convinced me that soup is not necessary to make amazing ramen.
If you have not tried soupless ramen, there is no better place to start than Brighton. Not only do they compose a flavor explosion of epic proportions, but they have also developed a house tare (flavor essence) that is both unique and addictive.
Let it be said that Brighton was dubbed the «Kings of Garlic» in my head as soon as I tasted their glorious ramen bowl. If you are not into garlic, you might want to order one of their less garlic-infused ramen bowls. Personally, I cannot get enough of the delicious «garlic blend» developed by Brighton.
A good thing about omitting the soup is that the noodles keep their spring, and the toppings stay fresh through the entire meal. And the thick chewy noodles at Brighton is definitely worth sacrificing your soup for. The same can be said about the perfectly marinated pork, the gooey goodness running out of the egg, and the super fresh produce.
Top 5 Ramen in Tokyo: Chuuka Soba Mitsu Fuzi
Not many ramen bars have been awarded Michelin stars, but the infamous food guide has recommended many places. Most of the Michelin-recommended ramen bars, however, tend to be more fluff than substance. They typically offer very sophisticated and light soups, with world-class meat on top. It is tasty for sure, but many times it almost feels like another dish.
We talked about the experimentation with classic flavors when reviewing Kazami. Like the more eccentric ramen bowls out there, also Michelin ramen bars tend to distance themselves from the lowbrow ramen cooking we all love. So much so, that they sort of makes their own league of ramen bars.
How Mitsu Fuzi manages to make their soup so light, yet still so rich, is a wonder.
Then there is Mitsu Fuzi. The place certainly looks like a Michelin-rated ramen bar, but the flavors are richer, fatter and at the same time lighter than in most other ramen bowls on our list. Still, it is undoubtedly ramen, not some fancy-schmancy concoction that tries way too hard to become something other than the greasy, junky, unpretentious soup bowls we all want and love.
At this point it is safe to say that we are moving up into the elite of ramen bars.
We already talked about the balance of flavors, which indeed is key in any good ramen bowl. The flavor balance at Mitsu Fuzi ramen is next level. The incredibly high-grade ingredients certainly play their part. The lean, flavorful meat also adds to the taste equation. The soup, however, is the centerpiece. Light, rich, savory, spicy, sweet?! You have to try it to believe it.
Top 4 Ramen in «Tokyo»: Chuuka Soba Tomita
And here we are, arrived at the slurpiest bowl of them all. Chef Tomita has become somewhat of a ramen superstar after being featured in the documentary Ramen Heads. Following the film's release in 2017, both him and his tsukemen has been the talk of ramen communities around the globe.
Strictly speaking, Tomita Ramen is not in Tokyo, but in the neighboring prefecture Chiba. We have chosen to include his ramen anyway since it has become such an institution in the international ramen scene.
Some of you might be surprised to see that we rank two ramen chains above Tomita in our Tokyo ramen-ranking finale. To us, the three final ramen bars and their bowls simply proved to be more addictive. That being said, we love Tomita of course.
Tomita’s tsukemen is sophisticated, but in a whole different way than Mitsu Fuzi. In fact, this might just be the richest broth on our list. It has chicken, pork, cow, and fish in it, and it slurps up so greasily gorgeous that we easily understand where Tomita’s charismatic smirk comes from. His genius lies in the turning of the greasiest bowl in town into a light meal.
Is Tomita Ramen really that good? The answer is yes!
In many ways, Tomita’s cocking feels closer to that of our previously mentioned Hazeryu ramen, in the sense that the flavors are strong, rich and uncompromising. Tomita reaches high on our list for two reasons. Firstly, his broth is very recognizable. The distinct fish flavor is of the kind that grows on you like 12 year old aged whiskey.
At first you wonder what the hell you just put in your mouth, but then you start to appreciate the flavor, to the point that it becomes an obsession. The second reason that Tomita snags the fourth place on our list, is that he puts his heart and soul into making some of the thickest, chewiest and most slurpable noodles on the planet. Tomita ramen is not to be missed.
Coming up is the best ramen in the world: TOP 10 RAMEN BARS IN TOKYO – PART 3
Food, Culture & Society: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze
The Journal of Japanese Studies: Slurp! A Social and Culinary History of Ramen
Nippon.com: A Cultural History of Noodle Slurping
Serious Eats: The Serious Eats Guide to Ramen Styles