Tomita 中華蕎麦 とみ田

I have been monitoring ramendb for a few years now, and in the past two years, there have been a few shops that are consistently in the top. For a good year or so, it was Menya Kissou, but in the last a year or so, a new shop in Chiba took over the crown. And since it took over, it has not looked back.

Tomita is not to be messed with. It's been on top of the ramendb charts, and with my love for ramen never wavering, I had to try it out for myself. Now Chiba isn't exactly close, but traveling to far places to try ramen was never a problem for me.

Located within minutes walk from Matsudo Station (松戸駅), I treked out from Shinjuku on a Saturday morning, and arrived around 11am. As you can see, the shop is not hard to find. Just look where the crowd is.

This shop definitely has character. From the exterior design of their window, to the interior decor of a traditional Japanese furnishing, it makes this shop a unique experience just to be here. But of course people don't travel all the way to Chiba for the decor. I must first apologize for the poor lighting of the pictures. I forgot to check the setting on my SLR, so the pictures turned out way too dark.

Tomita offers ramen and tsukemen, but it was evident that tsukemen is the prize here. From reading the reviews, it was clear tsukemen was going to be my choice. The picture isn't clear enough, but the tonkotsu gyokai (豚骨魚介) soup was absolutely superb. Some place is too light, some place too heavy, Tomita provide just the right balance of flavor and taste.

To achieve top billing in ramendb, you must do everything well. And tamago is one of the most critical piece to any ramen/tsukemen. Tomita is no exception. Soft on the outside, liquidy yolk on the inside, just perfect.

The amount of noodles you get with tsukemen, even with a normal order, never ceases to amaze me. It's a wonder how Japanese stay so skinny (but I guess not everyone eats ramen as much as me). The noodles were a prize possession here, thick, chewy, and immensely satisfying. The charshu, not charred as much as I like on the outside, but the serving was so generous and well marbled which made up for it.

The thickness of the soup can be seen through how it stays on the noodles. And when I took my first bite, it was as good as I expected. Sometimes when you set expectations too high, often times you are disappointed. Not here. Tomita is ranked #1 for a reason. It does everything well and has no weaknesses. If there are any minuses here, it's that it is all the way out in Chiba, which makes it a bit hard to get to. But if you are ever adventurous, and just want to have the best, head to Chiba. You won't be disappointed.

City: Chiba, Japan
Location: Matsudo, minutes walk from the station
Hours: 11am - 5pm (closed on Wednesday)
Website: No official website,
Ordering system: Machine
Available in English: Minimal

Warito 麺屋 和利道

Rain or shine, when it comes to ramen, I will travel to the ends of the earth to eat the best ramen in the world. On a gloomy and rainy Saturday, I decided to give one of the top ranked tsukemen shops in Tokyo a try.

Warito sells on tsukemen, and I love shops that sell only one thing, because chances it's going to do it well. It's ranked as a top-5 tsukemen shop as long as I remembered, so it's consistency has been tested, tried and true.

Even on the rainy Saturday, there was a line, although all were standing inside the shop. Chances are on a nice day, the line would easily be outside.

I order the usual, with the tokusei toppings, and quickly realized why this is top 5 shop. Let's start with the charshu. Charred to perfection on the outside, a nice thick cut, and so well marbled, this should be the standard that all charshu is measured to.

Tamago here wasn't shabby either, although a bit dried out. It was not the highlight of Warito but definitely wasn't a weakness.

And on the the noodles. You typical thick version for tsukemen, it was cooked just right and at the right chewiness. Very impressed!

The tonkotsu gyokai (豚骨魚介) soup here is excellent. Perfect balance between tonkotsu and gyokai, not too heavy and not too light. It's very very balanced.

I dug in, and being hungry and cold, this was very satisfying. However, the problem with tsukemen is after a while, the soup gets cold. Days like these I always wish there is a ramen option, no matter how much I am in love with Tsukemen.

But never fear! Those of you who have been around knows what this is. So one of the coolest thing about Warito is that they have a grill going at all times keeping these rocks very hot. What's the purpose? Well, since the soup gets cold after dipping the cold noodles, this rock will heat the soup back up. Such a cool and inventive way!

And it sure did the trick. By the time I finished the noodles, the rock came. And within minutes, my soup was warmed up, and I added some clear soup and drank every last drop. It could not have been a more satisfying experience, and definitely ranked right up there with the best of the best. It's not at such a convenient place as it is a bit out of the city, but for one of the best tsukemen experiences in Tokyo, you should definitely give Warito a chance.

City: Tokyo, Japan
Location: Ikejiriohashi, 7-8 minute walk from the station
Hours: 11am - 3:30pm, 6 - 10pm (closed on Wednesday
Website: No official website,
Ordering system: Machine
Available in English: Minimal

Honta 麺処 ほん田

About 20 minutes north of Shinjuku by train hide a small area called Jūjō (十条). This small town is actually a hidden treasure for ramen, believe it or not. With three of the top ramen shops in Tokyo in this area, I had to pay a visit myself. My first stop, Honta Men Toroko.

Even arriving pretty early one night after work, there was already a line outside. To my surprise, since Jūjō isn't exactly like a very populous place, I was amazed that there was a line, no matter how high it is rated.

My taste for tonkotsu gyokai (豚骨魚介) forced me to order their tokusei version of this ramen. The soup was very thick (濃厚), but more so than anyone I have ever tasted. As you can see with the picture, this soup was going to pack a serious punch of sodium.

The tamago was a bit disappointing here. Dried out and overcooked.

What makes Honta special here is that they give you two styles of meat. One is a very dried charshu.

The other being a smoked duck, which was a very different, but nice touch. Enjoyed that very much!

And the noodles were the highlight here. Nicely cooked, very chewy, definitely helped catapult the shop to the top tier of ramen shops in Tokyo.

At the time this review is written, Honta was rated #5 in ALL OF JAPAN according to ramendb. It's definitely a quality bowl of ramen, but a little too powerful for me as far as flavor, and I like my food on the heavy side. I went with a friend from Taiwan and it definitely was too salty for her. The quality is there for sure, but the taste may not be for everyone. They offer a shio version, and it was rated very high by many reviewed on ramendb. There is now a shop at Tokyo Ramen Street, which isn't rated as high, but I would say it shouldn't be that far off. If you can't make it to Jūjō, head to Tokyo Station and give it a try. You might find me there waiting in line to try their Shio ramen.

City: Tokyo, Japan
Location: Jūjō, 8-10 minutes from walk Jūjō or Higashijūjō Station (also at Tokyo Ramen Street)
Hours: 11:30am - 4pm (no longer opened at night)
Website: No official website,
Ordering system: Machine
Available in English: Minimal

Kindenmaru らーめん金伝丸 おきやま

Planning is so important, and I learned my lesson the hard way when I decided to meet a friend for lunch without planning. I had planned to visit a ramen shop in Shibuya, but when I didn't have a backup plan, we had to settle for just any ramen shop in Shibuya.

Kindenmaru was in our sights, and from the pictures outside, it looked pretty good... so we gave it a chance.

Walking into the shop, we saw wooden crates of fresh noodles sitting there waiting to be cooked. This was another good sign. But little did we know what was coming.

I opted for the tokumaru (特丸) ramen. It's their "special", and it looked decent in the picture.

What came was a pretty average bowl of ramen. As you can see with the charshu, it was very lean, and not to my liking.

The tokumaru had two kinds of pork, the second kind was a bit better, but there was not much of this in the bowl.

The broth was fairly balanced, not too much fat, but the flavor was not very good. I couldn't tell whether it was tonkotsu, or shouyu, but whatever it was, it wasn't done very well.

And the tamago was cooked too long, the yolk being pretty hard and not liquidy at all.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing was the noodles. Seeing those fresh noodles in the crate, I expected at least the noodles to be decent. But it reminded me of instant ramen, and I might have had better with some of the instant ramen I've bought from a convenient store.

A very disappointing experience to say the least. If only I had a phone with internet access, I would have gone to my main source to find something in the area. I am not sure how this place stays in business, and it's rating in ramendb speaks for itself. There probably have something that is half decent, but with so many choices in Tokyo, I would skip this shop entirely.

City: Tokyo, Japan
Location: Shibuya, 3 minutes walk from the station
Hours: 10am - 7am
Website: No official website,
Ordering system: Machine
Available in English: Minimal

Shibaraku 博多ラーメン しばらく

It all started with Jangara, and I still love tonkotsu ramen. But that definitely has taken a back seat in Tokyo, since the rise of tonkotsu gyokai (豚骨魚介) has pretty much taken over first place in my heart. Still, every once in a while, it is nice to have a change and go back to my roots. Shibaraku, being close to the office, was one option that I had to explore.

Hakata-style ramen shops has your typical menu. Ramen, with topping options, kaemada (another serving of noodles), gyoza, and some rice options.

I love gyoza, but it's not something I usually order at a ramen shop. Pretty normal for the locals to have ramen + gyoza, or ramen + rice. The gyozas here were good, nothing spectacular, but more than fit the bill.

Here comes the ramen. Bowl is small to begin with, which means the bowl is completely filled to the top with the noodles, soup, and toppings. The bowl looks small, but there is more than enough food in there.

Soup is well balanced here, but the hakata-taste was a bit stronger than I liked. But if you like the hakata-style flavor, this place is good for you.

The tamago was done VERY well. Nice orange color, soft on the outside, yolks still a bit liquidy. Amazing!

Noodles were your standard hakata-style thin noodles. It is what we come to expect. As with any hakata-style ramen shop, you can ask to have the noodles cooked longer to be a bit soft, or shorter to be a bit hard.

Being close to the office, it earns kudo points already. And this place wasn't bad at all. I've been back a few times, and it's always done consistently. You'll have to like Hakata ramen though to appreciate this place, but it is one that usually has a packed hour during lunch time. The businessmen around the area know, if they want a good meal for lunch, Shibaraku is a solid option.

City: Tokyo, Japan (one other location in Tokyo, three in Fukuoka)
Location: Nihonbashi area, 5 minutes walk from Suitengumae Station
Hours: 11am - 8pm
Website: No official website,
Ordering system: Menu
Available in English: Minimal