Kudan Ikaruga 九段 斑鳩

Back in Tokyo again, I began my hunt for new ramen to try. Not that there is a shortage of ramen shops in Tokyo, but after having experienced ramen shops such as Ichiran, Jangara, and Menya Kissou, these taste buds can only accept high quality ramen. What can I say, I am a ramen snob.

So back on the internet I went, and found a few website in Japanese that had ramen reviews, and they looked very official. Lots of visitors, lots of reviews. But I stumbled upon this website called walkerplus. Well, this site had "Ikaruga" as the #1 rated ramen of 2008. Ikaruga was only four stations away from the office, and on my way back to the hotel, so off I went to Kudanshita.

The pictures of the ramen from the walkerplus site reminded me of Menya Kissou and Musashi's offerings. From the color of the soup, to the charshu, and tamago, it looked like each other's siblings. My colleagues and I arrived there for lunch time, and the line was already like this...

Fearing that this was going to be another wait like Menya Kissou, we quickly did some math and evaluated the situation. The line actually moved quite fast, mainly because there was about 18-20 seats, so we were able to get seated in 30 minutes even with the number of people waiting.

The menu is a bit more complex, but not as complex as you think. They basically have three ramen, they standard 'ramen', their 'special ramen' (which they only prepare 45 servings of), and they 'garlic ramen'. They have two specials at the time, a Japanese style tonkotsu ramen, and dan-dan men. They have the standard toppings, menma, two types of hanjyuku tamgao, and charshu, and some side orders if ramen is not enough to satisfy you.

There is a 5-man operation inside. One guy who takes care of the guests from getting their orders in, seating, to bringing the food. Four guys worked in the kitchen, and one guy was just cracking eggs the whole time. Their tamago was special, and required special care. That guy certainly knew what he was doing.

The ramen arrived about 10 minutes after we were seated. It looked almost identical to Menya Kissou, rather unfortunate for Itsukaga, because unconsciously I started to compare it to Kissou. It's almost like Kissou took their idea, because from the soup, to the charshu, to the noodles, and even the tamago, it was very similar.

Without making non-stop comparisons to Kissou in this paragraph, I will do my best to give a unbiased review of Ikaruga. The charshu was absolutely brilliant. It's like most ramen shops, where the charshu is not hot, but it's warmed up by the soup. It's very tender, with the melt in your mouth effect. The hanjyuku tamago was a nice touch in that it's already cut in half. The egg white was done just right just as the yolk was. The soup was rich, flavorful, but not overpowering. The noodles were at best above average, but nothing special to write home about. All in all, other than the noodles, I would say this is truly deserving of a #1 spot and is a very special bowl of ramen.

Now, it's impossible not to compare this with Kissou, just because the similarities between the two shops. While I think the charshu and soup is close to being a tie, Kissou still wins out on the tamago and noodles. There is very little weakness to Kissou's offering, and it is going to take a near perfect bowl of ramen to beat it out.

However, you can't really go wrong with Ikaruga. The wait outside speaks for itself, and so does the ramen. Where Ikaruga has the edge is there is more variety, and it's opened during lunch and dinner time. Sometimes accessibility scores you brownie points too. It's popularity is no joke as well, as there was a group of people from Hong Kong who had a Tokyo guide book, which obviously featured this place. If you are looking for a very special bowl of ramen, you really can't go wrong with Ikaruga.

City: Tokyo, Japan
Location: Kudanshita, 3-minute walk from the station
Hours: Monday - Friday 11:00-15:00 and 17:00-23:00, Saturday and Sunday 11:00-16:30 and 18:00-22:00
Available in English? No

1 comment:

S Lloyd said...

I speak and read no Japanese. Do you think I can still oder without problems at this place?
I will stay in Shinkuju. How far by train/subway is Ikaruga Ramen?
Also: Apart Nagi golden gai, would you know any top place for Ramen in Shinkuju?