Michelin 1 Star Tantanmen – Nakiryu Ramen
I used to think that Michelin star restaurants are places out of my league. These are delicacies that are way beyond what I can afford, and even if I can, I would rather go for my favourite bowl of ramen instead for much cheaper. So when a friend told me about the Michelin 1 star ramen restaurants in Japan, specifically in Tokyo, I thought that I have no excuses not to try it the next time I was in the area. Nakiryu ramen, famous for the tantanmen was my next destination.
Being a restaurant listed in the Michelin Guide, the biggest issue I expected to encounter was a massive line. Therefore, I prepared two things: 1. I was going on a weekday afternoon, and 2. I brought a Nintendo Switch to help pass my time.
This shop is about a 7 minute-walk from the closest station, regardless if you are coming from JR Otsuka or Shin-Otsuka. The walk in not far, but the interesting thing was that I found myself slowly walking away from the busy streets and more into residential and small business office areas. Then, I saw the line, the massive long line standing across from the small ramen shop that said Nakiryu Ramen.
Despite arriving around 11:30, it was not until around 1:30 that I got into the restaurant. The shop had very limited seats, and there were many small groups of tourists waiting for a taste of one of the best ramen in Japan. So make sure you bring something to pass your time. I, for instance, brought my Nintendo Switch, whereas the couple lining up in front of me had several cans of beer ready.
When I got into the shop, I was more than ready for a good bowl of noodles. Because of the amount of tourists they get, the ticket machines had different languages for people from different countries. I ordered the extra spicy tantanmen with ebi-wonton (Chinese shrimp dumplings) topping, and because it was lunch time, I ordered their rice with chasiu toppings too for a discount. The total was about 1250 yen, which I can say that it is worth every single yen.
The restaurant itself was very clean and tidy. The moody lighting made the shop feel very fancy and definitely classier than the typical ramen shop you would think of.
The noodles arrived in front of me. Simple yet elegant. A sniff of the broth immediately reflects the amount of care and thought put into designing and perfecting this soup, and the complexity of the soup that combined chicken, cow bones, vegetables, oysters and more ingredients will surprise upon tasting it. It was not overly spicy so the vibrant flavour was never overpowering. I really like the thin noodles as well, and because I knew I was going to take my time with this bowl of noodles, I ordered it extra firm.
The shrimp wonton is very authentic to the Canton style wonton, so you get the bouncy texture of the shrimp in every single one. This is possibly the best shrimp wonton you can get in Japan and definitely a must-get for just 200 yen.
The biggest surprise of my trip was the small chasiu rice bowl I got for 150 yen. The seared fatty pork cooked to the perfect tenderness was undoubtedly the best chasiu I have ever tasted in any ramen shop. I would have happily eaten just a bowl of it for a meal, so to have it with an awesome ramen was a one-two punch to please my stomach.
The food was supreme. Everything I tasted was fine tuned to near perfection. Would I go again? Well, the 100 minute would be the barrier. Another thing is for people who are not experienced with ramen enough to appreciate why Nakiryu is at the top–like the families sitting next to me–may be overhyped and find it underwhelming. I would not recommend this to be your first bowl of ramen on your first trip to Japan. However, for people who enjoy ramen, Nakiryu is definitely worth at least one visit.