Yonezawa is a few hundred kilometers north of Tokyo. And, of course, this city has it's own ramen style.
At least, that is what I was led to understand when I found this place. Despite the chain feel (other shops are located in nearby Otsuka and Ikebukuro), I had high hopes when reading the plaque on the wall proclaiming the wonders of Yonezawa ramen, and the shop's use of some Yonezawa ingredients.
I went with the standard shoyu ramen, plus a side of fried rice. Like it's nearby neighbor to the south, Kitakata, it's a simple bowl.
Simple in all ways. There are some much better shops in the area, like Nishio Ramen, but Ai Ai is open at all hours practically. I guess it has that going for it.
When I asked the chef to explain Yonezawa ramen to me, he grunted and said, "It's where I'm from." I continued my interview by asking what Yonezawa local ingredients he uses. "Just the noodles." It was a short interview.
At least it's close to the station.
A few days later I was drinking with a friend, a native of Yonezawa, and asked her what is so special about her hometown noodles. Her explanation was a little more eloquent. "When us countryside girls come to the big city, everyone is eating tonkotsu soup; strong-smelling, thick stuff. But back home, we really just love a warm bowl made with our clean mountain water. It's simple, and good."
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Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Komagome 1-28-14
Nearest station: Komagome