重濃鯵ニボそば. Jyuko Aji Nibo Soba. Super thick mackerel and sardine noodles. That's what you will get at Tanaka on a Friday, when the menu slightly changes.
Tanaka bills itself as shinasoba; Chineses-style ramen. But, like most newer shops serving shinasoba, this a wholly Japanese take on noodles. And a very unique one at that.
Certainly well-regarded by the usual suspects, what makes this one so special?
To start with, the soup is a one-off creation. Inspired by the Chiba seaside, where shop master Tanaka-san spends a lot of time surfing, large amounts of dried sardine and horse mackerel are the first thing you notice. The next thing that hits you is the thickness. By using more konbu seaweed than normal, the soup becomes thick and packed with umami. It's very different, and very good.
The images are from Friday's limited menu, where he blends the normal stock with a heavier chicken broth. Both this and the regular bowl are stellar, but I prefer the normal, fish and konbu only bowl that you get on regular days. Friday's version is a bit extreme.
Tanaka-san commutes from the far side of Chiba every day; a trip that takes almost two hours. But we, the customer, could have it no other way. It's that surf, that closeness to the ocean, that comes through in his ramen.
Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Higashi Ikebukuro 2-19-2
Closest station: Otsuka
Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-22:00