Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mashi no Mashi in Roppongi, Tokyo

 Mashi no Mashi Tokyo

I had to do it. No matter how much I didn't want to spend $100 on a bowl of ramen, I had to at least try this one once. One part fueled by the tourism boom, one big part hype, and one part top tier ingredients. This is Wagyu Mafia's Jiro-style ramen, now available in Tokyo.

Complete with the made-for-Instagram food pose by the staff.

So what's the deal? How do we arrive at an 11,000 yen bowl of ramen in Tokyo in 2020?

Wagyu Mafia is the brainchild of Hisato Hamada and Takafumi Horie. It started as a member's only wagyu beef restaurant in 2016. The point was to serve the most expensive cuts of beef, bought without consideration of budget, eaten by the elites of the Japanese foodie scene. CEOs and their mistresses sat next to independently wealthy heiresses from Hong Kong. Meals were somewhere around $600, with everyone getting a slightly different bill.

But that's just the beginning. Word of this exclusive wagyu restaurant skyrocketed when they bought the most expensive cow from the 2016 Kobe auction, a bovine with the highest recorded fat marbling in recorded history. Wagyu dishes were also having a big run overseas, and Instagrammable dishes like A5 wagyu with uni and caviar became a surefire way to garner attention. Wagyu Mafia jumped on this hype without thinking twice.

Soon the guys behind the Mafia were jet-setting around the world, doing popups and entertaining celebrities. David Beckham and Ed Sheeran are fans. Investors made things simple, and a Wagyu Mafia Hong Kong was opened. They also opened less exclusive yakiniku spots (in both Tokyo and Hong Kong) and crowdfunded a cutlet sandwich restaurant in Tokyo. 

Then came the ramen.

The name Mashi no Mashi along with the stark yellow colors in the shop are a give-away to any ramen nerd. This is Jiro style ramen. Mashi refers to an extra amount of a particular topping in Jiro shops. Want extra garlic? Ninniku mashi. Want even more? Ninniku mashi mashi.

Bones are cooked for 24 hours to bring out maximum meat flavors. Noodles are thick and rough. Bean sprouts, cabbage, and plenty of garlic constitute the non-meat toppings. Chashu is thick-cut wagyu beef, stewed eight hours.

In the end it is kind of Jiro-esque. Real Jiro is much heavier, but Mashi no Mashi tries their best.

Want to know what I thought of it? This was a great bowl. Everything is well made and I definitely crushed it. Is it worth over $100? That's a tough one.

In a value-for-wagyu situation, no way. I can go to my favorite yakiniku spot and spend around $60 for a fatty beef feast. For a bit more I could go somewhere like Oniku Karyu for a wicked wagyu course. The volume of wagyu topping here was also kind of sad. You would think for $100 they would really pile it on. I heard you can ask for the wagyu mashi mashi to get around triple the amount (for a price).

If you are after the experience of trying mega-expensive casual food, this is something you must eat. 

If you are, like me, a ramen hunter in Japan who's list of shops to hit in Tokyo is dwindling, you gotta do it.

I'd say that if you were a YouTuber looking for a viral hit, this might work, though the algorithm doesn't really work that way anymore.

In the end, I'm of the opinion that anything interesting in the ramen world is worth it. While Mashi no Mashi's bowl is pricey, other less expensive wagyu-topped bowls have been popping up here and there.

Official Wagyu Mafia site here.

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