Instead of a "Top 10 Ramen in Tokyo", I'm going with a "Top 3 Ramen in Tokyo", more or less. The top 3-ish in 8 different categories.
- Shoyu - Mainly a soy sauce based soup
- Shio - Usually light, using salt to get the . . . saltiness
- Tonkotsu (straight) - Creamy smooth pork soup
- Tonkotsu (shoyu) - Pork and shoyu, usually a bit intense
- Miso - Miso paste is blended into the soup
- Spicy - Any ramen can be made spicy
- Tsukemen - Dipping noodles
- Original - Unique tastes
*Author's note - This list is a bit dated, though still excellent. Check out a recent one I made here:
Check the hours, and get there early, else your journey out into the west of Tokyo will be in vain. Yeah, this one is a bit of a trek, but if you are serious about ramen, you won't give it a second thought.
Yes, those are two giant slabs of roast beef on top, if you were wondering.
Nagi Golden Gai
Oh, the ramen. It's packed with more dried fish than your sober body could handle. It works, though. Every aspect is rough around the edges, but somehow that equates to an amazing bowl; a must-eat anytime you end up in this part of town.
Tsuta could have the best shoyu tare in town. A blend of three mega-premium soy sauces from small distilleries across Japan, this is the stuff that shoyu-dreams are made of.
Amazing stuff, right off the Yamanote line.
Be warned, the shop closes if the soup isn't perfect for that day.
The noodles are made on site, as are the toppings. The roasted tomato and roasted garlic toppings are highly recommended.
Another shop who's shio I have yet to photograph. AFURI is one of the rare shops where women often outnumber men. The shio here is cafe-style, meaning very light and very aromatic. Little bits of yuzu citrus are key to the concept.
Muteppo surprises everyone with it's scent, or lack thereof. For such an intense bowl, it is surprisingly easy to slurp.
This shop is the most OG tonkotsu in Tokyo. A bit inconvenient unless you can drive, though. Good luck, it is worth it.
This is one of the first shops that hooked me. Did they somehow blend the pork soup with heavy cream? Nope, this is just what happens when you do tonkotsu right. The collagen slowly seeps out of the bones, and turns into liquid gold.
Absolutely one of the best spots to bring a date!
While the streetside yatai scene in Tokyo is lacking, Gotaru makes me feel a bit like I am back in Hakata. A dinky little place, cramped and unassuming, this is where you can get that simple bowl. No nonsense Hakata style, stinky and creamy.
One of my favorite Jiro-kei shops, the style known for heavy broth and heavy dudes.
Then order the oyagi set - rice and a semi-boiled egg - to dump in the left over soup.
The perfect hangover preventative measure.
Oyaji is a bit of a trek, but after you have tried the other miso ramen on this list, you'll probably be on the next express train out of Shinjuku for this bowl.
The blend of miso and fat is so rich and creamy, it might ruin you for all other misos.
Hanamichi is styled from Sapporo miso ramen, thought to be the epicenter of worldwide miso ramen love. I think it is more Tokyo though, where local flavors will only get you so far, and a sense of gourmet is needed to get you on any best-of list.
Be very thankful for the fates pulling that one off.
Rashohon's balance of numbing sansho, textural nuts, and crisp veggies makes this the best tantanmen around.
When you sit down at Kikanbo, you are immediately taken into another world . . . hell! Yeah, it's the rather comical Japanese version of hell, where the demons are brightly colored and almost cute in a way, but it is hell none the less.
Will you order your spice at the oni (demon) level? Choose how much hot spice and how much numbing spice you want, and be prepared for a burn.
They have a tsukemen shop on the same block.
For the closest thing to napalm in a bowl of noodles, Inosho delivers. The soup is fortified with a massive mound of dried fish powder, turning this already scorching bowl into a viscous, noodle coating agent.
But it works. The initial heat gives way to fantastic flavors, which gives way to the after burn. Remember, the pile of spice on top should be mixed in with caution.
When I first tasted this bowl, I was shocked at the roasted fish and creaminess that could be achieved from simmering pork bones for a few days. Then I found that it was actually chicken bones being used.
Details aside, you should brave the often one hour wait to eat here.
This is something you will never be able to experience anywhere else in the world. Everyone I have forced to come here has thanked me for it.
TETSU's special menu item is an adventure. One bowl of cold noodles. One bowl of hot noodles. One bowl of chunky pork and fish soup. Take care of business, and when you are noodle-free, dump a red-hot iron stone into the left over soup to reheat it.
King Kong follows the standard Tokyo tsukemen routine, with a tonkotsu gyokai soup and some thick noodles. It is the subtle choice of ingredients that make it stand out. The most notable is blueberries.
You won't taste them, but the hint of sweetness is there.
Even the noodles get in on the health conscious side. They are made with paprika to give them a unique color and taste.
The atmosphere of the shop is beautiful. Sleek seating and comfortable seats.
A perfect break from a day shopping in the busy department store district this shop is in.
Minutes from Louis Vuitton.
If this sounds confusing, don't worry, there is a table-side manga comic explaining how to go about eating here.
Kagari is smack dab in the middle of Ginza, about 30 seconds from the Apple Store, wedged in a secret alley between a Harrods and an Italian suit shop.
The creamy tori paitan, with fresh seasonal vegetable toppings is my favorite, though the niboshi shoyu ramen is also on point.