He will introduce us to some of the latest ramen trends in the world. Ramen Guide Japan is currently serving as a Guest Editor at Ramen Hero. He introduce Japanese cutting-edge ramen trend in the world. If you are interested in his other content, you can check out Ramen Guide Japan!
As most foodies and gourmet hunters are aware, every year the Michelin Guide releases a list of some of the best restaurants in major cities around the world such as Paris, London, New York, and of course Tokyo. Traditionally, the restaurants were placed into tiers and given stars with 3 being the highest and 1 on the low end. In recent years the Michelin Guide has expanded their book to include premium budget options listed in the guide as Bib Gourmands. These restaurants are of the utmost quality, but at a price point that is more affordable and suited for casual diners.
As for ramen, three restaurants have actually received the illustrious 1 star: Japanese Soba Noodle Tsuta, Sousakumenkobo Nakiryu, and Konjiki Hototogisu. The latter two shops still hold their star while Tsuta recently lost theirs after moving locations from their original Sugamo location to their current shop near Yoyogi Uehara station. While the three shops are the only restaurants with stars, numerous shops have been included in the Bib Gourmand with 18 of them given the award in the most recent 2021 edition. While all are worthy of visits, here are five that I consider to be my personal picks that you should include in your next trip to Tokyo!
Ginza Hachigo (銀座 八五)
Personally, when I think of the Michelin Guide I think of fancy, upscale restaurants with an atmosphere that extrudes elegance. Ramen is the complete opposite with most shops having a more casual vibe, but here at Hachigo, customers get a dining experience that is more aligned with the high end Ginza neighborhood where it is located. Receiving their Michelin Bib Gourmand nod in the 2020 guide, they repeated in the most recent 2021 list and have seemingly been striving for that one star recognition since. Serving up some of the best, refined shio ramen in all of Tokyo, Hachigo is definitely one you won’t want to miss.
Hachigo only has one ramen on their menu, the Chuka Soba, but offers them as is or in varying topping options. While quite the simple menu, what Hachigo lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. Master Matsumura-san has years of training as a high end hotel chef and incorporates the techniques he honed there with gourmet ingredients such as Nagoya Cochin chicken, prosciutto, and duck to create an unforgettable broth. Interesting thing about Hachigo is that they don’t use a tare seasoning...meaning the flavor comes strictly from the broth and chicken & duck aroma oil. The unconventional ramen sparked the interest of many food writers and ramen heads and with the service and decor of the shop epitomizing what Michelin typically looks for, their inclusion to the Bib Gourmand and your Tokyo itinerary is a no brainer.
While Hachigo makes its mark as a trendy, high end ramen shop, Yakumo brings a modern twist to a historic ramen style. Yakumo can trace its roots to the legendary ramen shop Tantantei, which popularized the famous wonton ramen. After years of training at Tantantei, Yakumo branched out to open in the Ikejiri Ohashi area of Meguro city. The shop looks more like a museum exhibit than a popular wonton ramen shop, but their unique theme, and ramen to match, may be the reason for their Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand appearance.
Yakumo’s shop interiors are, for the most part, black & white which is a theme prevalent throughout Yakumo’s identity. The black tabletop contrasts the white shop walls and pearly white ramen bowls as it is served to the thousands that come daily. The shop is lined with various black & white art pieces and that motif is carried out into their ramen. Yakumo serves two variations of their ramen; one using a Koikuchi, darker shoyu and the other a white shoyu blend. Even the wonton personifies this black & white experience with a “black” wonton using pork and “white” wonton filled with shrimp. The yin and yang concept of the shops most likely caught the eyes of Michelin Guide writers hence their Bib Gourmand status this past year, but don’t let the modern twist fool you. Yakumo serves a wonton ramen dish that has decades of history and experience embedded in it that is hard to miss with each bite.
Shinjiko Shijimi Chuka Soba Kohaku (宍道湖しじみ中華そば 琥珀)
One of the newest shops on the Bib Gourmand list is one located in a residential area near Zoshiki station. The discreet area only highlights the popularity of the shop as it stands out like a sore thumb drawing huge lines in an otherwise quiet neighborhood. After being featured in the Tokyo Ramen of the Year magazine and then listed as a Michelin Bib Gourmand, the lines keep getting longer and their accolades seemingly keep piling up. Serving ramen using their shop namesake, Shinjiko Shijimi, Kohaku might be making one of, if not the best, shellfish based ramen in all of Tokyo.
Shinjiko is actually the Japanese pronunciation of Lake Shinji, the location of which the Shijimi, small Japanese clams, are harvested. The lake is known for a beautiful landscape, but also the perfect climate to produce these delicious little shellfish. These specialty clams are steeped to provide a sweet and savory soup that has caught the attention of ramen fanatics throughout the country. Serving both a shoyu and shio version, the shio is the one to grab for first timers. The natural salt flavors of the shio tare enhance the shellfish flavors and puckers you up with an umami overload. While a bit out of central Tokyo, Kohaku is one you won’t want to miss out on.
Homemade Ramen Muginae (Homemade Ramen 麦苗)
Just north of Kohaku is Homemade Ramen Muginae which is run as a mom and pop shop and has since expanded opening different ramen shops around the area. However, their first and most popular, is the one getting the most recognition and rightfully so. While they tend to decline most media requests, when they do accept, it’s typically for the highest of accolades such as the Michelin Guide. Located near Oomori station, Muginae is putting the area on the map for an otherwise quiet ramen scene.
The shop is continually changing their ramen recipe and so the ramen they serve now might be different from one a couple months from now, but one consistent item is the Iriko Soba which utilizes the iriko dried fish for the broth. The light, translucent soup is presented beautifully in their gorgeous clay pottery bowls and is brimming with addicting umami notes and savory goodness. The pork chashu is best in class amongst shops on the Michelin Guide so an extra serving is definitely recommended when you make your inevitable trip here.
Menson Rage (麺尊 RAGE)
Finally, with Menson Rage, you see exactly the opposite of what you might expect from a shop listed in the Michelin Guide. Graffiti and street art decorate both their shop front and interior walls with the latter being changed out often for a new look every few months. However, amongst the collection of street art is a kitchen which produces some of the best chicken shoyu ramen in Tokyo and their popularity has allowed them to make nationally sold cup ramen as well as branching out with two new shops.
What makes Menson Rage so special is their use of Shamo, a breed of chicken which is primarily known for its use in underground chicken fighting in Southeast Asia. However, by the time you’re done with a bowl of Rage’s ramen, you’ll be wondering why it’s been wasted for so long on a cruel, inhumane sport. The slow simmer chicken soup is combined in the bowl with a refined shoyu tare and addicting chiyu chicken oil for a phenomenal ramen experience that is truly unforgettable. Thin noodles pair perfectly with their elegant soup and the toppings are well thought out to balance the bowl nicely. Menson Rage is the definition of the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and is absolutely deserving of all their recent accolades including the Michelin Bib Gourmand inclusion. Definitely a must visit, particularly if you’re in, or heading to, the West Tokyo area.