I’m not a foodie, and I doubt there will be any Michelin stars dotting my ’round the world journey … but I LOVE eating in Tokyo!!! Everyone says that Tokyo is an expensive city, but I can tell you that eating well here can be cheap, cheap, cheap.
Especially if you’re a noodle lover.
Tokyo restaurants tend to focus on one specialty, and many offer only a few menu items within their chosen category. It’s also not unusual for a restaurant to have just a handful of seats and serve only a dozen or fewer customers at a time. It makes for a fun and communal experience. Plus, when you walk into a casual restaurant, you are traditionally met with a loud chorus of greetings from the staff. Everybody’s welcome!
At ramen shops, there’s even more to love, because they have their own special quirks. First, you don’t place your order with a person. Instead, you make your meal selection on a vending machine, which spits out a ticket that you hand to the person behind the counter. This is the machine at Menya Musashi …
Imagine trying to decipher the choices with a long line of hungry ramen lovers waiting behind you. Better make it snappy!
Customer seating is usually at a counter, and your job is to sit down, eat, and get out. Good restaurants in Tokyo will often have long queues that extend outside the building. In a ramen shop, there’s also a line inside. See all of those people waiting behind the seated customers? They’re waiting to take their places!
When you finally snag a spot at the counter, you’ll be given a small glass of water, and there’s always a container of clean chopsticks within reach. For napkins, there are usually some thin, Kleenex-type wipes available in dispensers on the counter. Let’s just say … I go through a lot of those.
When the ramen is served, everybody starts slurping up their noodles — loudly. If there’s leftover broth, it’s perfectly okay to drink it straight from the bowl. While I go through piles of slurp-stained napkins, I’ve never seen any of my counter mates use more than one. There’s an art to ramen-eating that I’ve yet to master!
My FAVORITE type of ramen is called tsukemen (pronounced skeh-men), also known as dipping noodles. My favorite place for tsukemen is at a shop in Shinjuku called Fuunji.
The noodles, which are cold, are served on a separate plate, and you dip each bite into a hot bowl of rich, thick, fishy-tasting broth. I wish I had the words to do this dish justice. The only thing I can say is that it’s not only the best ramen I’ve ever had … it’s the best meal I’ve ever had. And it only costs about $7.
For more ramen insight and inspiration, visit the Tokyo food blogger Ramen Adventures.