Ramen in a Course” is gaining momentum in many parts of Japan. Here we introduce three outstanding examples: “Full Course of Noodles,” “Western-style Ramen Platter with Baguette,” and “Noodle Kaiseki in a Kyoto Townhouse. Let us show you the best of ramen, a fusion of cooking techniques from diverse genres that never cease to stimulate the five senses of the eater.
A challenge from the wheat kingdom! Enjoy three types of noodles: slippery, rich, and chewy / Ramen Shibahama (Kiryu City, Kiryu Prefecture)
Ramen Shibahama is a favorite of Tokyo ramen freaks. The “morning ramen” has a reputation as a Gunma noodle powerhouse, with customers lining up as early as 7:00 a.m. The “wheat sammai” course ramen is a must-try. It consists of three menus: mazesoba, tsukemen, and ramen, each of which allows you to enjoy the appeal of noodles in its own way.
To begin with, Gunma Prefecture is a wheat kingdom. It boasts the seventh largest wheat harvest in Japan, second only to Hokkaido in eastern Japan, and is home to many large-scale flour milling companies. Shibahama has continued to pursue noodle innovation in an area with a high level of noodle literacy, and has developed the “Wheat Sammai” course, which it calls “ramen kaiseki from Japan.
The noodles are served at a brisk pace, and the lineup of mazusoba, tsukemen, and hot noodles (ramen) is quite impressive. First, you can taste the texture of the noodle covered with fat, and then experience the slurpiness of the wheat noodle with the tsuyu (broth), just like morisoba. Then, I was able to savor the perfect combination of the noodles and the soy sauce broth, which had a nice brothiness and a moderate thickness.
The ramen course is a well balanced meal at 1,450 yen.
Taste change, taste change, taste change again! Baguette and Eating Rice Bowl Theme Park / Dashikano (Kintetsu Nihonbashi)
Osaka’s course ramen by Naorai, a popular cutlet sandwich store in Kitashinchi. The name of the restaurant is “Dashi Shikano (Possibility of Dashi and Wheat),” which focuses on the possibilities of dashi (soup) and wheat (ramen and bread). Not only does it look good, but it is an experience-type ramen that offers many levels of Corkscrew-like transformation through flavor changes.
The main ingredient is chicken broth, which is rich in flavor. A salt sauce condensed with shellfish and sea urchin is added. Despite the clear appearance of the noodle lines that “flutter” beautifully, you will be surprised at the variety of flavorful ingredients that are packed into the finished product.
As a spin-off of a restaurant specializing in pork cutlet sandwiches, the sandwich is served with a baguette. The avocado and chashu pork sandwich is delicious eaten on its own, but the Dashikano’s theory is to dip it in the soup. Noodles are also good, or even bread. The potential of the soup, which is a perfect match for wheat, rises rapidly.
When you are satisfied with the salted soup, use a mortar and pestle to gouge out the basil. The fresh aroma of the basil is a delightful change of flavor that can be used to make a genovese. Furthermore, the addition of dry tomato mousse enhances the flavor component of glutamic acid. The soup’s unique flavor, which changes from one stage to the next, is as satisfying as a course menu.
First-time visitors may be confused by the abundance of toppings and flavor-altering items, but the staff’s attentive guidance is appreciated. The bright, woody interior and hospitality make the experience even more enjoyable.
■Dashikano (Dashi and Wheat Possibilities) / 2-5-8 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka Business hours: 11:00 – 14:30 (LO), 17:00 – 20:00 (LO) Closed: Mondays Access: 4-minute walk from Kintetsu Nihonbashi Station on the Kintetsu Namba Line
Excellent soy sauce ramen…in a quiet Kyoto townhouse / Kyo Tomen Gion Higashiyama Tsujika (Gion Shijo)
Last but not least is a chic Japanese noodle course. The Japanese restaurant that has made a name for itself in Gion has been renovated to serve ramen and black curry. Kyo Tomen Gion Higashiyama Tsujika uses authentic Japanese cooking techniques to create a visually pleasing dish.
The main ramen dish is a rich chicken seiyu broth. It is based on Tanba black chicken, and is mixed with a soy sauce that is a blend of four kinds of soy sauces, including Kyoto Matsuno soy sauce, Tamari soy sauce, and wood-bottled soy sauce, and 50 kinds of salts. The special ordered noodles by Menya Hege are floating on the top of the soup, which gives it a multilayered flavor.
Chef Taku Kasami, who has more than 20 years of experience in Japanese cuisine, has created 9 kinds of toppings, which are not only visually appealing but also have the power to change the taste. Crispy parmesan rice crackers and burdock root stew are just a few of the textural accents that add variety to the excellent soy sauce ramen.
The restaurant, which used to be a teahouse in Gion, is decorated in Japanese style, creating a relaxing atmosphere. After an aperitif of sake, the first course was fresh Hokkaido sea urchin and cream cheese tofu. This is the perfect place to enjoy a course of ramen followed by dessert.
Ramen’s “1,000-yen barrier” is overcome with a course
In the past, the “1,000-yen barrier” loomed high over the world of ramen. The concept of ramen as the friend of the masses, the superior “B-class gourmet” that can be served for less than 1,000 yen, was deeply rooted, and the growth of the unit price was extremely slow. The average price of the three items introduced here is 2,100 yen, more than twice the price of ordinary ramen. The ¥1,000 barrier that many ramen store owners have struggled with can be easily overcome with a course menu.
One reason ramen has not been able to overcome the 1,000-yen barrier can be attributed to the length of stay.
Freshly ground coffee is now available at convenience stores for a reasonable price, but if a cup of coffee at a coffee shop costs 600 yen, no one complains because you can spend an hour or so with just one cup.
People are willing to pay for time, appearance, and quantity, but not so much for quality. Basically, ramen restaurants are places where people don’t stay long.
The 1,000-yen barrier was largely due to the simple issue of time spent at the restaurant.
The ramen courses introduced here are three different kinds of ramen. Some have pursued homemade noodles, some have added Western and bakery flavors, and some have infused Japanese culinary techniques. The course incorporates cooking techniques and techniques from a variety of genres. By offering a course, it is easy to visualize this commitment to taste and the pursuit of technique.
The pursuit of flavor is a prerequisite, but if a restaurant provides a high quality space and service and offers a course meal to its customers, they will be satisfied with a price tag in the 2,000-yen range, beyond the 1,000-yen barrier. Is this natural? The time has come for people to enjoy ramen, including the space and hospitality, thanks to the diligent study of its makers.
Not just any restaurant can do that. For example, the environment around the restaurant, the interior, the space, the background music, the utensils and cutlery, and the customer service skills and sense of the waitstaff must all work together to persuade the customer.
In the future, specialty ramen stores that focus on a single bowl of ramen will continue to refine their skills, while popular machichuka and chain restaurants that offer inexpensive ramen through corporate efforts will remain healthy.
There are ramen for casual consumption, and there are ramen for the luxurious. Why not enjoy each according to your TPO?” (Aoki)
Interview and text： Masataka Sasaki
Representative of Kids Factory. He has edited several ramen books, including "Hideyuki Ishigami Ramen Selection" (Futabasha), "The Industry's Highest Authority TRY Certified Ramen Grand Prize" (Kodansha), "Ramen Saikyou Unchiku Ishigami Hideyuki" (Shinyusha), and "Solanoiro Chihiro Miyazaki's Ramen Theory" (Shibata Shoten). He loves ramen, and his motto is "Be a pervert in your quest for ramen, but a gentleman in your behavior.