Without question, Tokyo’s known for its vibrant food scene. Take a quick gander and you’ll easily find a wide variety of eateries serving up authentic Japanese cuisine. Ramen, in particular, is considered a culinary art. This simple dish, with its variety of toppings, broths and noodle styles, is so appealing that people are willing to queue for hours just for a taste. Like McDonalds is to America, you can’t walk down a street without coming across a ramen shop—they’re that common. Over 320,000 stores to be exact. There’s even a ramen street down at the Tokyo Main Station.
In this piece, we’ll be touching on some of the best ramen in Tokyo that you should check out. Ranging from cosy hole-in-the-wall shops to high-end Michelin-starred restaurants, each of these has its own style and flavour. One thing’s for sure: They’re all worth a visit.
1. Ichiran Ramen
It simply isn’t a ramen listicle without any mention of Ichiran. This is one of Japan’s most popular ramen chains, with Ichiran Ramen Tokyo Shibuya’s outlet being the most-visited due to the high footfall around the area. What’s the hype really about?
It’s the experience of Ichiran in itself. Rather than sharing a table, you’ll be guided to an individual seat that’s partitioned by dividers—great for introverts and any fatigued solo traveller in need of some privacy and a quick hearty meal.
All you need to do next is fill up a piece of paper—customise the richness of the broth, the texture of your noodles and the amount of seasoning that best suits your palate. Press a button located on the table after filling your sheet, and voila, it’d be served to you in no time.
A popular pick is the Classic Tonkotsu Ramen (JPY1490, ~S$15)—a creamy rich pork broth that’s topped with sliced pork, green onions, and red pepper sauce. But feel free to add on desserts too, like the Matcha pudding (JPY390, ~S$4), which makes for a sweet end to your meal. Another great thing about Ichiran is the fact that diners can easily request for additional toppings or noodles by pressing just a button. This is particularly great for travellers who don’t speak the language and would much rather avoid any awkward interaction.
Typically, you’ll find a long line at Ichiran ramen outlets. It might take as long as an hour before you secure a seat! But here’s a pro tip: If you’re planning to stop by Ichiran Shibuya, consider visiting early in the morning or late at night. In other words, avoid peak hours if you can. There’s really no rush since the outlet is open 24 hours daily anyway. Alternatively, make your way down to outlets outside of Shibuya, such as Ikebukuro and Nakano for a chance at a lighter crowd.
Ichiran has multiple locations throughout Tokyo. Check out the full list here.
While Ichiran is best known for its Tonkotsu ramen, Afuri, another popular ramen chain, is known for its zesty chicken-based stock that’s topped with Yuzu (a citrus fruit containing three times more Vitamin C than a lemon). Though you can now find Afuri in Singapore, nothing quite beats the authentic atmosphere and dining in the original store in Japan.
This delicious soup broth is a lot more refreshing, adding a delicate yet tangy taste that’ll leave you wanting more. That said, you can still find more savoury options like the Shio and Shoyu ramen (JPY980 ~S$10), though it’s recommended that you try the Yuzu variant for a more unique experience (JPY1080, ~S$11).
All ramen orders at Afuri come topped with a slice of grilled pork, ajitama egg (marinated with a sweetened soy sauce mixture), seaweed and some bamboo shoots. There’s also a vegan option—the Rainbow Ramen (JPY1255, ~S$12.50), which is known to be a colourful bowl consisting of seasonal vegetables such as radish, potherb mustard and lotus root. If you’re visiting during summer and would prefer avoiding hot soups, opt for the Yuzu Tsukemen (JPY1,060, ~S$11) instead! This is a bowl of dry bouncy noodles served with a dashi-based dipping sauce on the side.
There are multiple Afuri outlets scattered across Tokyo. For more information, check this list out.
There are only three Michelin-starred ramen restaurants in the world, and Nakiryu makes one of them. While there may be one Nakiryu outlet in Singapore as of late, that doesn’t mean you should avoid the original outlet in Tokyo altogether. It’s certainly worth making the trip to the original location; its roots trace back to a quaint family-owned shop in the neighbourhood of Otsuka.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the original Nakiryu is small and cosy. Demand for a spot there is undeniably high since the owners don’t allow reservations and there are only 10 seats available. Rest assured though; the line is known to run pretty quickly as each diner is limited to just one main dish.
Nakiryu is particularly known for its Tantanmen (JPY850, ~S$8.50)—a ramen characterised by a sesame-based flavour profile with a slight kick of spice. Its noodles—both handmade and thin, go perfectly with additional dishes like gyoza and tofu. In case you’re wondering, yes! This dish is inspired by the Chinese noodle dish of the same name.
Lest we forget, orders are made through a vending machine, so be sure to have enough spare cash on you! After making your order, simply pass your ticket to the chef and watch as they prepare your meal.
Address: 170-0005 Tokyo, Toshima-ku, 2 Chome-34-4, Minami Otsuka
Operating hours: Monday - 11.30am to 3:00pm, Wednesday to Sunday - 11.30am to 3:00pm, 6:00pm to 9:00pm
4. Konjiki Hototogisu
Thick, creamy and rich—these are just some words used to describe the broth found at Konjiki Hotogisu. Situated in a run-of-a-mill quiet back lane around Shinjuku, this is yet another Michelin-starred ramen restaurant in Japan, and it’s one that specialises in Shoyu broth.
Its signature Shoyu Soba (JPY850, ~S$10) has a broth made from three types of stocks—pork, wa-dashi (Japanese stock), and Hamaguri clam. But it doesn’t stop there. Konjiki Hotogisu takes it one step further with additions of white truffle sauce, porcini oil and flakes. Talk about an umami punch.
What makes it extra unique is the fact that broths here are made using two blends of salt—Mongolian rock salt and Okinawan sea salt, which helps add another layer of flavour.
Do note that the space at Konjiki Hototogisu is relatively small, with seven seats at the counter plus a couple of small tables. With that, expect a long queue, so be there as early as you can!
Address: Shinjuku No.22 Kyutei Mansion 1F, Shinjuku 160-0022 Tokyo Prefecture
Operating hours: Monday to Friday—11:00am to 1:00pm
5. Haru Chan Ramen
Situated in Shimbashi Ekimae Building (also known as the business district) sits Haru Chan. This tiny ramen joint is as cosy as it gets, with only five counter seats and a kitchen so small that you’ll be able to see what the chef gets up to at a glance. Having only opened in 2021, Haru Chan is considered a new kid on the block.
This shop specialises in ramen with niboshi (dried sardine) as well as a pork-based broth that comes with thick slices of stewed chasu (braised pork belly). The noodles here are relatively flat in nature, with a plump full-like texture. Aside from the standard piping hot bowl, you can also opt for their tsukemen (dipping noodles) that’s served with plenty of vegetables like cabbage and bean sprouts.
Address: 1F, Shimbashi Ekimae Ichigokan, 2-20-15 Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-0004, Japan
Operating hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday to Saturday - 10:00am to 3:00pm
6. Mensho Tokyo
Shono-san, the master chef behind Mensho Tokyo, has always believed in sourcing the freshest ingredients for his food. It’s this farm-to-bowl ideology that led him across Japan to source kale from the Hyogo prefecture to wheat from Hokkaido.
What you can find at Mensho Tokyo today are options like the Shio Ramen (JPY1,000, ~S$10) which utilises sea salt, sea bream and scallops. On top of that, their noodles are made using freshly ground barley along with wheat flour.
Add a dash of standard toppings such as burnt onion powder, konbu (kelp) as well as aged fish roe—what results is a hearty and comforting bowl that draws you in for more. If that isn’t enough to fill you up, consider getting some side dishes to go along. There’s spicy edamame, oyster mushrooms, and even yasai chips—a mix of deep-fried vegetables like enoki, lotus root, eggplant, spinach and sweet potato.
Mensho Tokyo has all the trappings of a traditional Japanese ramen shop, with homely interiors and seats that face a live open kitchen. Its founder—the ramen master Tomoharu Shono, has also won numerous awards, including 1st place in the Ramen Walker Nationwide.
Address: 1-3 Crescent Building FL 1, Ichigaya Tamachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-0843
Operating hours: Monday to Sunday - 11:00am to 10:00pm
Situated in an unassuming back alley, Kagari can seem like a far cry from the other swanky restaurants you’d find around upscale Ginza. But don’t let its cosy, secluded spot fool you.
It’s likely you won’t miss it anyway, as there will most definitely be a long line of customers. With only eight seats tucked around a small counter, people brave Kagari’s long lines for a taste of the famed Tori Paitan—a rich creamy chicken-based ramen (JPY950, ~S$9.50) that’s been boiled for hours.
The Tori Paitan is packed full of flavour, with toppings like sliced chicken, seasonal vegetables (from tomato to asparagus and watercress) as well as servings of fried garlic and grated ginger. You’d also be given the option to switch the ramen up from its original chicken white broth. If opting for the soy sauce soba instead, the broth then turns a tad more salty and aromatic.
It’s hard to say which is better, and that’s the fun of it. Each broth pairs with seasonal vegetables for a nice surprise.
Address: 6 Chrome-4-12 Ginza, Chou City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
Operating hours: Monday to Sunday - 11:00am to 9:30pm
Tokyo's undoubtedly a great destination for travel. But a visit there just isn’t complete without a quintessential bowl of slurp-worthy ramen—one that helps soothe souls as you soak in the busy city atmosphere.
(Pro tip: Slurping up noodles loudly is considered a standard way to eat ramen, and it’s not exactly impolite). For other unspoken Japanese etiquettes, check out this list here.
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