Friday, September 3, 2010

Ikaruga, Kudanshita (九段斑鳩)

Lunch with Peacock today. Since he's the busy one in our relationship, I fired up the googlemaps and searched for what I've been thinking about all through Health Week - ramen. It's so easy to blow your diet... Ikaruga popped up as one of the places closest to his office. Turns out it's famous. How famous? It's even on the area map in the subway station. And back in 2008 it was voted one of the top shops in the country, so other bloggers mentioned 45-minute waits.
Fortunately that was 2008. I went up a little early to see the situation, and with only a couple people in line went to get the 'Cock. We were actually lucky - there were only 2 or 4 guys ahead of us when we got back to the shop, but by the time we got in there were 10 behind us, and it stayed around that level until we left (close to 2 PM, mind you). 

By the sign outside shall ye know it. Actually, that's a convenient feature of stores in Japan - they usually have signs outside to identify themselves. (Although it occurs to me that P is getting spoiled for ramen, with our lunches previously including the very un-signed Fukumen)
Inside is a little...I dunno. It's clean, it's pleasantly dim and cool, and you can sit peacefully at tables (although the weird head-height cushioned bumper sticking out from the wall meant that my head was tilted forward any time I tried to sit back). The whole operation is very smooth, even to the extent that they keep the smells down. They're certainly using pork bones in the soup based on the taste, and once or twice I got the littlest whiff of them boiling, but never offensively.

At the order of Ramen Tokyo, I corralled 'Cock into getting a bowl each of these Special-Made Garlic Oil Noodles. Does this look good in the picture? Honestly, now that the satiation and amazement have worn off, I'm not sure what else to say other than "This was one of the best bowls of noodle I've ever had." The happiness I felt while eating it was probably akin to that at the other top places I can remember - like Kissou, or Kikanbou, or Furyu (although I may be mentioning those last two because of the 30-minute ramen-focused meeting I just had with some colleagues. And as I look back on those reviews, I'm reminded of how far I've gone down the Ramen Road, and also how far away the horizon remains.). 

It's an 'oil noodle', which means the two (!) types of noodles mixed in the bowl are supported by a very thick, oily sauce, and you mix everything up before eating. The noodles were a large, flat yellow variety and a smaller, rounder, whiter variety; both were good. It's the rest of the mess that really made this though - the oily sauce is derived from pork bones mixed with seafood, there's a ton of fried garlic on top, a second ton of chopped onion under that, and two varieties of pork, slices and chunks, and I don't know what else to tell except that it was fantastic and you should go soonest. I could look at pictures of this all day.


  1. I lived just across the Nihombashigawa from Ikaruga- when I moved to the neighborhood I noticed the long line and thought "must be a top notch restaurant" and looked into the window- imagine my disappointment when I discovered it was a noodle shop! I actually braved the 45 minute line one day but, since my kanji-reading skills were limited I selected the basic ramen kippu from the machine. It was okay but I don't know if worth the 45 minutes. (The staff in my apartment building swore that it was one of the top ramenya in Tokyo.) I'm not disputing your review- since I may be moving back near the end of the year I can't wait to try the garlic oil noodle.

  2. You're more than welcome to dispute my review, and you also might prefer other types of ramen. I wouldn't wait 45 minutes either - nothing is worth that. But yeah, I think if you start trying a lot of places you'll come to the conclusion that this is one of the best, especially in their style. If you move back there, you should also try Fukumen, close by in Jimbocho.