Friday, July 15, 2011

Tonari ramen, Toyocho (トナリ)

This place is right next to one of Tokyo's best ramen shops, Bigakuya...and it routinely has much longer lines. Why's that? And what's a 'tanmen' anyway? I went around 2:30 to find out.

Ohhh, that's why there are long lines. It's Jiro-style ramen. People love that stuff these days, don't they? No-frills, low prices, massive volume. Mostly men, many of them wearing sweaty shirts and dripping sweat in their soup. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the guy wearing a headband to eat. He was serious about his food; the headband and the gut were instant giveaways.

OK, wackiness time. Not for the first time this year, it turns out to be vegetable-only Jiro-style ramen. This is really the list of toppings, so it includes pork and kamaboko, but I promise there's no meat going on in the soup.

There is some meat going on at the bottom. I think they called it 'added protein' or something - side orders of gyoza or fried chicken. Huh?

This could be why there's a line, or at least another reason. In a world where people boil up and pile up mountains of bland bean sprouts, these guys mix all the toppings together in a tasty dressing. They like having their pictures taken too.

Another little twist - they don't put garlic on it. But they do follow the Jiro pattern, asking "Do you want ginger?" Presumably you could then do the mashi-mashi ordering style or something.

Should we pause to reflect on the majesty of this bowl? The volume? The special wide, flat noodles from Kaikarou? The brown meatiness of the soup? Or should we move on to our side order?

Nooooooo! The Y160 upcharge for 'tan-gyoza' gets you a Y400 full order of gyoza. Noooooo!

Well, they were delicious at least.

This is the point where I started to get scared.

Unfortunately, it was also the point where I started to enjoy the soup and get into the groove.

Meaning that this is where I finished up. The soup is really incredible. You can tell there's no meat, but it's so thick and rich you can't stop.

Did I ever mention my high school nickname?

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