Nakiryu – Cheap Michelin Starred Ramen in Tokyo
Back home from a month long trip to Europe and Michelin Starred Ramen in Tokyo seemed like a good way to ease back into Japanese food. I had an incredible time in Europe but it’s good to be back in Tokyo. Caught up with parents and step parents in Spain, old friend in Warsaw and met Takao in France. I may have done some permanent damage to my wallet eating my way through Paris. That city is great but just lifting a fork will set you back 10 USD. It was time for something cheap. First lunch from back home goes to Nakiryu, a small shop serving Michelin starred Ramen in Tokyo.
Michelin Starred Ramen in Tokyo – Patience Rewarded
Nakiryu is 3 years running with its Michelin Star and is famous for dandan noodles, a slightly spicy noodle soup with minced pork. With the dandan noodles starting at about 8USD, this may very well be some of the cheapest Michelin starred food around. So of course there is a line. If you’re looking at the above photo and thinking “pfft, child’s play!”, think again.
The line extends across the street from the shop. One of the servers will come outside to direct traffic and ask people to slowly move from across the street to the store front. We waited almost 2 hours to be seated. I was tapping away on the computer, the joys of freelancing. It would have been a harder wait but several people exited the restaurant looking majorly chuffed and encouraged the crowd with a friendly “worth the wait”. So wait we did.
Beware though. This isn’t fast food. They run out of soup. The same server who directs you where to move in line will also ask how many people are in your group. If the amount of people in line exceeds the amount of soup available this sign will come out telling you not to bother. Luckily, we made it in.
Not So Spicy Noodles
Nakiryu is famous for 2 things, Dandan soup and its noodles. The noodles are made fresh. The full Japanese name for Nakiryu is something like Nakiryu Noodle Factory. Dandan ramen, or dandanmian is originally from Sichuan China. They like things spicy in Sichuan and this is also one of the reasons American’s tend to associate Asian food with spice as a lot of American Chinese Food comes from this region. I burst a lot of bubbles back home when I tell friends that the majority of ramen in Japan does not have a “spicy” option. Of course some places do, it’s just not common.
Despite the heft of serving Michelin starred ramen in Tokyo the usual vending machine will be waiting for you inside. Walk to the machine, insert cash, push buttons for ramen, toppings and beer. Grab your tickets and change and hand them to the person behind the bar as you take your seats.
When you sit down you’ll have your little work station of ramen necessities. Chopsticks, napkins, toothpicks, black pepper and a bowl of a type of Chinese pepper called “Flower Pepper” that has a very effervescent aroma to it. Notice the lack of chili sauce or flakes. Ramen places are generally judged entirely on their soup and if it comes served super spicy than you must be trying to hide the fact that your soup is “meh”. Dandan noodles, despite being from a spicy region of China are not served spicy here. They are clearly proud of their soup at Nakiryu. Ramen aficionados are of the opinion that making your ramen spicy is not adding to the flavor but covering it up. I tend to agree with this, so if spicy ramen is your thing I may not be the guy to ask.
Dandan Noodle Rundown
The soup will be served before you know it. The first thing I noticed was the aroma, which was just incredible. Most dandan noodles I’ve had come bright red but here it is a rich orange color. You can see bits of garlic and onion floating on top of a soup of high grade kelp, scallops and ago. We ordered ours with a marinated egg and a side of cilantro.
I knew I would love these noodles as soon as I lifted them up. None of them slide away from your chopsticks, proof that they were made in house and never frozen or freeze dried. They were perfectly al dente and chewy and holy crap that soup. Sometimes you choose to leave the soup once you’ve finished your noodles and other times you drink it all. This was a drink it all moment.
Japanese Marinated Soft Boiled Eggs
Ajitsuke Tamago is maybe the most common ramen topping. It is a soft boiled egg that has been marinated for hours in a potion of Japanese seasonings. They are always good. Cooked on the outside, gooey on the inside. I’ve eaten hundreds of these and this was by far the best I’ve ever had. This egg alone was worth the wait in line. I wanted to get another…but they are strict here. Once you’ve sat down your’e not meant to go back and order more. You need to clear out and make way for the next poor sap who has been waiting all day to get in. There are several more places serving Michelin starred ramen in Tokyo, I wonder how they stack up.
In line for 2 hours and in about 10 minutes I had absolutely smashed this bowl of ramen.
11:30AM – 3PM
6PM – 9PM
Want some more ramen? Be sure to check out Due Italian for some mozzarella ramen or Tai Shio Soba Touka for a lighter sea bream style ramen. You could even go for some Thai inspired ramen at Khao San.
If only Michelin starred ramen in Tokyo will do, check out this list I found over at Culture Trip.