One cold Saturday morning, right after the first trip I took to Tokyo, I’d decided that finally having real ramen for the first time was a good idea. See, I’d had at least eight varieties of the instant stuff (my current favorite being Nissin’s original Chicken Ramen above), and I’d had shio ramen from one of the cafeterias on campus, but I’d never actually gone to a true ramen place.
I’d had two suggestions thrown at me thus far: an old high school friend suggested I try Yoshimura-ya, by Yokohama station; and, an acquaintance on Twitter suggested I go to any one of the Ramen Jiro stores around the Tokyo area. Both have excellent reviews and ratings on Tabelog (the Japanese analog to Yelp); Ramen Jiro, being the higher-rated (and the closest) store, won my vote.
Looking up the closest Ramen Jiro was a cinch: the Kannai one happened to be a short walk away from the Isezaki-chojamachi subway station. The place opened at 11:00; when I got there slightly past 11:30, there was already a twelve-person line waiting outside of the packed shop. The shop itself was quite small; it featured only one counter, two cooks, and some fifteen-odd seats.
Eventually, I got to the front of the line; one of the staff confirmed that all of us here in the front wanted small (sho) sizes of ramen. Continuing my bad habit of simply replying “hai” to everything, I confirmed, then realized what he was saying, somewhat begrudgingly went up to the food ticket vending machine and hit the respective button.
After sitting down and once again reflexively saying “hai” to “ninniku irimasu ka”, I traded my ticket for this:
Turns out, ninniku irimasu ka is sorta translated into English as “should I put garlic in?” And while that lump of garlic on the side might seem innocuous, it ended up destroying me — never before had I had any sort of broth with an garlic flavor as intense as what I got served at Ramen Jiro. It was so strong that there were still remnants of this garlic in my mouth the next morning.
The ramen noodles, by the way, were fantastic; they had a rather firm yet chewy texture. The bean sprouts and cabbage added a nice fresh crispness to the texture and taste of each bite — yes, even through the garlic, but boy, oh boy that garlic was nuts. And it’d be hard to forget the two slices of chashu that came with my order; they were really tender and melted in my mouth.
I’m also glad I got the “small” — because the noodles were nice and dense, they were very filling; I was struggling to finish this bowl (I’m sure the garlic didn’t help things, either). In retrospect, I was very, very glad I didn’t opt for the large size; that would’ve turned into a waste of good ramen right there.
I definitely want to go back. The mission plan for next time: get a small with extra pork, hold the garlic. Or maaaybe put just a little in. Chotto dake. ◆