Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ramen Jiro: Shinjuku

Ah, Ramen Jiro, a staple amongst the ramen chains in Tokyo. What ramen blog would be complete without the inclusion of at least one Ramen Jiro, which boasts over 30 locations in Tokyo? When I first became interested in ramen in Tokyo I learned of Ramen Jiro, specifically the Takadanobaba branch. I was told it was a favorite amongst young men, not the cleanest place, but certainly filling.

My previous two posts were on Nantsuttei Misoya Hachiro Shoten and Tatsunoya, both of which are in the same neighborhood as this Shinjuku branch of Ramen Jiro. I've frequented both Nantsuttei Misoya Hachiro Shoten and Tatsunoya but had never tried Ramen Jiro, often due to the fact it was full or there was a line of people waiting for seats, which seems par for the course for many Ramen Jiro throughout Tokyo. Micah and I met in Shinjuku a little before noon and headed to Ramen Jiro, hoping we'd be able to get seats despite it being lunch time, usually a very busy time for ramen shops in Tokyo! As soon as we entered we spotted two empty seats, but not together. However, once we had our jackets hung up and our ramen tickets bought from the vending machine, another man was leaving, opening up two empty adjacent seats, which the two of us quickly swooped upon.

The view from our counter seats

Unsure as to what to order, Micah asked the chef for his recommendation. The chef called out "Butairi!" and a nice customer at the counter pointed it out on the vending machine with a smile. So Micah and I both ordered the butairi and took our seats. Upon giving our tickets to the chef we were asked if we wanted garlic with our ramen and we answered in affirmative. Ramen Jiro has a reputation for its use of garlic and I was soon to find out exactly why. Something unexpected: the amount of time it took for us to receive our ramen! In the back of the restaurant there are two tables, one cleared out while we were waiting and we were allowed to change from the counter seats to the table, which was a bit more spacious. I suppose we waited about fifteen minutes in total before we were served. I was a bit taken aback by the amount of food in the bowl, the sizable amount of diced garlic on the side of the bowl and especially by the slabs of chashu piled atop it all!

That's a lot of food!

The broth at Ramen Jiro is mostly tonkotsu (pork) with shoyu (soy sauce.) It's a bit thicker and stronger than regular ramen and the salt is palpable. The noodles are thicker than regular noodles, but pretty innocuous as they don't seem to have a very noticeable or unique flavor to them. The toppings of the butairi at Ramen Jiro consist of a generous heaping of chopped cabbage and moyashi (bean sprouts) in addition to about five slices of chashu. The chashu at Ramen Jiro tends not to be as thick or rough as the chashu at many other ramen shops. My chashu had only small amounts of fat in it and reminded me more of the slabs of turkey I'd use to make a sandwich than of chashu. Their texture was a bit dry, like turkey, and without the melty fatty goodness I've come to associate with chashu.

Micah trying the broth

Upon first tasting the broth, Micah let out a laugh and said "It tastes like gravy!" and indeed it definitely had a gravy taste to it, albeit much less thick than your regular gravy. However, in addition to the chashu, I was certainly in mind of a nice gravy turkey sandwich! This image faded as I moved the chashu to the bottom of the bowl and mixed up the garlic, cabbage, moyashi and noodles. I would not recommend Ramen Jiro before a date, as you will consume enough garlic to keep Lestat at bay for a fortnight. As a subscriber to the cooking philosophy "Everything is better with garlic!" I had no problem with this, but I fear my students tonight will not appreciate it as much as I!

Trying to make a dent in the massive pile of noodles and veggies!

Although it had been nearly 12 hours since my last meal, the amount of food in your average bowl of ramen was just too much for me! I marveled at the salarymen sitting at the counter ordering "Oomori!" (extra noodles) and finishing it all down. Ultimately, the offerings of Ramen Jiro were probably only a little over average. It was definitely a unique flavor I haven't experienced at other shops in Tokyo, and an interesting environment as nearly the entire restaurant was filled completely with businessmen on their lunch breaks.

Though I had given up on finishing, Micah persevered!

If you have a big hunger you need to fill, Ramen Jiro is the spot for you. If you have the drunk munchies, I'm certain Ramen Jiro will satisfy. It's not a refined or sophisticated taste, the flavors are not subtle, but it will certainly satisfy those looking especially for quantity over quality. Will I eat there again? Probably, but I doubt it will be often. With the spicy Nantsuttei directly next door and Tatsunoya's Hakata ramen down the street, there are plenty of delicious options in the neighborhood, both of which never have a line as frequently as Ramen Jiro does. Overall, I'm glad I finally experienced a Ramen Jiro, but if you're looking for the ultimate bowl of ramen in Tokyo you're not going to find it in Ramen Jiro.

Cascade Bridge, Shinjuku-dori
7-5-5 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku Ward
Tokyo, JAPAN
TEL 03-3371-5010

Monday through Friday - 11:00AM to 1:00AM
Sunday and holidays - 11:00AM to 10:00PM

1 comment:

  1. The Shinjuku Jiro is way below par, go to the Ikebukuro one for a good newbie experience, or the Jimbocho one if you're up for a challenge.