We are obsessed with ramen and have been eating ramen since we were kids. We've been noticing the ramen boom in the US and have been impressed with Ichicoro and Dosunco in Florida, along with Tajima and Jinya Ramen Bar in California. Now it was time to taste the real deal at Tokyo Ramen Street where 8 of the best ramen shops are under one roof at Tokyo station.
Tokyo Ramen Street is fairly new and was built inside Tokyo Station back in 2009. It is located at First Avenue Tokyo Station retail center, which includes about 100 stores and restaurants. In the beginning, this street housed four of the best ramen shops but has since grown to a total of eight ramen shops. It is guaranteed that if you are on a quest to eat some delicious ramen in Japan, this is THE place to go.
Tokyo Station is huge and locating Tokyo Ramen Street inside this massive station can be a bit daunting and chaotic. We got a little lost in the beginning, but found the street pretty quickly after asking the concierge. You'll most likely walk through Tokyo Character Street or Tokyo Okashi Land first before hitting Tokyo Ramen Street. The amount of stores on Character Street is pretty insane. Any popular Japanese anime character you can think of like Pikachu or Totoro had a store on this street. By the way, when we say "street" it's all located inside the grand Tokyo Station.
We arrived slightly after 11 AM so that we could beat the lunch hour rush. Don't be alarmed if you see long lines. This is normal and it's pretty much impossible to avoid unless you want to stand in line before the doors open. We didn't have a specific ramen shop we wanted to try, so we picked the shortest line there was. Since these were the best ramen shops in Japan, we figured they were all going to be delicious.
To help speed up the process of serving customers, you must first purchase your food items from the vending machine, which is located outside of every ramen shop. All the vending machines have pictures to help you choose. Once you buy your meal tickets, you then stand in another line and wait for a seat. Once a table opens up, the staff will direct you to a table and take your tickets.
We chose to eat ramen at Kizo (㐂蔵). Mr. Chiba runs this restaurant and we found out later that he is also head of the Japan Ramen Association. Kizo's speciality is Negi-shio Ramen with Gyutan from Sendai, which translates to Japanese Green Onion (some call it scallion) Salt Ramen with Cow Tongue. We both love negi and although we've had cow tongue grilled, we've never had it in ramen. We ordered their specialty and also ordered one of their regular Shoyu ramen, which is a soy sauce based broth.
We waited in line for about 20 minutes and were directed to our table. Each ramen shop is pretty tiny so don't be surprised if you literally sit right next to a stranger because most likely that will happen, as it did to us. Once we sat down, the service was quick and we had our ramen within ten minutes.
The Negi-shio Ramen was outstanding and the noodles were cooked to perfection. The best part was the garlic paste that quickly blended in with the broth. With very powerful ingredients like scallion and garlic, it actually wasn't overwhelming at all. All the flavors blended perfectly and it was packed with so much flavor. The only con was the cow tongue. It wasn't quite what we expected and we didn't like the texture. We're more accustomed to the grilled cow tongue texture, but other than that we give the Negi-shio Ramen two thumbs up!
On the other hand, the Shoyu Ramen was a huge disappointment. It lacked flavor and almost tasted like instant noodles. Our advice is to stick to their recommended item.
When we existed Kizou, directly across from us was Rokurinsha (六厘舍). This ramen shop was packed and, from what we saw, had the longest line at Ramen Street. Rokuinsha specializes in Tsukemen (つけ麺) which is a cold noodle style of ramen that is accompanied by a bowl of broth. They describe their shop as ”つけめん界のカリスマ" which translates to "Charisma of the Tsukemen World". We definitely want to taste that charisma next time we're in Ramen Street.
If you are heading to Japan and are stopping by the Tokyo area, we absolutely think Tokyo Ramen Street is worth a visit.
1. Arrive when doors open or sooner if you don't like waiting in lines.
2. If you plan on walking around Tokyo Station before or after your meal, store your belongings in a coin locker. We had on our heavy winter coats and some shopping bags, so we rented one for about US $4. It was totally worth it for us and they are conveniently located next to the ramen shops.
3. The station is huge and there are several train lines, so whichever train line you exit from, just remember to follow signs that say Yaesu Exit.
4. Bring cash to pay for your meal ticket. The vending machines don't accept credit cards. Our bowl of ramen cost about US $12 each.
TOKYO RAMEN STREET
ADDRESS: Inside Tokyo Station. Follow signs for Yaesu Exit.
HOURS: Hours vary by shop, but most are open at 10:30AM and close at 11PM with last orders at 10:30PM