Ramen has come a long way from its humble beginning as a cheap post-war dish for the masses. These days, ramen is the perfect microcosm of what Japanese cuisine is all about; simple dishes with a world of depth to them, executed with an almost manic attention to detail that typifies the modern Japanese chef. And where better to find the best than in Tokyo, the Ramen Mecca of Japan and, consequently, the world? One thing certainly hasn't changed in time – everyone can enjoy a piping hot bowl. Read on to discover a selection of some of the best noodle dishes in Tokyo today. Kosei Kamatani is the founder of Ramen Jo, and self-professed noodle obsessive. Follow his ramen adventures at @koseik

1. Motenashi Kuroki 饗 くろ喜 


The famous bowl here is their shio (salt) clear soup base, but Kuroki-san (formerly a trained kaiseki and ryōtei chef) is famed for always changing things up and offering special ramen, hiyashi chuka (cold noodles) and some forms of mazemen (mixed dry noodles). A soup base of chicken, pork bones, konbu, roasted Ago fish, katsuo (skipjack tuna) and saba (mackerel) is complimented by a blend of six different salts. The result is a broth which is light texturally on first sip, but then gives way to a depth of flavour and umami. Elegantly topped with roast pork charsiu, chicken charsiu, a half boiled egg, fried burdock, Japanese mustard spinach and a shrimp wonton, Kuroki is a perfect example of the move towards highly sophisticated ramen using premium ingredients. 

Motenashi Kuroki, 2-15 Kanda Izumicho Chiyoda Tokyo

2. Konjiki Hototogisu 金色不如帰

A store specializing in both shoyu (soy sauce) and shio (salt) bases, with the shoyu broth being slightly more popular. Go for the shoyu on your first visit. Once you sip that soup, you'll understand why it's not your standard chuuka soba (the common name for shoyu ramen). The base is made with both pork and chicken, yes, but the twist is that they also add hamaguri clams to the brewing process adding that unmistakeable taste of the sea. The result is nothing short of magnificent — a light, yet deeply flavourful broth. Coupled with tender charsiu, an awesomely flavoured ajitama (marinated) egg and perfectly rounded out by bits of caramelised onions.

Konjiki Hototogisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Hatagaya 2-47-12

3. Shibata しば田

The ultra-popular Shibata lives up to its considerable hype. They serve a mind-blowing bowl, and it's worth a visit if only for that exquisite soup. That dark yet golden looking broth is made with kamo (duck), with seafood elements such as hamaguri (clam), paired with a deeply intense shoyu. The duck/clam/shoyu triple hit combo results in probably one of the best shoyu soup base ramens in Tokyo, if not Japan. So intensely flavourful that it's a wonder they are able to condense such umami into this incredible little bowl of ramen. Wonderfully tender charsiu and noodles with great bite are proverbial icing on the cake. 

Shibata, 2-25-20 Wakabacho Chofu Tokyo

4. Sora no Iro ソラノイロ

A veteran on the Tokyo ramen scene, but still one of the most innovative stores around. Sora No Iro (which translates to "Colour of The Sky") is famous for their delicious Veggie Soba, or Veggie Ramen. The orange-hued noodles are made with paprika, while the broth is made with carrot purée, amongst other ingredients, to create a healthier and lighter riff on a traditionally heavier dish. If you prefer something more sinful, their more traditional shoyu ramen is also excellent.

Sora no Iro, 1-3-10 Hirakawacho Chiyoda Tokyo

5. Menson Rage 麺尊 RAGE

A Michelin Bib Gourmand recommended store open for just over a year. Popular for their "Shamo Rokku" bowl, a shoyu ramen with a soup base made from a premium Japanese crossbreed of Gamecock. This is the kind of ramen using ultra-premium ingredients taking Tokyo, and the greater Japan, by storm. Add in a base sauce made with 7 types of shoyu, and this ramen screams depth, complexity and quality. Every Monday, they even flip the script by offering completely different ramen to their regular menu; a recent visit yielded a Niboshi (dried fish) Ramen made using shavings of 10 different types of dried fish. Needless to say, they nailed that too. 

Menson Rage, 3-37-22 Shoan Suginami Tokyo

6. Kiraku 喜楽

Located in the seedy underbelly of Shibuya's love hotel district, Kiraku exists where you wouldn't expect there to be a legendary ramen store. Yet, it has stood the test of time, having been around since 1952. The definition of old-school Tokyo ramen, a hearty shoyu soup base is generously topped with a deliciously flavourful oil, like any ramen worth its salt. Ruggedly thick noodles complement the robust broth, gloriously finished with fried garlic chips. This isn't a place to find your gourmet bowl of wild free-range pheasant ramen with a delicately sous-vided onsen tamago (the egg is boiled hard and proud); it's down and dirty, to be enjoyed elbow-to-elbow with slightly drunk salarymen.

Kiraku, 2-17-6 Dogenzaka Shibuya Tokyo

7. Ramen Iida Shouten らぁ麺屋 飯田商店

One of the most highly-regarded stores in the Tokyo ramen scene, though technically it is located in Kanagawa, 2 hours from Tokyo. Make the trek — everything on the menu is excellent. Their shoyu ramen and the incredible looking tsukemen are the must-haves, however. The tsukemen isn't one in the traditional sense; the noodles are covered in a slimy, rich konbu and bonito based dashi to be eaten standalone even before the intensely delicious shoyu dipping broth arrives, upon which you resume consuming it like a normal tsukemen. Prepare your belly to eat two bowls, so you don’t have to choose between the unique tsukemen and the shoyu ramen.

Ramen Iida Shouten,  2-12-14 Doi Yugawara Ashigarashimo-gun Kanagawa

8. Tsuta 蔦

The famed Tsuta is one of the few Michelin-rated ramen stores in the world. And just how did they get that star? Their simple shoyu ramen. It's simple only in appearance, though; the soup is made with whole Aomori Shamo chickens, Asari clams, a custom blend of premium shoyu, truffle oil and a dab of truffle paste to finish. It's refreshing, with good umami from the clams and the flavour of the Shamo chicken coming through, while the truffle adds a fascinating spin. Artisanal homemade noodles made with a blend of 4 types of wheat are a perfect complement. The accolade has made Tsuta even busier than it already was, so much that you have to visit at 7am just to get a ticket to eat later. All worth it, of course.

See also: T.Dining Reviews Tsuta Hong Kong

Tsuta, 1-14-1 Sugamo Toshima Tokyo

9. Kagari 篝

Tucked in a back alley between the glitzy retail stores and high-end sushiyas of Ginza lies this tiny, unassuming ramen shop. But take one look at the long lines snaking round the block and you'll know how popular this place is. Known for their creamy chicken tori paitan soup, it is a must-try for this this genre of ramen. Complementing that velvety soup are slices of incredibly tender and moist chicken charsiu. Top it off with Kagari's signature local and seasonal vegetables for a beautiful touch that lends an almost Kyoto-like sensibility to this already refined bowl. Beautiful, elegant and delicious — a perfect reflection of its home in Ginza.

Kagari, 4-4-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

10. Tsukemen Gonokami つけ麺 五ノ神製作所

Gonokami serves shrimp soup base tsukemen (dipping noodle), and there is enough shrimpiness in it to give you a nosebleed. The broth is a viscous, thick and almost bisque like soup which is subtly sweet and results in an explosion of umami. The straight, uber thick noodles have a great mochi-like bite and the ample surface area of the noodle allows it to pick up huge globs of that gravy-like crustacean goodness. If you only ever have one bowl of shrimp tsukemen, make it this one.

Tsukemen Gonokami, 5-33-16 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

11. Michi つけ麺 道

Perennially ranked first or second for tsukemen in the whole of Tokyo on various popular lists, and for good reason. Michi is all about impact. The thick, sludgy dipping broth is made with pork bone, chicken bone and fish, resulting in a creamy and sweet miracle of a broth that is umami personified. Each thick strand of the perfectly boiled and almost udon-like noodles picks up every ounce of that broth with each dip, ensuring nothing is missed. It also comes piping hot, an overlooked touch. One of the best.

Michi, 5-28-17 Kameari, Katsushika, Tokyo

12. Ittou 一燈

Another tsukemen store ranked in the top three. If Michi (reviewed previously) is a heavyweight boxer that pummels you into submission with umami, Ittou is a ninja who throws pinpoint shurikens that targets your tastebuds. The balance is striking. The broth is a creamy concoction of chicken and gyokai (seafood) that is smooth, smoky and elegant in the way the umami hits your senses. Thoughtful toppings of spinach, minced chicken balls with bits of cartilage and two types of sous-vided charsiu (chicken and pork) perfectly complement the bowl. This is next level tsukemen.

Ittou, 1-4-17 Higashi-Shin-Koiwa, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo

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