by Shawn E. O’Hara
Each week a group of ladies sets out in search of Tokyo’s best bowl of noodles. Many thanks to our panel of noodle eaters: Genie, Mary, Elizabeth, Linda, Michelle, Diana and Paul who “slurped,” ate and drank their way around Tokyo to find five of the best joints for Weekender.
The ladies have designed “Quick Ratings” for your noodle-tasting adventures:
5 Bowls—Outstanding! A must eat establishment!
3 Bowls—Good enough. Give it a try!
1 Bowl—Best to skip if you want good noodles
Looking for “up-market” noodles? The Pakomen Chinese Noodle dish fits the bill. These are noodles on an expense account. Enormous bowls of hot, flavorful noodles are served with sides of onions, chili oil and 7-spice for do-it-yourself seasoning. The bowl is topped with a large, tender and tasty pork cutlet. We were all stuffed and most of the ladies couldn’t finish. Origami also serves delicious spring rolls if you have the room. Ask for a window table to enjoy their beautiful Japanese garden.
Price: ¥2,000-¥2,200. English picture menu; professional and efficient service; customers are tourists, Japanese business types and government officials; ambience is upscale coffee shop of the world-class variety.
Capitol Tokyo Hotel, Akasaka, Namboku Line, Tameike-Sanno Station, Exit 5. Tel. 3581-4511.
If you want the “real thing,” this is the place. We are certain we are the first women ever to eat here, and too bad because it is delicious, as the 10 or so salarymen who came and went while we were there could testify. The picture menu makes ordering easy, and the staff is friendly and patient. Huge pots simmer in front of you and the restaurant smells like grandma’s kitchen although it isn’t as clean as granny’s. Try the dumplings and pot stickers too.
Price: ¥700-¥900; beer ¥400. Picture menu; excellent service—soup’s hot, fresh and quick; customers are salarymen; counter space and one small table, no decor—very simple. This is a place to eat, not a place to lounge.
Ikumo Building 1F, 3-3-18 Roppongi, Namboku Line Roppongi-Itchome Station Exit 1. Turn right and walk up the gradual hill. On the same street as the Jomo gas station next door to Devi Fusion Indian Restaurant. If you come to Gaien Higashi Dori, you’ve gone too far. Tel. 3505-0141.
Chuka Ryori Tenka Ichi Raamen
Always packed regardless of the hour, Tenka Ichi serves huge steaming bowls of delicious noodles. Choose between mild or spicy noodles, dumplings and a few rice dishes. The ladies, as usual, loved the spicy pork, loaded with fresh vegetables and a rich, spicy broth. We felt fairly welcome as we joined the Japanese salarymen and a few brave women huddled over their soups on large family style tables. There is usually a line at lunch, dinner is quieter, but people come and go at a dizzying pace.
Price: ¥600-¥800, beer ¥500. Picture menu outside the restaurant; excellent but brisk service, salarymen customers; plain tables and white walls—no decorations.
5-2-8 Toranomon, Hibya Line, Kamiyacho Station Exit 2. Go left, and it is one door down on the left. Tel. 3431-0059.
This is the perfect “starter noodle joint” for the Tokyo newcomer or the foreigner who wants a delicious bowl of soup in an easy environment. There is always rock and roll playing, and the menu includes a variety of cold and hot noodle, vegetable, meat and seafood soups, steamed thick noodles, rice, dumplings and deep-fried dishes. The spicy sesame hot noodle soup with lemon grass, cilantro and pepper was a popular choice for the ladies as was the barbecued pork. Their dumplings are non-traditional, large, square and delicious additions to your noodles!
Price: ¥900-¥1,100. English menu; wait staff hustle with enthusiasm; mixed crowd— young professional Japanese and lots of foreigners; nice interior with two great sayings, “Eat ramen every day” and “Beer refreshes you after work.”
2-3-2 Azabu-Juban Street, Azabu-Juban. Take Odeo or Namboku Lines to Azabu-Juban Station Exit 4. Facing Wendy’s, go down the street on the right three blocks. The restaurant is on the left next to an Italian place. You’ll know you are in the right place if there are miniature statues and soldiers on the hostess stand and a turtle on the bar. Tel. 3452-5510.
Aoringo Beer Restaurant
More than just a noodle house, this restaurant has the best soft serve ice cream town. A beer bar and full service restaurant, Aoringo is perfect for the family. With its warm hospitable interior and mom-like service — the ladies didn’t even look at a menu—we just asked for pork noodles. Delicious! Rich, flavorful and fresh; this is one of the ladies’ favorites! And don’t forget to have an ice cream cone when you’re done.
Price: All noodles ¥700. Also cheap beer and ice cream; Japanese menu; excellent service; customers are Japanese professionals and families; clean, modestly but nicely decorated, feels like mom’s.
1-11-8 Yashima, Bunkyo-ku, Marunouchi Line Ochanomizu Station or JR Ochanomizu Station’s Ochanomizu-Bashi Exit. Cross through University to Hongo Street, pass through Garden Palace Hotel to Kuramaebashi Street, turn right next to the shop on the first corner. Near Origami Kaikan Center and Factory. Tel. 3811-5131.