If you happen to pass by Kaotan Ramen in Minami Aoyama during peak times, you may wonder why there are such long lines outside such an unattractive shack, or shed, or whatever you may want to call it. Once inside it is little better—there is no string quartet playing, but a radio hanging on the wall plays Western music for a bit of ambience. Obviously the crowds of customers don’t flock here for the superior atmosphere or design.
The restaurant consists of a single room next to an open kitchen with barely enough room to move between the two long tables, each of which seats twelve customers relatively comfortably, but probably sixteen at a push. It’s a casual place (no Mercedes parked outside here), and not exactly the kind of restaurant you would take your boss or visit on a first date—unless your companion likes noodles.
But for all the simplicity of the venue itself, the noodles really are fantastic. One of Tokyo’s best ramen shops, Kaotan serves up its ramen with plentiful condiments, including homemade garlic sauce, soy sauce, and chili sauce. I had the Gomoku Chashu Ramen (¥1,100), which included a much more generous helping of vegetables (including sweet corn and bean sprouts) than the same dish at other restaurants, plus three slices of pork. The broth was rich enough that I was saved from having to dump copious amounts of pepper and chili into the bowl. It all makes for a substantial and tasty meal, and lets face it, isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day?
by Bernard Lawson
Open 12pm–4:30am (closed Sun)
2-34-30 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku