by Rebekah Chan

Just off the shopping arcade in Azabu Juban is Man-Riki-Ya noodle restaurant. The rustic, traditional exterior is inviting and gives a sense that the food inside is authentic. I went there starving on a Friday night, hoping that an impromptu visit would not mean that I had to wait.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no queue for such a popular area and restaurant. We were seated immediately at a simple wooden table painted with Man-Riki-Ya’s logo, and served beers in glasses that also proudly displayed the restaurant’s name. The atmosphere was cozy and casual, with quirky displays of tiny toys and a row of lucky Chinese cats by the kitchen. There were a few tables of expats and enough locals to know that this was indeed an authentic experience.

I quickly scanned the bilingual menu and decided on their specialty: kurogoma tan tan men, or noodles with spicy sesame soup (¥880), with sides of tomato salad (¥490) and shrimp wanton soup (¥680). I ordered the à la carte toppings generously, adding spring onions, an egg, bean sprouts, and garlic chips. There were also various types of meat available as add-ons. The soup is pork-based and contains bits of ground pork, but a vegetarian broth is available upon request. The house specialty of tan tan noodles is a regional dish typical of Szechuan and Shanghai. Not just a noodle house, Man-Riki-Ya is also known for their tasty gyoza (fried dumplings).

After the tomato salad came the shrimp wanton soup, which tasted homemade. The thick skins around the huge dumplings mixed with vinegar reminded me of what Chinese comfort food was. My tan tan men arrived shortly thereafter, and the heavy and flavorful broth made it immediately clear why this is considered the specialty. The combination of chili oil, peanut sauce, and black sesame was the perfect complement for my beer on a breezy summer evening. As I finished off my meal I turned to look around and saw that there was a queue slowly forming inside. ‘Good thing we came early,’ I thought to myself.

2-3-2 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku