The charm of ramen-ya in northern Kyushu resides in what’s on their shelves. Unlike your average in-and-out style restaurant in Tokyo, ramen shops like Hakata Kinryu let customers satiate their appetites and flip through the pages of their favorite manga – all in one place. And while an internet café might give you a similar experience with cheap instant ramen, who wouldn’t prefer the comfort of a rich and milky tonkotsu broth while doing a spot of reading?
Boasting locations all over the island, Hakata Kinryu gives you exactly that with its wide variety of ramen bowls, complementary tapas and a full library – and they’ve been doing so for 30 years.
Featuring a few variations of the region’s specialty, pork bone broth ramen, the menu is simple and straightforward, which is exactly what you want and should expect from any good ramen shop. Offering everything from traditional tonkotsu to spicy and flavorful tantanmen ramen, customers can pick from no less than 16 ramen options. And, as Hakata tradition dictates, you must mention how you prefer your noodles to be cooked – anywhere from extra firm (barikata) to extra soft (bariyawa).
The menu doesn’t limit itself to Hakata specialties and occasionally features unique local variations from all across Kyushu. For loyal customers, the star of their permanent selection is Kinryu abura soba (soupless noodles), served for over 20 years without a change in the recipe. Hakata Kinryu also offers the rare negi ramen, where in addition to your traditional chashu (steamed pork) slices, noodles are covered with a substantial amount of green onion. For a complete meal, customers are invited to choose between a variety of different sides, including the traditional gyoza. If you’re looking for crunchy fried chicken, the restaurant also offers karaage.
Those who prefer to stick to the basics won’t be disappointed by their traditional tonkotsu ramen: creamy and flavorful, topped with a slice (or four) of juicy and tender chashu. A simple ramen bowl, without any extra toppings or side dishes, goes for about ¥490. In comparason, the prices for tonkotsu ramen in Tokyo range anywhere from ¥800 to ¥1,000. So whether you simply want to enjoy the occasional bowl of comforting pork bone broth or are looking to explore Japan’s vast gastronomy, Hakata Kinryu makes every visit worthwhile.
And of course, let’s not forget the comics.
While you can find similar restaurant concepts in Tokyo – particularly in the last couple of years following the rising popularity of Hakata ramen – combining ramen with reading is not yet common enough that it could be called a custom. In northern Kyushu, however, walking into ramen shops with shelves filled to the brim with manga – so much so that you might wonder if you didn’t accidently walk into an internet café – is no uncommon occurrence.
At Hakata Kinryu, customers are encouraged to order the ramen of their choice and indulge in every sip or bite without worrying about taking up somebody else’s seat. If anything, it’s frowned upon if you don’t take the time to savor your meal while browsing the restaurant’s impressive library.
More info at www.hilltopfood.com/98654.html
Photographs by Alfie Goodrich