Most tourists agree that one of the best ways to make the most of their trip is to know which local experiences are a must-do. In Japan, a must-do is often a must-eat. Famed staples such as sushi and tempura, or niche delicacies like horse sashimi (raw meat) or uni (sea urchin) make up the vast spectrum that is Japanese food culture. However, if it’s one thing you can’t go wrong with, it’s sampling authentic Japanese noodles — or ramen. Originally a dish from northwest China, ramen is a coveted comfort food in Japan which can be enjoyed all year long. Home of instant Cup Noodles (which has undoubtedly sustained many a college student), Ippudo and even a ramen-themed museum in Shin Yokohama, Japanese people take their ramen game very seriously – just like an American may have strong opinions about pizza, most Japanese people have a favorite ramen broth. As food trends change, ramen has also evolved into uncharted territories; chains like Afuri provide citrus-y, clearcut yuzu broths while Taiyo no Tomato Ramen marries Italian pasta flavoring with Japanese noodles.
Ramen Shikisai recently opened its doors in the electric neighborhood of Akihabara. Sandwiched between a tempura shack and a bite-size chocolate store, the ramen joint is one of many stores jumping onto the trend of aesthetically pleasing food. Past the sliding door and the thunderous chorus of “irrashai!” welcoming you in, the eatery is slightly more spacious than anticipated, and the countertop wrapped around the kitchen gives diners a frontrow view of the action at hand as the aroma of soup broth gently wafts and percolates throughout the restaurant. The layout also makes it accessible for time-pressed diners to pop in and grab a quick bite.
Naturally shikisai (colorful), bursts with vibrant color. Even amongst the chaotic LED-laden streets of Akihabara, this eatery manages to stick out with its clean, wooden storefront, rainbow tile accents and multicolored tapestries hanging inside the display case. Ramen Shikisai offers a variety of tonkotsu (pork bone)-based ramen flavors, from classic shoyu chashu (soy sauce with sliced pork) and basic milky tonkotsu broth, to bowls of black garlic and bright red shrimp miso. The genovese tonkotsu broth (¥800), for instance, is a shockingly green concoction made with combining the tonkotsu base with a homemade blend of basil paste, topped with charred, ripe slices of fresh tomato, thick slabs of chashu, a sprig of herbs and a sprinkle of parmesan. The result is a fragrant bowl of noodles which is not as dense nor heavy as one would expect from a pork bone broth intermingled with a salty herb paste. These flavors are lifted and lightened as a result of a special blend of oils and chicken stock used to simmer the broth in for long periods of time.
The thin, stringy noodles allow the sauce to cling and harmonize with its slightly hard texture that is prominent in Hakata-style ramen. Diners can choose to refill their order with a second helping of noodles (just ask for a kaedama — another bundle of noodles), which is even thinner than the previous set. According to the owners, altering the thickness of the noodles enables diners to experience two different ramen bowls for almost the price of one. Moreover, diners are encouraged to come as a group and order multiple bowls in order to collect the whole spectrum of colored broths offered.
While there’s so much to do, see and savor, if you’re ever in the neighborhood, you should stop by Ramen Shikisai for a quick and colorful bite that’s bound to impress both your palate and your social media feed.
Tonkotsu Ramen Shikisai
11am – 4pm
Closed Wed & Sun
4-5-4 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku