Is Tokyo restaurant’s new menu item a culinary dream come true, or do two rights make a wrong?
In the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, Japan always rolls out a bunch of unexpected ways to get your chocolate fix. The country is really outdoing itself this year, with such groundbreaking ideas as chocolate-covered French fries and instant yakisoba noodles.
And the innovation isn’t stopping, as Mensho, a small chain of ramen restaurants in Tokyo, is rolling out chocolate ramen. While it doesn’t officially go on sale until February 1, we were offered a sneak peek/bite, and we happily accepted this opportunity to indulge in two of our favorite foods at the same time.
Mensho has seven branches. However, only one, the location near the Yurakucho subway station called Mensho Tokyo, is serving the chocolate ramen, so that’s where he headed with stomach growling and mind wondering whether or not this combination was really such a good idea.
When Mensho says “chocolate ramen,” they don’t mean that the noodles themselves are made out of chocolate. Instead, it’s the broth that’s infused with the confectionary, with solid chunks of chocolate floating in the soup stock, which is a Toyama-style black soy broth.
As we stared at the bowl’s contents, we tried to put our minds at ease by rationalizing this unusual addition to ramen’s list of ingredients. The popular noodle dish actually originated in China, before being adapted to local tastes and then internationally popularized by Japan, so maybe sprinkling Western sweets on it isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds.
We picked up a mouthful of noodles, took a bite, and were immediately greeted by the flavor of…
…garlic?!? And not just a slight tinge of it either, but a deliciously powerful punch to our taste buds from the garlic oil that’s also in the broth.
Impressive as the broth may be as-served, if you’re in the mood to enjoy the chocolate flavor, you’ve got two options. The first is to simply grab pieces of chocolate with your chopsticks and eat them like you would any other ramen toppings. However, while the chocolate chunks are perfectly tasty, eating them like that doesn’t really give you any different of an experience from eating chocolate in the ordinary, non-ramen manner.
Instead, we recommend stirring the chocolate and giving it some time to melt into the broth. This gives the broth a pleasant sweetness as you first take a sip, but still leaves the aftertaste sharp and clean, with no unwanted lingering saturation of your taste buds.
▼ It also rewards you with a dessert beverage after you’ve finished all the noodles.
Mensho Tokyo will be selling the 880-yen (US$7.30) chocolate ramen from February 1 to 14.
Mensho Tokyo / メンショー トーキョー
Address: Tokyo-to, Bunkyo-ku, Kasuga 1-15-9
Open 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
[ Read in Japanese ]