Now there are two Michelin-starred ramen restaurants in the capital, and we lined up to try the signature dish from the latest award-winning eatery.
Last December, Tsuta made international headlines after it became the world’s first-ever ramen restaurant to be awarded a prestigious Michelin star. The acclaimed Michelin dining guide announces its star-winning recipients every year, and on 29 November, it was announced that another ramen restaurant in the Japanese capital would be joining the ranks of the noodle elite, with Nakiryu receiving a star in the guide for 2017.
Tsuta once again received a star this year, and after having tasted their noodles last year, it was now time to head to Nakiryu, located in the same neighbourhood, to see just what type of hearty broth-based dishes could receive such a high honour. The first hurdle to completing our task, however, came before we even reached the front door.
It had only been a day since the Michelin Guide results were announced, and already there was a queue of about 20 people waiting to get in, and this was an hour before the restaurant’s scheduled 11:30 a.m. opening time.
The line didn’t end outside the restaurant either; it grew so much it had to be broken in two, with another queue of people waiting on the other side of the road. By the time the restaurant opened its doors, 50 people were lined up, waiting to fill their bellies with hot noodles.
Thankfully, the time it takes to devour a bowl of noodles is a lot quicker than feasting on a ten-course meal, so it didn’t take too long before our Japanese-language reporter was inside, making his selection from the ticket machine.
▼ It’s not every day you get to use one of these to place an order at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Nakiryu is renowned for its Dandan noodles, a spicy dish that originates from Chinese Sichuan cuisine, which is filled with minced pork, scallions and a spicy sauce containing chilli oil. As the most popular dish on the menu, this was the one our reporter was eager to try, and after ordering it from the machine, it took just 15 minutes for the food to arrive at his table.
It looked absolutely glorious. The simple ingredients were clearly visible, with the mound of noodles sitting perfectly in the middle of the dish, topped with a serving of scallions and minced meat. What was most striking, however, was the colour of the broth. Dandan noodles usually come served in a reddish-coloured sauce or broth, but these were like nothing he’d ever seen before, with a creamy, orange colour that was glossy and enticing.
Taking a sip of the broth, our reporter was immediately blown away by the exquisite flavours. The soup was thick, yet mild, and after it had passed down the back of the throat, it left a remarkable mixture of deliciously sour and salty flavours on the tongue. How they managed to pack such a flavour punch with a mellow broth like this was truly astounding.
The noodles themselves were also superb. Made by hand, these wheat noodles had a nice bite to them, providing a wonderful, chewy texture to the dish. They mopped up the soup perfectly, creating a gorgeous mix of wheat-and-broth flavours in the mouth.
Rounding everything out with a remarkable balance of flavours and textures were the scallions, minced pork and slivers of nuts, which gave a crunchy accent to the meal. These Dandan noodles truly had everything: a wonderful depth of flavour, deliciously tantalising sour and salty overtones, and a satisfying balance of textures that made it a spectacular dish.
The secret to a truly great ramen is the broth, and this was one of the best our reporter had ever tasted. By the end of the meal, every morsel and every drop of liquid was gone, which was a surprising first for our reporter, who had never before finished all the broth of a spicy Dandan noodle dish. Even after finishing the meal, there was no heavy fullness in his stomach, which is the sign of a quality ramen dish.
At 800 yen (US$6.99), this was an absolute bargain for a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. This is definitely a place worth visiting, but if you don’t want to wait in line for a taste of their famous Dandan noodles, it might not be long before Nakiryu releases a takeaway version of the dish at convenience stores, like fellow Michelin-starred ramen restaurant Tsuta did last year!
Nakiryu / 鳴龍（なきりゅう）
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Minamiotsuka 2-34-4
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (lunch); 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. (dinner Wed – Sun)
Photos © RocketNews24
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