It doesn’t have a star yet, but our research points to this Shinjuku restaurant getting the honor soon.
Ramen has come a long way from its humble beginnings. After decades of being seen by the international dining community as essentially livestock feed for college students who’re too lazy to do any actual cooking, Japan’s most popular noodle variety is finally getting the global respect that eluded it for decades.
In 2015, the famed Michelin dining guide’s Tokyo edition awarded its first star ever to a ramen restaurant, called Tsuta. In 2016, Nakiryu became the second ramen eatery to have the honor bestowed upon it. So now the question becomes, what’s going to be the next Tokyo ramen restaurant to receive a Michelin star?
We think we’ve found it. Located near the Nishi Waseda subway station in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, you’ll find a ramen restaurant called Yamaguchi.
For the last three years running, Yamaguchi has been given “Bib Gourmand” status by Michelin. While it’s not as prestigious as being given a star, the Bib Gourmand awards recognize high-quality yet affordably priced dining experiences (for the Tokyo guide, Bib Gourmand recipients’ fare must be under 5,000 yen [US$44]). That alone is enough to suggest that Yamaguchi serves delicious ramen, but what makes us think the restaurant is really something special is that Tsuta and Nakiryu were also Bib Gourmand restaurants before receiving their Michelin stars.
So we hopped on the Fukutoshin subway line and headed to Nishi Waseda to try Yamaguchi’s ramen for ourselves. After a five-minute walk from the station, we arrive at the restaurant, stepped inside, took a seat, and ordered the house specialy: kamo soba, or ramen with duck.
It took about five minutes for our order to arrive, but when it did, it was one of the prettiest-looking bowls of ramen we’d ever seen.
Priced at 830 yen (US$7.40), the kamo soba is just a bit on the pricy side for ramen. It does have some pretty gourmet ingredients, though, since it’s broth is made with Aizu Jigamo, a highly prized breed of Japanese duck.
We started by taking a sip of the shimmering broth, which rewarded our taste buds with plenty of flavor. In spite of the pleasant richenss, though, there was hardly any greasiness.
Next, we tried a mouthful of noodles, which were pleasantly chewy and retained some of their wheat flavor, which still stood out after mixing with the taste of the broth.
The juicy cha shu pork might have been the star of the show…
…were it not for the barbecued duck, which is smooth, tender, and completely satisfying.
Finally, Yamaguchi’s kamo soba comes with a few strips of menma bamboo shoots.
Honestly, we couldn’t find a single thing to complain about, and so we won’t be surprised at all if Yamaguchi soon joins Tsuta and Nakiryu in the fraternity of Michelin-starred ramen restaurants. In the meantime, though, you’ve still got a chance to eat at Yamaguchi before it becomes world-famous, but we wouldn’t wait too long if you want those foodie bragging rights.
Ramen Yamaguchi / らぁ麺やまぐち
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi Waseda 2-11-13
Open 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. (weekdays), 11;30 a.m.-9 p.m. (weekends and holidays)
[ Read in Japanese ]