Mazilu Beef Noodles of the respected Lanzhou Lamian family lands in the fierce noodle battleground of Tokyo.
Do you know how everyone’s home has a unique smell? Well, our ramen-loving writer Ahiruneko thinks that every country has its own smell too. Much like with homes, it’s not clear how these distinguishing scents are made, but it probably has a lot to do with the food. Since smell is such a powerful force on taste, this inevitably alters the flavors of established foreign restaurants when they come to Japan to some extent.
Speaking of which, on 22 August, the latest foreign food enterprise hit the shores of Japan. It is Mazilu Beef Noodles run by the much-loved Lanzhou Lamian restaurants which boast over 100 years of service in China.
It probably goes without saying, but despite being firmly entrenched in the Japanese foodscape, ramen is a derivative of China’s lamian. So, as Ahiruneko made the short walk from Jinbocho Station he wondered if an authentic lamian restaurant could make an impact in Japan.
It was off to a good start anyway…
Even though he arrived about five minutes before the shop opened, there was a line-up of 30 to 40 people. News cameras from both Japan and China were also hovering around for the opening. While he waited, Ahiruneko noticed that many of the people in line with him were Chinese people of all walks of life, from students to business people.
He overheard many of them express relief that they could finally get a taste of Lanzhou Lamian in Japan. Even though our reporter had been to China, this would still be his first Lanzhou experience, and he was getting the feeling that he was in for a real treat.
When his turn arrived, Ahiruneko entered the door and…China! It was uncanny how this establishment somehow recreated that deeply ingrained scent of its home nation. It had only been a few months since his last visit to China, but he was beginning to feel a slightly wistful nostalgia.
He played it safe with a standard order of Thin Noodle Lanzhou Beef Noodles for 880 yen (US$8). This restaurant also allows customers to reduce the amount of chili sauce or coriander to “a little” or “none,” but again our reporter kept things unchanged for his first experience.
He heard that the noodles were handmade upon ordering, and yet his bowl arrived surprisingly fast. Already Lanzhou Lamian proved to be a big departure from Japanese ramen. The vivid colors were a feast for the eyes.
He heard that Lanzhou Lamian was represented by five colors: clear (the broth), white (the daikon radish), red (chili sauce), green (coriander and garlic leaves), and yellow (noodles). The soup itself was a blend of beef and various spices.
Going in for his first taste, Ahiruneko was taken aback. The flavor was rich but it had a spicy kick that he doesn’t usually get from Japanese ramen. He felt this was indeed the taste of China, so be warned if you come to Mazilu expecting Japanese ramen.
The noodles were delectably tender but had a unique texture that was unlike Japanese ramen, or even other Chinese lamian that he’s had before. Even though they were “thin noodles” they came out about as thick as regular Japanese ramen noodles.
It was all very delicious, but also very different from Japanese ramen. Although extremely satisfied with his first Lanzhou Lamian experience, Ahiruneko still wondered if this restaurant would catch on or not in Japan.
However, when he walked out the door, the line-up was just as long as it was when he went in. And as he walked back to the station the aroma of his meal lingered, giving him the feeling of walking through the streets in China.
Mazilu Beef Noodles / 馬子禄 牛肉面
Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Jinbocho 1-3-18
Open: 11 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
[ Read in Japanese ]