There are many types of ramen in Japan, with small variations all over the country. Shoyu (soy sauce) ramen is loved in Tokyo, but recently tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen from Fukuoka has been gaining popularity in the capital. Chains like Ichiran and Ippudo have been opening several stores in the city, but let’s have a look at another option. Chosen because they put the “gin” in Tenjin (note: there is no actual gin in this place).
Part of the Hakata Tengin (or Tenjin) chain, the little branch I went to sits on Shinjuku Dori (street), close to the corner of Shinjuku Nichome and Sanchome, next to another paragon of cheap eating – Yoshinoya. It always appears busy, but you can always get a seat. There is a nice chain of customers constantly trickling through, and a menu you can look at before making your selection, which is helpful for us indecisive types known for holding up the queue at the ticket machine. The menu is translated into English, and even has helpful pictures – because how could you possibly decide what to eat without knowing what it looks like first?
The standard bowl of ramen will cost you 500 yen, but there are nine other options, going all the way up to 950 yen for spring onion, seaweed and pork ramen, if you want to eat like a king. There is also a humorous translation of one of the dishes, which I will leave as a surprise for those of you who decide to visit.
I decided to splash out a whole 600 yen on moyashi (beansprouts) ramen. The food came quickly, and I was surprised that the broth wasn’t very salty. In fact, this was the least salty tonkotsu ramen I have ever eaten (tonkotsu ramen is usually pretty salty). If you’re into salt, fret not though, as there are several condiments available on the counter in front of you, such as spicy sauce, pureed garlic and sesame seeds.
I opted for the garlic and sesame seeds, which did make my ramen taste less bland. However, I might have overkilled it with the dosage, because every time I exhaled after finishing my meal, I could hear a waitress at the Vampire café all the way in Ginza shudder and look over her shoulder. Seriously, I could taste the garlic from this ramen for two days, so don’t plan any social interactions following a trip here.
The ramen was filling without making me feel like I was going to die, so that works in its favour. To be brutally honest, it didn’t do anything special for my taste buds, but for the low asking price, I wasn’t really expecting it to. I would recommend this one for after you’ve had a few drinks in Nichome, when you’re hungry, but not feeling fussy. This place is probably still a lot better for you than McDonalds. Remember, if it’s not to your liking or if you’re still hungry after, you can always pop over to Yoshinoya next door.
There are other branches scattered around Tokyo. Check the website for locations and then just keep your eyes out for the yellow signs!