It’s Valentine’s Day soon, and as you will have noticed, there is chocolate EVERYWHERE. It’s in cute heart-shaped boxes, it’s in baskets with puppies, it’s on your fries and now it can be in your ramen. Personally, the latter would always be my preferred option, but not everyone is convinced—will it be a match made in heaven or like a regrettable Tinder hook-up best forgotten?
By bringing in a local chocolatier and developing a special pork broth to complement the sweetness (in place of their usual anchovy base) trendy ramen joint Mensho have certainly given this their best shot. With a new restaurant in San Francisco and numerous in Tokyo, their attention to detail is taking them places. This year several Mensho Tokyo branches will be offering chocolate ramen (compared to the one branch last year)—and only until February 14th, so be quick!
Rather than having chocolate noodles or broth, they have opted to put chunks of the specially selected goodness in along with other toppings, giving the diner flexibility. If, like me, you physically can’t resist nicking at least one (trust me, even waiting to take the photo was a struggle) then by all means do—in the name of research of course—but leave the rest to melt in. It really is worth it.
Although the chocolate is the headline act, it only works because the rest of the dish has been designed to work with it. The pork is beautiful, so good it made my friend speechless (which was awkward for our impromptu TV interview about the ramen) and it is by far one of the more substantial ramen dishes I’ve tried, with thick chewy noodles and plenty of toppings, so you definitely won’t leave hungry. A healthy dose of black pepper really spices up the black soy broth while working as a classic pairing with the chocolate without being overpowering. The quality of the meat and balance of the spices reflect the planning that has gone into this dish, making it clear it isn’t just a novelty time-waster.
At 880 yen you can’t really go wrong with chocolate ramen, and it will certainly make an interesting date for your special someone (or your friend, or just the guy sat awkwardly opposite you… you know, whatever).
So, although Valentine’s in Japan is the peak of fads and short-lived heart-shaped balloons, chocolate ramen is one trend you might wish was sticking around.