There’s novelty ramen, and there’s inventive ramen—and while the first should be avoided like second-day sashimi, the latter requires some further investigation. So, if you’d like a touch of the exotic in your ramen, head to Papapapine for a unique take everyone’s favorite dish.
Close to the exit of Nishi-Okubo Station is a typically small ramen shop, but this one has a difference. Rather than your standard bases, this one has more than a hint of fruit. If the giant pineapple-ring of a sign isn’t a giveaway, the smell wafting through the door will be. Have no doubt, you can’t miss this ramen shop—and nor should you.
Pineapples (to consider)
The pineapple’s place in savory dishes is a classic divider—think of the constant battle every single time someone suggests ordering a Hawaiian—but it makes sense. A common bedfellow with salty dishes, the sharp, sweet fruit can lift a dish to light, fresh flavors without being sickening. This is why, after the few seconds of mental processing, pineapple ramen might not seem like such a bad idea. If you agree, step inside the pineapple wonderland, because this is not going to be subtle.
More pineapples (to order and admire)
Before you enter, you can choose your dish from the vending machine with options for hot and cold depending on the season, as well as toppings like shrimp. We tried one of each temperature (for science!)—but most importantly, don’t forget to order your egg. They are soaked in pineapple juice rather than tare seasoning and have an amazing sweet flavor, especially in the yolk. As you’ll be sitting counter-side, you can enjoy seeing your dish prepared in front of you, with pineapple juices, chunks, noodles, and broth all being carefully placed together by the owner, Haruda or his fellow chef.
Remember when I said it wasn’t going to be subtle? Yeah, well the decorations, clothes, food and walls are all plastered, but somehow it’s not overwhelming, or maybe it is, but in a really fun way. The place isn’t fancy, and rather than feeling like a themed-restaurant, it’s more like someone just really, really, loves pineapples—and you just can’t hate that. So enjoy the statues, salt and pepper shakers, posters, shirts and anything else you can see and just accept your pineappley fate. Nothing on the menu is free from the fruit, and you can even try pineapple wine for 400 yen, as well as helping yourself to the pineapple vinegar later on…
Extra pineapples (to slurp)
Once your ramen is ready, it will be placed in front of you like a tiny homage to all things delicious—with a fragrant broth, juicy chunks and some more familiar faces.
Made with 1/4 pineapple juice there is no hiding from the fruity flavor, but it isn’t sweet or sickly (and I’m definitely a savory type person). Light and slightly confusing for a second as your brain processes it, it soon wants more and you’ll be slurping away like normal. The egg is sweet and soft, with the pineapple chunks retaining their sharpness to give you a boost. Pork is of course the perfect partner (hello again, Hawaiian) and it melts in the mouth with a slightly salty, savory tang edged with sweetness.
If you’re a dipping-noodle-kind-of-person then there’s something for you too, as the Shoyu Tsukemen was delicious, and oddly different to the hot broth of the ramen. Feeling quite summery, it did seem sweeter, with the temperature definitely having an interesting effect.
We’re not saying everyone will love this place—if you already don’t like pineapple there may be issues—but otherwise it is definitely a fun stop on a ramen tour of Tokyo.
Escape Tokyo for the day, see mountains, hot springs, the modern, the traditional, the old and the ancient!