I just came back from an incredible trip to Asia (Japan and Taiwan), and I have lots of great food posts I plan on writing over the next few weeks.
One of the first places we visited was Suzuran, a popular ramen place in Shibuya.
Apparently this place is really popular because their broths are deeply flavorful and they make their own noodles. Unlike many other ramen places, you have the option of choosing the fat, pappardelle-like chewy noodles. Suzuran sells tsukumen, which is dipping ramen. Instead of serving everything in one bowl, the noodles are served separately (see picture above) from the soup. You then dip the noodles into the soup and eat it, not unlike soba.
The ambiance here is great. The small bar only holds around 13 people. You sit around the bar and order your noodles. Right when you enter, all the cooks yell out a loud greeting, “Irrashaimase!” When a customer finished her bowl of noodles, she yelled “gotirasama deshita!” and all the cooks yelled back something I couldn’t quite understand. It was quite entertaining.
The place feels very authentic. The menu is only in Japanese, and the cooks don’t really speak English. I used my broken Japanese to ask the cook to translate the menu. In the end, all he could tell me was that I could choose between soy sauce based broth or miso, and that the toppings were items such as char siu and wontons (I kind of wonder whether he thought we were Chinese and just picked the Chinese sounding toppings for us).
Bryan ordered soy based broth with wontons. I basically told the cook to make me his most famous dish. I received a miso-based broth with these stewed pork slices on top of the noodles. It was not until afterwards, which doing additional research, that I found out that I had eaten Kagoshima style pork belly (buta kakuni).
The noodles were fresh, chewy and delicious. The soup was very flavorful, although I found it a bit salty for my tastes. I typically don’t eat much ramen, so it’s hard for me to give it a fair review. Honestly, I have no idea how it compares to other ramen across Japan. I can tell you that the freshly made noodles were really good and the soup was satisfying to the soul.
If you like ramen, you should definitely check out this place. If nothing else, the experience of sitting at the bar watching the chefs make noodles and watching all the interactions between the customers and the cooks is worth it.
One note – it was a bit confusing to find this place. It probably did not help that we went on a dark, rainy evening; we didn’t have a map; all we had were some directions written by someone on chowhound. It’s not too far from the Shibuya JR station. See here for the directions that we used. Supposedly this place often has a long line outside of it. I guess we were lucky since it was a dark rainy weeknight.
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