Big news shocked the culinary world late last year when a ramen restaurant was awarded one Michelin star. Yes, the humble bowl of soup favored by salary men and tourists alike given the loftiest of culinary awards.
Once the news hit, the lines at Tsuta reportedly jumped from a normal one hour wait to up to four hours. Given that Tsuta sits in a mostly residential area, neighbors were starting to complain about the long lines and noise. Tsuta is located only a few minutes away from the Sugamo station. A new “system” was put into place to help quell the long lines and seems to have worked well, but some effort is needed in order to slurp a bowl of ramen as they only serve 150 bowls per day.
I had heard that things had somewhat slowed down since the Michelin announcement. In order to obtain a bowl of ramen, you must “buy” a ticket by paying a ¥1000 deposit, which is refunded when you show up for your bowl of ramen.
Although the restaurant officially opens at 11:00 AM, I arrived a little after 8:00 AM and was able to secure a ticket. I was given a yellow ticket and was told to come back at 12:00 PM. After the Michelin announcement people were starting to line up at 6:30 AM in order to get a bowl of the limited bowl of deliciousness.
After arriving at 12:00 PM, I waited another 15 minutes or so before being admitted to the restaurant and buying my ticket for my bowl of ramen. Like many ramen shops, you will buy your meal through a vending machine and then hand your ticket to the staff.
I selected the ramen that put them on the map, the one on the top left. In addition, I ordered a bowl of roasted pork and rice. For ¥250, this is a steal.
The restaurant is simply decorated, and only seats 9 patrons.
The bowl of roasted pork and rice is actually a decent sized portion. Before serving, the pork is bruleed and topped with garlic and herbs. The pork is well cooked, tender and flavorful. The garlic added a nice bite of flavor. In retrospect, I should have ordered 2 bowls of this, or 5.
The ramen is the star of the show, and rightfully so. The broth is a complex brew of chicken stock, several types of shoyu (soy sauce), pork stock, red wine and fish stock. The bowl has a golden brown hue with pools of glimmering oil, large pieces of menma, a tanned egg, four pieces of thickly cut pork layered in staircase fashion slowly descending into the broth. Oh yeah, you can’t forget the little dollop of truffle oil. A small pile of negi (green onion) finishes off the dish.
Upon first sip, the first thing I noticed was the fish stock. It hit me like a ton of bricks since I wasn’t expecting it. The fish stock then faded into the background. The chicken then became prominent, along with the strong, but subtle punch of red wine. The pork stock is very similar, but the blends of different shoyus added a nice salinity and complexity. The menma was thick and chewy. The pork was cooked superbly and was very tender. The truffle oil added a bit of extravagance, and the negi a nice freshness, and a little bit of bite.
This is by far the best bowl of ramen I have ever had. It is also the most unusual and complex bowl that have passed my lips. It has been a while since I ate at Tsuta, but I still think about how good this ramen is.