As 2018 draws to a close, I look back at the bowls that really stood out for me. This is not a best-of list in the classic way of best-of lists, rather a reflection on the places I visited for the first time this year. Some shops are brand new, and some shops are very old. All are places I would recommend without hesitation.
純手打ち 麺と未来 - Mentomirai
3 Chome-25-１ Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku
Noodles made by hand without any machine in a funky shio ramen soup. One of the best shops in trendy Shimokitazawa.
亀戸煮干中華そばつきひ - Tsukihi
Tōkyō-to, Kōtō-ku, Kameido, 5 Chome−13−２
Ultra-strong niboshi ramen that is great for me, but might not be what you are looking for. Do you love niboshi? Do you really, really love the stuff? Then come here asap.
中華そば 吾衛門 - Goemon
3 Chome-3-３ Senninchō, Hachiōji-shi, Tōkyō-to
OG Hachioji-style ramen. Loads of diced raw onion and a line down the road. Technically Tokyo, but this shop is quite far out west. Open since 1959.
ソラノイロ Factory & Labo
Tōkyō-to, Taitō-ku, Yanagibashi, 2 Chome−6−8
The vegan-friendly Soranoiro group just opened a definitely not vegan-friendly Jiro-style shop. Heavy noodles, heavy soup, and plenty of fresh vegetables.
麺庵 ちとせ - Menan Chitose
18-5 Ichigayadaimachi, 新宿区 Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to
A few menu items, but their tantanmen is a Japanese-style take on a Chinese dish done very well. Get the beer and chashu set on the side.
葉山 - Hayama
1 Ichigayayakuōjimachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to
A one-man show. Homemade noodles in a niboshi-rich soup. You might have to wait a bit, but it's worth it. Makes a cameo in the ramen documentary "Ramen Heads."
竹末 - Takesue
Tōkyō-to, Sumida-ku, Narihira, 5 Chome−14−７
Near Tokyo Sky Tree
Japanese trout ramen topped with a multitude of meats. Just unique enough to stand out without being weird. Four or Five other equally unique bowls on offer to keep you returning.
一笑 - Issho
Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Asagayaminami 1-9-5
Choose between a dozen or so topping bowls to enhance your ramen. Stamina-style? Numbing-style? Thai-style? Great concept!
麺LABOひろ - Menlabohiro
Tokyo, Meguro-ku, Gopongi 2-51-5
Beautiful ramen from the 2017 rookie of the year. A touch of yuzu and pickled sansho spice for some serious aromatics. FYI, they have a foie gras ramen on the regular menu.
宣久 - Thank You
Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Minamikarasuyama 3-24-7
Ivan Ramen's former location.
The manager of now-closed Ivan Ramen opened his own shop in the same space. Many similarities, and many differences. The biggest difference is the broth made from maguro tuna.
たんたん亭 - Tantantei
Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Hamadayama 3-31-4
Seriously old-school shop out west of Shinjuku. Go for the mixed wontons but be careful of the amount; this is a lot of ramen.
Bonito Soup Noodle RAIK
Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Omiya 1-2-3
Bonito from Kagoshima forms the base of this bowl. Deep umami in both the thin and thick versions of their ramen. Fun fact, it's only 50 meters from where I was in a motorcycle accident that required about six months of rehab!
Tokyo, Mushashino-shi, Kichijoji Nancho 4-16-12
Rookie of the year ramen. The master worked at Saikoro for many years. He took his master's style and added his own touches to it. Clean styles with a limited miso in the evenings.
Noodle Stand Tokyo
Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Jungumae 1-21-15
Next to Harajuku Station
When Mirai up in Akabane closed, I was a bit disappointed. When they reopened in central Tokyo, I knew I'd be heading there often. Classic Tokyo-style, vegan coconut miso, and a soupless mazesoba topped with stewed beef. Fun shop run by a great couple. Look for my sticker on the wall!
かしわぎ - Kashiwagi
Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Higashi-Nakano 1-36-7
Kashiwagi is the spiritual successor to now-closed Imagawa. Lighter soup accented with clams in the dashi. Just far enough away from the center to be a hidden gem. Ramen with clams as an underlying ingredient is a trend these days. Who doesn't love ramen trends!