Umami, umami, umami!!!
For those unfamiliar with this term, it refers to savoury taste (as opposed to bitter, sweet, sour, salty). The fact that this was all I could mutter to myself as I ate this delicious bowl of ramen is no coincidence. Umami is a Japanese word, and perfectly describes the experience of dipping those glorious noodles into the luscious broth. So much flavour!
Ramen has become such a popular thing in recent times, and I am not immune to the allure of this fabulous pork broth, coupled with noodles and pork, that raise this dish to an artform. If I understand correctly, ramen is a relatively new invention. I say relatively, because Japan is steeped in history. I always admire the stories of dedication to tradition that seem to abound in this country. This newer dish is not immune to this same level of meticulous attention to detail.
There are so many different variations of ramen, and each place seems to put their own spin on the theme. I particularly wanted to come to Shujinko for the tsukemen ramen. This very modern version is set apart from the others by the way the noodles are served separately from the broth. When eating, you dip the noodles in the broth and then slurp away.
Those noodles were just perfect by the way. Perhaps the major advantage of serving them separately is they maintain a much firmer texture. The pleasing “bite” of the noodles, coupled with the extremely savoury nature of the broth were a divine combination that provided so much mouthfeel and umami. The pork (tonkotsu) simply fell apart. Not ideal when chopsticks are the tool of choice, but this texture complimented the whole experience perfectly.
So, I hope now that I have established the ramen here is divine. On to other matters…
Finding the correct shop was the first issue. This has recently been rebranded as Shujinko. I had heard about some changes, but was looking for the original name “Menya Sandaime.” A few blank stares and some Google map advice confirmed we were in the right place eventually. As is typical for ramen shops, there is no booking. The most popular always have a line out the front. This is a good thing I think. A sure sign that you’re in for something special. Also typical is the atmosphere inside; bustling with activity, and the never ending “sumimasen” being called out from staff to customers.
The ordering experience was a little below par. There was a lot of confusion between myself and the waitress, but we got there in the end… kind of. I asked for her advice, and she proferred that extra pork and leek was the best way to go. I wanted to follow her advice, but it seems there was a slight misunderstanding. What we received was one bowl with extra pork and one bowl with extra leek, rather than extra pork and leek on both.
This turned out to be a fortunate mistake for my dining companion, who had the extra pork. Me on the other hand, not so lucky. The extra leek was just too much in the end. Despite brushing my teeth twice in the hours following the meal, I could not get the burn of those leeks out of my mouth.
In a nutshell, I would go back here in a heartbeat. Just so good!