For those of you that need a useful guide towards tasty ramen in Tokyo, look no further because we have the best one yet. You can’t not eat ramen while in Japan, especially if you love noodles. “Eat ramen in Japan” may sound simple enough at first, but when you arrive in Japan, you’ll find that they take their ramen a tad bit seriously. Dozens of stores sell ramen anywhere you go, and you’ll basically see the same bowl of ramen wherever you go, so making a choice is several times harder than you might think. They have shoyu-dashi based Tokyo-style ramen, creamy pork bone-based tonkotsu, and dense and creamy miso-based bowls, amongst others.
Finding your best ramen place is no easy job, but I’m personally partial to wantan-men (ramen and wontons), and I always choose it above any other options. Saying no to Japanese-style wonton is quite difficult for me, no matter how it is served. Japanese wontons are very similar to Chinese wontons as they are both little meatballs containing pork, shrimp, or both, all in a papery thin noodle-like packaging. That’s where the similarities end with both wonton styles. Chinese wontons favor the filling more, so the wonton is about 80% filling and 20% wrapper, while the reverse is the case for Japanese wontons. Japanese wontons contain only a tiny bit of filling in each one with a lot of the noodle wrapper hanging over it. As a result, Japanese wontons resemble an enormous noodle with a tiny bit of filling caught in the middle.
Naturally, you need much more than a well-made wantan to prepare the right type of ramen. You also need a concentrated broth with intricate flavors, elastic noodles, and a variety of toppings. These ramen shops have got it right when it comes to making proper wantan-men.
In the charming neighborhood of Koenji filled with numerous stores, small cafes, and kawaii cat donut sellers, you’ll find Hayashimaru along a side street. Hayashimaru is one of the especially local ramen stores that sells good ramen. Due to the location, there isn’t usually a crowd, so you don’t have to wait too long for your delicious ramen.
They have a selection of ramen bowls, including the shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), and combined bowl with a rich niboshi (fish), chicken, and a pork base. Although shoyu is the darling of Tokyo, I lean more towards the shio bowl. Hayashimaru prepares all the ingredients from scratch, including their noodles, chashu, and wantan. Their noodles are thick without being too thick, straight, and slightly chewy. The wantan are delicate and juicy, with the light and thin noodle wrappers holding the delicious filling inside. You can also pick between the pork and shrimp-filled wantan, or the mixed option. I usually go for the mixed ones, along with two pieces of chashu, some nori, and menma. Also, if you’re a fan of dipping noodles, you can order their wantan tsukemen.
- 東京都杉並区高円寺北 2-22-11
- 2-22-11 Koenjikita, Suginami-ku, Tokyo
- Closest station: Koenji
- Opens every Monday to Saturday by 11:30 am to 4 pm and 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, and Sundays by 11:30 am to 9 pm.
- Closes on Wednesdays and every second and third Tuesday
- They have an English menu, accept cash only, and you can only order inside at the counter.
One of the more recently opened ramen shops in Tokyo, Yatagarasu, is gaining a lot of popularity and a good reputation. And although they aren’t popular for their wantanmen, they serve their trademark bowl with wonton so they technically count and you can see them as an authority on wantanmen. They serve two bowls called the black (shoyu), and white (shio) bowls. Mike picked the black bowl, which had a more in-depth and richer flavor than the white bowl, which I chose. My bowl had an intense dashi flavor, and both came with some chashu, wantan, and an egg. They had some excellent chashu (pork), cooked at low temperature, flawlessly seasoned, and tender. They had thin noodles, made with tiny bits of whole wheat. The photo we have doesn’t show the wantan properly, but believe me, they’re there. Compared to other Japanese wontons I’ve had on this trip, these wontons were big and succulent, and I would have preferred more in my bowl. Even though, at this point, I would be just as happy with eating only a bowl of wontons.
They offer you the choice to get your bowl served with more wantan, and you can also have wantan as an entrée.
- 東京都千代田区九段北 1-9-2
- 1-9-2 Kudanshita, Chioda-ku, Tokyo
- Closest station: Kudanshita
- Opens from Monday to Friday from 11 am to 11 pm, and on Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm
- Closes on Sunday
- They don’t have an English menu, and they accept cash only.
- For orders with the vending machine: The top left button is for the special black bowl, and the top right button is for the special white bowl.
The most popular location for wantanmen in Tokyo right now has to be Yakumo. The restaurant has been featured on TV several times, and also in magazines. They also won the Tokyo Ramen of Year award. Our first time at Yakumo, we ate at their former location on a building’s second floor in Nakameguro. Now, they’ve expanded and moved into a chic, fashionable new store in Ikejiri Ohashi, a neighborhood on the rise. This store is stunning and has a modern feel, but the standard of their delicious ramen has barely changed. Yakumo also serves black and white bowls like Yatagarasu, and like in Yatagarasu, I chose the white bowl, while Mike picked the black bowl. If you can’t decide on which flavor you want, you can choose to get both mixed in one bowl. The staff is accommodating in that aspect. Each bowl contains 3 shrimp wantan and 3 pork wantan each. They have the characteristic excess noodle skin I love on Japanese wonton, and they are quite large and juicy. They’re so good that I once ordered 6 more wontons, just for me. The noodles are also good here; thin and stick-straight, their chashu is divine, and they serve menma, negi, and nori. This bowl is what we call the complete package.
- 東京都目黒区東山3-6-15 エビヤビル 1F
- 3-6-15 Higashiyama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
- Closest station: Ikejiri-Ohashi
- Opens on Monday from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm, and on Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm and 5 pm to 9 pm
- Closes on Tuesdays
- They don’t have an English menu, and they accept cash only.
- For orders with the vending machine: The top left button is for the special white ramen bowl with 6 wontons, and the top 3rd button is for the special black ramen bowl with 6 wontons.
One of my top wantanmen bowls in the whole of Tokyo has to be from Mensho. Mensho group makes what has to be my number one wantanmen bowls ever, and they are my top ramen restaurant group ever. Their motto reads, “a bowl for tomorrow,” and they produce the freshest farm to bowl ramen in Tokyo. Every ingredient is prepared right in front of you, including the flour used to make the noodles and the noodles themselves, so the bowl has to be the freshest bowl available. Mensho serves a seafood-based stock made from sea bream, scallops, and sea salt. The bowl has a scallop, some charred negi, a smattering of karasumi (cured yellow cod roe). You also get some delicious slices of chicken that melts in your mouth, and the star of the show, for me at least, wonton. But, this wonton is made from tuna rather than the pork and shrimp other Tokyo wonton are made with, and it is simply delicious.
- 1-17-16 Otowa, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
- Closest Station: Gokokuji
- Opens from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, and 5 pm to 9 pm
- Closes on Mondays and Tuesdays
- They don’t offer an English menu, and they only accept cash.
- For Vending machine orders: The top left button is for the special seafood shio ramen bowl.
So, these four wantanmen places are my top choices to recommend if you want to enjoy something different from the regular ramen you’re used to eating. Also, we have more Tokyo ramen guides coming up, so keep a close eye on us and get ready to binge on more delicious food.
PS – Some useful tips for using the ramen vending machines:
- ワンタン wantan/wonton
- 黒 black/soy
- 白 white/salt
- 醤油 shoyu/soy
- 塩 shio/salt
- ビール beer
- 玉子 egg