The World’s Best Ramen with the World’s Pickiest Eater

DSC_9481Last year sometime a story about the world’s only Michelin Star ramen popped up in my Facebook news feed. We already had plans to visit Japan so we decided that if it is was possible we would try to find this ramen joint. One of the things I love about traveling is seeing or trying things that are unique to a specific place, things that you can’t do anywhere else in the world. We arrive in Tokyo and I discover that Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta is in a quiet neighborhood in North Tokyo. We were staying in the South and it would take us about an hour to get there via subway but no biggie, totally worth it. I also find out that you can’t just stroll up to this place and get your bowl of ramen, there is a process. Understandably, it’s hugely popular, and they had to come up with a system to try to accommodate people in a somewhat timely manner. So here is how it works. You have to go to the restaurant in the morning and get a ticket. The ticket tells you your return time to come and eat the ramen. We went during the week and didn’t arrive until around 9am and there were still plenty of tickets for several time slots. The shop is open from 11am-4pm. If you want to go on the weekend it is advised that you get your ticket earlier because they often run out. I read about some people who were lining up as early as 6am on the weekend. You pay the owner 1,000Yen deposit when you get your ticket (don’t worry, you get that back when you return) and the owner tells you to come back a half an hour to an hour before your time slot. Our time slot was for 3pm and we showed back up a little before 2:30pm and joined the line of probably 15 or so waiting people. I thought that we would probably be seated pretty shortly after arriving, sadly this was not so. There are only nine seats in the restaurant and apparently it’s tricky to seat a family of five. Most of the other people in line were couples or friends in pairs of two. My kids who waited patiently for quite awhile kinda started to lose it after we passed the hour mark. There was a lot of “I’m hungry” and “When are we going to eat?” Then there is my picky eater who I already knew was not going to eat ramen. Not realizing how long the wait would be I had figured that we would be in and out and then I’d grab him something from the train station. However, now he’s hungry too and he’s realizing that this place only serves ramen and he wants to know what he’s going to eat. I tell him to just hang on, be polite when we go in, and please don’t complain. He’s young enough that if he thinks something is gross, there is a pretty good chance that he’s going to say so! So we are all hot, hungry, and about out of patience when we are finally called in. This restaurant has kind of a strange set up. There are nine seats set up like a bar right in front of the chefs where people are eating and then five seats where the next group of diners sit and wait. You walk in and there is a sort of vending machine where you deposit your money and make your ramen selection. We order four bowls of ramen and then the owner looks at me expectantly. I quickly tell him that my son and I are just going to share a bowl. He shakes his head and says “No, no sharing. Everyone must have their own bowl.” Now I’m a little panicked because I know that they are going to set a big ol’ bowl of ramen in front my son and not only is he not going to eat it but he’s probably going to make horrible faces and exclamations about how gross it is right in front of these Michelin Star Chefs. I order the 5th bowl and quickly start pleading with/threatening my son to not say a word. lol “Just say thank you” I tell him “And that’s it nothing else, don’t say anything else! You don’t have to eat it but just don’t say anything about it.” Finally it is our turn to eat. Piping hot bowls of ramen are served up quickly and we dig in! Luckily my son didn’t say anything too embarrassing and while he didn’t eat the ramen noodles he did eat the pork slices that are in the bowl. There was a lady sitting next to him who was very loudly slurping her noodles. He looks at her out of the corner of his eye and then taps me saying “Mom, mom” I know exactly what he wants to say.  I tell him to “Shh, we can talk about it outside.” He just can’t let it go and says “Mom, I just have to tell you something!” Luckily we were almost finished eating and I was able to hold him off until we were outside. I understand that slurping noodles in Japan is actually a compliment, but when you aren’t accustomed to it, and you hear it, it’s pretty dang funny! So we survived our Michelin Star ramen experience without international incident and let me just tell you that this ramen is incredible! I’m not a “foodie” so I’m not going to go into the depths of flavors or anything like that but the broth tastes so fresh and everything in the bowl is delicious!! It’s worth the back and forth to get the ticket, the waiting in line, and the weirdness of people sitting behind you watching and waiting while you eat. It’s top ramen!;)

The restaurant in the morning when you get your ticket.DSC_9442

The ramen!DSC_9479

Directions:  Go to Sugamo Station and out the South Exit.  Here is a video showing exactly how to walk there. 🙂

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