By Bryce Marley-Jarrett
In the mid 2000’s Japan dethroned France as the country with the most Michelin stars, with Tokyo being the city with the most stars in the world. In recent years Tokyo has become home to two ramen bars that have each been awarded a Michelin star for their dishes. The first was Tsuta in 2015 and followed by Nakiryu in 2017. Today we are giving you our review on the Michelin ramen at Nakiryu, and tips on how to get your hands on a bowl of one of the best ramens in the world.
Sitting at the base of a small office building surrounded by apartments in a very unassuming residential town in Tokyo, most would walk past Nakiryu and not even notice it - you could assume it was a small accountants office. However behind the ground floor door on the corner of the street is a small, 10 seater ramen bar that makes one of the greatest bowls of ramen in the world.
On our first visit, we arrived for lunch at about 1:00pm, and there was a long, sectioned, line up the residential street. We were about 24th in line. With Nakiryu only having seating for 10 patrons at any time, your wait can vary from 30 mins to 2.5 hours or more.
Japlanning Tip - Nakiryu is open Wednesday through Monday (closed Tuesdays) and open for lunch every day from 11:30am. We cannot recommend enough that you arrive by 10:30am at the earliest for the start of lunch. You can usually make it in then in the first or second sitting, reducing your wait more than any other time.
On this day we were finally sitting just after 3pm, which is quite the wait, but we stuck it out. Once you are in the final few in the line before the door, staff will come out and pass around their menu to look over. hey have English menus if needed, and all items are numbered as you order from a vending machine, so make note of the numbers of items you want.
Once brought inside you will see how small this restaurant is. Just a bar table with seating for 10 wrapped around the small kitchen, where the chef and his team work in unison crafting ramen for all. You will be directed to your seat and then the vending machine to place your order. Once you have placed your order, you take your tickets and place them on the upper bench at your seat for the chef to take and make your order.
Japlanning Tip - Order extra noodles for your ramen. You will get a ticket for these and when you are ready for them (you don’t want to waste any of that exquisite broth) just pass the ticket to the chef.
Now, Nakiryu serves a few kinds of ramen, and it is hard to say what they ‘won’ their michelin star for as it is not revealed, many argue it would be the shoyu (soy sauce) based ramen, due to its traditional ‘lighter’ taste. However, their most popular is TanTanMen which is a spicy broth with a minced pork topping. This is the one we tried, and seemed to be the only one being ordered both times we have visited, so far.
The ramen is prepared in front of you, where you can almost be hypnotised by the the way the chef has their process down to an art. Once the ramen is placed in front of you, the aroma hits you instantly. Those who are not fans of spice, do not worry. This isn’t an intense spice, and you will be able to handle the TanTanMen. The broth has a very deep flavour with the spices being very noticeable but not leaving a burning taste in your mouth. You will notice the broth has very deep umami flavours as you eat it. It is rather intoxicating, and you will not be able to get enough of it. This is where the extra noodles ordered earlier come in handy. You will run out of noodles, as they are so perfectly made and just the right firmness. Get the extra noodles to soak up and use up every last drop of that heavenly soup.
At lunchtime, Nakiryu also has a side dish you can order - a small bowl of diced char grilled pork on rice. We tried this and it was beautiful and full of flavour. However, the ramen is the star and you probably won’t have any space left for this once finishing the ramen.
In total we were in the restaurant for maybe 30-40 mins, tops. Now, would you say a wait of 2 hours is worth a meal that lasted 30 mins? Absolutely. This ramen is easily the best we have all ever tasted, the depth of flavours and the quality of the ingredients and attention to detail make any wait worthwhile to experience. We can back this up, as we have made sure we stop there every visit to Tokyo since.
HOW TO GET THERE
Being Michelin starred, many would think this would be in a tourist spot like Shinjuku or Shibuya. False. Narikyu is nestled up in northern Tokyo in the neighbourhood of Toshima.
To get there you want to make your way to Otsuka Station (on the JR Yamanote Line).
When exiting take the south exit and then turn right and cross the tram tracks.
Then you want to turn left and walk up the street.
At the first lights turn right and cross the main street.
Then turn left and walk up the street a few blocks.
After three blocks turn left on the street corner with a bicycle shop.
Then about 50 metres down the street on your right you will see Nakiryu.
Nakiryu’s operating hours are:
WED - SUN Lunch: 11:30am - 3:00pm Dinner: 6:00pm-9:00pm
MON (Lunch only) 11:30am - 3:00pm
Although for some it may be out of the way, and waiting to eat may drive even the most patient a bit crazy, Nakiryu is worth it. Offering something a little different to the endless variety of Shoyu/Miso/Tonkotsu ramens (all delicious) that can be found in almost every neighbourhood in Japan. The spice infused TanTanMen ramen has a depth and flavour that is not to be missed. Also it will be one of the cheapest Michelin starred meals you will have with most bowls being under ￥1000 ($13AUD).
Have you visited Nakiryu and experienced their michelin starred ramen? How did you find it?
Let us know in the comments below.