Kagari Ramen, Tokyo


    Having been twenty years since my last trip to Japan, I was way overdue to re-live the splendor of the East.  The last time I stepped foot on Japanese soil, I was a teenage saxophone player traveling with a musical group.  This time, I left the saxophone at home and brought along my appetite and my camera.   
With Japanese food already having created a global following, I need to re-emphasize just how superior Japanese food is IN JAPAN.  I am sorry to repeat what many already know....but it really is fresher and more flavorful than anything hoping to come close, in any other country.  No frills Japanese eateries in Japan, are guaranteed to be as good as your typical high-end, high-priced New York Japanese luxury restaurants.  One word: UMAMI. 

One of our best, yet simplest, meals was at the somewhat well known Kagari in the Ginza district.   There is always a line that leads from the little 8-seat noodle shop down the narrow alley and out onto the larger sidewalk. We waited about 35 minutes as we stood in the warm night air with our stomachs growling.  To give credit, they do run a very efficient operation, taking your order while you are still in line and then delivering your ramen about 3 minutes after you sit down.    

The menu is in both Japanese and English and offers the more traditional thin noodle ramen or the more substantial tokusei-tsukesoba version which gives you a large bowl of thick chunky noodles similar to udon and a bowl of thick, creamy sardine based broth (there is that umami).  You then pick up the noodles one bite at a time and dip them in the gravy-like broth before slurping up the entire bite. I actually like to pick up a few bites of noodles and let them soak in the broth until I get to them.  Pure comfort food.  The noodles are chewy and the broth is rich with meatiness.

While the food is utterly incredible....if you want to eat like a local you have to focus on your food, eat quickly, and slurp.  All of which I am terrible at.  I really might as well have displayed "foreigner" across my forehead. As I attempted to slurp, I only found myself splattering broth all over my shirt. Finally getting all of the thick noodles from my chopsticks into my mouth, I chewed awkwardly with my cheeks bulging. However, the struggle was no match for the flavor.  As each tasteful bite went down, I was reaching for more. 

    The pressure was mounting.  I was sucking in noodles as fast as possible and eating as much as possible all under the watchful glances of the chefs (who are looking to see that you are enjoying their food).  I wanted to shout "Can't I enjoy this a little slower please?!"...but my mouth was too full.
Before I knew it, B's chopsticks are resting in his empty bowl and he is elbowing me.  "Wow. That was delicious! Hurry up!" Although, no local will ever leave a noodle, nor a sip of broth, I also failed miserably.  I took one more momentous slurp, chew, and relished my last mouthful.  I pushed away my 1/2 bowl of broth and just a few noodles...yes, I have some work to do before I can really be Japanese.  Kagari Ramen is definitely a place to visit if you find yourself in Tokyo, and of course open to the challenge of eating noodles.  
Kagari Ramen
4-4-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Cash Only

After an inundation of delicious, yet significantly different food than I normally eat, I arrived home, expecting to crave my usual lovely fresh french bread and olive oil, with some creamy French cheese.  However, I am still digging through my suitcase looking for any last hidden bags of seaweed and Japanese rice crackers. 


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