Ramen Beast 2017: Tokyo's 20 Best Ramen Shops

Ramen Beast 2017: Tokyo's 20 Best Ramen Shops

Just how many ramen shops are there in Tokyo? Estimates tend to vary between 6,000 and 10,000. What's certain is that the Tokyo ramen world is effectively endless — if you eat at a different shop every day, by the time you finish them all, you will just have to start over, because hundreds of new shops will have opened, and dozens of others will have closed or changed their menus. Amidst this mind-boggling quantity is a world-beating obsession with quality, as Tokyo's top masters tirelessly experiment with new techniques and ingredients to carry the scene forward — all while keeping a reverent Japanese eye on tradition.    
This top 20 list is based on more than a decade of ramen hunting across Tokyo. Collectively, we've eaten over 5,000 bowls during this period. With our eating experiences in mind — along with the recommendations of Japanese ramen master friends and colleagues — we nominate these shops as the city's best ramen shops in early 2017.  
The list is alphabetized, because attempting to rank these shops, given their diversity and shared excellence, would seem both subjective and a little disrespectful to the ramen masters. In truth, there are at least 30 other Tokyo shops that should be on this list — but you have to draw lines somewhere. Happy hunting.  

"The first app in English that gets under the skin of Tokyo's ramen scene." - Vice

Style: Shoyu w/ Tonkotsu & Gyokai
Bowl to Crush: Tsukemen + Karami (つけ麺 + 辛味)

When this legendary ramen shop announced that it would be closing back in mid-2014, the masses flocked to its doors and the line for a bowl grew to an insane 3-4 hours. Benten's O.G. master, Tanaka-san, had been a pillar of the scene since his shop's debut in Takodanobaba in 1995 and we often bumped into ramen heads around town who lamented his absence. But then, suddenly, Tanaka-san announced his return in 2016, reopening a new branch of Benten in Narimasu. Again, the masses have flocked. The new shop still boasts one of the most brutal lines in Tokyo — a 1-2 hour wait at the door pretty much every day. Nevertheless, this is a must-eat bowl for all serious ramen fans — a cult tsukemen that has influenced the scene for over two decades. Only open for lunch.
Opening Hours: 11am-2:30pm
Days Closed: Tuesday
Tokyo, Nerima-ku, Asahicho 3-25-2

Style: Shoyu with Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Niboshi Ramen (煮干らーめん)

This is the quintessential Tokyo ramen shop. The tiny interior is functional and unpretentious – a throwback to ramen's humble origins – while the food is impossibly refined. There are just seven seats. Master Tanaka-san serves a few styles of ramen, including shio and tsukemen, but it's his niboshi ramen that made him famous. The bowl comes with thin, house-made noodles in a golden niboshi-shoyu soup. The only toppings are the classics: menma, chashu, and a hard-boiled egg with a perfectly gooey center. The presentation is simple; the execution is flawless. High-quality ingredients served in a simple setting, emphasizing natural flavors – it's the basis of all Japanese cuisine. After the meal, you might find yourself feeling surprisingly light, almost refreshed – it's like the gustatory afterglow usually associated with eating great sushi. [Read full review]

Opening Hours: 11am-3pm, 5pm-9pm
Days Closed: Wednesday
21-21 Yokoyamacho, Hachioji, Tokyo
東京都 八王子市 横山町 21-21

Style: Shoyu, Shio, Gyokai & Tsukemen
Bowl to Crush: Koumi Tori-dashi Tokusei Ramen, 香味鶏だし特製ラーメン

Honda commands respect throughout the Tokyo ramen world. The head shop has occupied a corner in Higashi Jujo since 2008 and still draws lines every day — pretty impressive in a city of fads of fast turnover. The shop’s master, Honda-san, serves shoyu, shio and tonkotsu-gyokai ramen, as well as tsukemen. The presentation in these bowls is fabulous. The ceramic bowls themselves have a unique pattern that is instantly recognizable to hardcore ramen junkies. On our last visit, we asked Honda-san for his recommendation and he said customers tend to split evenly between shoyu and shio. But you can’t really go wrong at Honda — just follow your mood; whatever you order will be excellent. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: Mon, Thurs & Sat: 11:30am-4pm; Tues, Fri & Sun: 11:30am-4pm, 6:30pm-10pm
Days Closed: Wednesday
1-22-6 Higashijujo, Kita, Tokyo
東京都 北区 東十条 1-22-6

Style: Shoyu w/ Clams or Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Niboshi-soba Ajitama-iri on Thurs (煮干そば 味玉入り)

Hototogisu opened to acclaim in 2006 and the shop's reputation has only soared since. The master, Yamamoto-san, is a ramen rock star. Anything he cooks these days draws crowds. The core menu at Hototogisu is shoyu and shio, both in ramen and tsukemen. All of the ingredients are natural, high quality and used only in small batches. No MSG. Yamamoto-san was one of the first Tokyo chefs to gain acclaim for using hamaguri clams as the base of his dashi. The clams add a delicate, ocean-like quality to the broth. Keep an eye out for the daily and seasonal specials as well. Yamamoto-san is constantly whipping up something innovative and ambitious. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: 11:30am-3pm, 6:30pm-10pm
Days Closed: None

Style: Tori-Paitan w/ Gyokai
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Noukou Gyokai Ramen (特製濃厚魚介らーめん) 
Sleek and minimal in every respect, this is new school Tokyo ramen at its finest. Menya Ittou opened in 2010 and has been ranked among Tokyo's top 20 ramen experiences ever since. The master, Yukihiko Sakamoto, now has five shops in the Koiwa area. This shop, the original, remains his best. Made with gyokai, tonkotsu, and chicken — the birds are specially sourced from a farm in Japan's Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo — the soup is rich, savory, and unforgettable. Along with some tender, slow-cooked buta and tori chashu, the bowls also come with ground chicken balls containing crunchy bits of cartilage and some interesting spices. The noodles are house made from six varieties of flour. Flawless. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: 11am-3pm, 6pm-10pm
Days Closed: None
1-4-17 Higashishinkoiwa Katsushika Tokyo
東京都 葛飾区 東新小岩 1-4-17

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken & Handmade Noodles
Bowl to Crush: Ramen + Ajitsuki Tamago (らーめん+味付玉子)
This tiny five-seat shop is a true hidden gem. The master, Masaru Ootomo from Fukushima Prefecture, offers shoyu ramen, miso ramen and a couple of gentei dishes (on our last visit, an elderly Japanese woman seated beside us was enjoying an amazing-looking bowl with a salmon and ikura topping — must get back to try this). Everything is exquisitely prepared, but most impressive are Ootomo-san's made-to-order noodles, prepared by hand for each and every customer. If it were a little more central, this shop would be pulling in huge crowds. As things stand, its intimate atmosphere remains intact. [Read full review]

Opening Hours: 11am-2:30pm, 6pm-9pm
Days Closed: Friday
2-14-23 Iizuka, Kawaguchi, Saitama
埼玉県 川口市 飯塚 2-14-23

Kinari | 麺処 きなり

Style: Shio & Shoyu w/ Chicken & Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Ajitama Shoyu Ramen (味玉醤油そば)
This shop opened quietly without much hype, but the word quickly spread amongst ramen heads that the apprentice of another well known Tokyo shop had opened his own outfit in Komagome. What you have here is absolute top-class shio and shoyu ramen. Niboshi-rich soup, premium toppings (including lights-out "teion chori" pork shoulder), and a grade A+++ egg. Somewhat off the radar for tourists and totally legit. The bowl comes finished with a few slices of palate cleansing sushi ginger. 
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-10pm; Sat: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-8pm
Days Closed: Sunday

Style: Shio & Shoyu w/ Handmade Noodles
Bowl to Crush: Shoyu Tokusei Ramen (醤油特製らー麺)
Kujira Shokudou's master, Shimomura-san, trained at Shichisai, an influential shop in Toritsu-kasei. The lineage can clearly be tasted in the bowls served at Kujira Shokudou. Shimomura-san's specialty is a Kitakata-style shoyu ramen, with fabulous house-made temomi noodles. Like Shichisai, the chashu here is also top level – thick, succulent and tender. This is one of those shops where you really can't go wrong – everything on the menu is skillfully prepared. Both the shoyu and shio come highly recommended, but the shop also serves miso ramen, tsukemen, abura-soba and other treats. One of the best shops on the Chuo line – a pretty badass train line for ramen shops and salaryman drinking dens. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 6pm - 1am; Sat: 11:30am-2:30pm
Days Closed: Sunday

Style: Shio w/ Chicken or Shoyu w/ Duck
Bowl to Crush: Ajitama Kamo-Soba on Fridays; Tokusei Shio Soba on all other days (味玉鴨そば or 特製塩そば)
Kuroki is the top ramen shop in Akihabara, an area of Tokyo that brings a strong ramen game. The master, Kuroki-san, is best known for his shio, which is delicate and made with chicken. He also serves a popular miso and two varieties of fresh house-made noodles for any order. All of Kuroki-san's ramen creations are special – hand prepared with high-quality ingredients – but his most unforgettable dish is only available on Fridays. At the end of each week, ramen heads descend on Kuroki for the house-specialty shoyu ramen made with duck (also available as tsukemen). The soup is duck-based and the bowl is topped with thick slabs of juicy duck meat and a thin slice of fresh Japanese kabosu citrus. There's no other bowl quite like this in Tokyo. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: Mon, Tues, Thurs & Sat: 11:30am-3pm, 6pm-9pm; Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-8:30pm
Days Closed: Sunday
東京都千代田区神田和泉町2-15 四連ビル3号館 1F

Style: Beef Ramen
Bowl to Crush: Zeitaku Yaki-Gyu Ramen (贅沢焼牛らぁ麺)
Master Iwatate-san opened Matador in 2011, just as a mini boom in gyukotsu ramen was sweeping Tokyo. Matador immediately placed itself at the forefront of the nascent scene by winning a bevvy of awards from ramen critics and Tokyo food magazines. Plainly put, this is the best gyukotsu ramen (beef bone broth) we've ever had. Nothing else comes close. Gyukotsu ramen is notoriously difficult to pull off, as beef-based soup easily becomes overpowering or takes on an icky sweetness. Getting the balance right in the bowl is said to be very tricky. Matador is lights-out. Every detail in the bowl is on-point — drinkable soup, excellent noodles and a flawless egg. And two huge slices of fresh roast beef top it off. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: Tues-Sat: 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-9pm; Sun: 11:30am-4pm
Days Closed: Monday
2-4-17 Senjuazuma, Adachi, Tokyo
東京都足立区千住東2-4-17 中村ビル1F

Mengyo | 麺魚

Style: Shio w/ Seabream
Bowl to Crush: Madai Ramen (真鯛らーめん)
One of the top new shops to open in Tokyo within the past two years, Mengyo is now drawing lines 30+ deep pretty much daily. The master trained at the famous Tokyo chain Menya Musashi and has other ramen deep-scene connections. The master makes his soup using dried Tai (Japanese seabream), sourced from the Tsukiji fish market. The soup also contains small morsels of sea bream meat and is topped with negi and yuzu. Low-temperature roasted chashu, smoked with cherry wood, to top it off. A unique and special bowl.  
Opening Hours: Tues-Sun: 11am-until soup sunds out
Days Closed: Monday
東京都墨田区江東橋 2-8-8 パークサイドマンション1F

Style: Tonkotsu & Gyokai Tsukemen
Bowl to Crush: Ramen  (特製つけ麺)
Michi, tsukemen specialty house, is currently one of Tokyo's most hyped ramen shops. The usual wait to get a seat is currently two or three hours. The shop is intimate and tiny, with just eight seats arranged around the counter directly in front of the master's workspace. Buckle up for a show. The master, Nagahama-san, prepares every detail of every dish with obsessive, methodical care. On the day of our last visit, he first laid out some fresh-sliced negi in a side dish, followed by pickled ginger with togarashi, which he explained was the day's yakumi, or spice. Next, Nagahama-san splays the toppings on a separate dish — egg, nori, chashu, a chicken meatball and some hosaki menma (a sweeter, softer variety of bamboo made from the shoot's tip). Amazing toppings and noodles aside, it's all about the soup: Made with chicken, gyogai and tonkotsu, the soup is the star here. Made with chicken, gyogai and tonkotsu, it's silkier, smoother and notably lighter than many of the top tonkotsu-gyokai soups, without sacrificing any of the depth of flavor and umami wow-factor. [Read full review]
Note: On Monday and Tuesday, Michi suspends its usual tsukemen menu and becomes 'Ramen Michi No Shio,' serving only shio ramen. The shio ramen is solid, but it doesn't touch Nagahama-san's tsukemen. 
Opening Hours: 11:30am-until soup runs out (often 6pm-7pm)
Days Closed: None
5-28-17 Kameari, Katsushika, Tokyo

Muginae | 麦苗

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Shoyu Ramen  (特製醤油らあめん)
Opened in 2016, Muginae remains one of the hottest rookie shops on the Tokyo ramen scene. The golden brown soup is made from flavorful free-range Yamagata chickens, while the tare is prepared from two varieties of specialty shoyu — one from Nagano, the other from Hyogo. The noodles are house-made with Japanese flour. Muginae is an excellent example of the ongoing Tokyo trend of exquisitely prepared shoyu ramen made with high-quality ingredients. Balance plus clean, crisp flavors — this one is an absolute winner. 
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-until soup runs out
Days Closed: Thursday

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken or Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Shamo-soba (特製軍鶏そば)
Rage is an ideal destination for the upstart ramen lover. A lot of skill and complexity goes into the bowls at Rage, but it's all very accessible and tasty — easy for both the ramen pro and apprentice to appreciate. On standard days of service, Rage's master, a young, friendly dude named Hirota-san, offers three bowls: shamo soba, (a chicken-based shoyu ramen, also known as tori-soba), niboshi ramen and maze-soba. Rage's shamo soba soup is made with two types of shoyu — ki-joyuu and kaeshi — and four types of shamo chicken, a flavor-rich variety of fighting cock that game to Japan by way of Thailand (Shamo was a corruption of the word "Siam" during the early Edo period). The obsessive, abundant use of obscure bird pays off marvelously. This soup is about as soul-satisfying as it gets. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: Mon, Wed-Sat: 11am-3pm, 6pm-9pm; Sun & Hols: 11am-4pm
Days Closed: Tuesday
3-37-22 Shoan Suginami Tokyo
東京都 杉並区 松庵 3-37-22

Style: Tonkotsu & Gyokai Double Soup
Bowl to Crush: Niboshi Ramen (らーめん)
Sansanto is open for only 2 ½ hours each day (6pm-8:30pm). The master, Gotou-san, has told us that his methods are too work intensive for him to produce enough product to stay open longer. He prepares the noodles, toppings and soup from scratch every day – and he does it all himself. Beast. Gotou-san's soup is a classic tonkotsu-gyokai. It's light and salty but the gyokai is masterfully integrated, giving the soup a hint of sweetness. The shop has a nostalgic atmosphere of old Japan. It's a hidden gem, in a hidden corner of Tokyo. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: 6pm-8:30pm
Days Closed: Monday & Thursday
3-16-15 Nakajujo, Kita, Tokyo

Shibasakitei | 柴崎亭

Style: Shio & Shoyu w/ Niboshi, Chicken & Vegetables
Bowl to Crush: Shio Niboshi-soba (塩煮干そば)
Shibasakitei is somewhat underrated in our view. The shop is clean and simple, with just one long counter and two staff working the kitchen. What to order depends on whom you ask — the shoyu wonton chūka-soba is sublime, as is the niboshi shio ramen. But the niboshi is the Ramen Beast favorite. The noodles are straight and presented ever so carefully. A broad, thin slice of chashu, menma, and some fresh Japanese mitsuba leaves finish the bowl. The soup is a sheer delight and only gets better as you delve deeper into the dish — potent, smooth niboshi, such a unique and pleasant taste. As you would expect, crazy umami going on — it's liquid Japan in a way. The mitsuba leaves add just a hint of herb-like wildness. Most impressive: it costs just 650 yen (about $6). Unbelievable cost-performance. 
Tues-Fri: 11am-2pm, 6pm-12am; Sat-Sun & Hols: 11am-4pm
Days Closed: None

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken & Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Ajitama Chashu Chūka-soba (味玉チャーシュー中華そば)
Like many of Tokyo's elite spots, it's the simplicity and balance of Shibata's bowls that make them so outstanding. The flavors and textures work perfectly together. There's nothing missing and nothing superfluous. Master Shibata-san serves both chuka soba (his variety made with shoyu and duck) and niboshi. Both are excellent, but we usually opt for the chukka soba. Chukka soba is traditionally a cheap, everyday variety of ramen, but Shibata's rendition is prepared with gourmet subtlety. The egg topping alone was possibly the best we tasted all year. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: 11am-3:30pm, 5:30pm-8:30pm
Days Closed: Tuesday (all day) & Monday (open for lunch, but closed for dinner) 
2-25-20 Wakabacho, Chofu, Tokyo

Style: Kitakata-style Shoyu
Bowl to Crush: Kitakata Niku-soba - Niboshi (喜多方肉そば 煮干)
In July 2015, Menya Shichisai, the well-regarded ramen establishment co-created by restaurateurs Yoshihiko Fujii and Hiroaki Sakata, opened a second location in Hatchobori. The menu is similar to the original shop, but the new branch has added a singularly bad-ass touch — made-to-order noodles prepared by hand for every customer. The soup is on par with the best Kitakata ramen in town — a light, crisp shoyu, with an almost acidic twang to it. Negi, menma and luscious juicy chashu top it off. But it's really all about the noodles here. The “teuchi temomimen” pounding technique gives them a slightly broad, wavy shape. They're cooked until the edges are a bit soft but the center of the noodle is still al dente. The result is a truly awesome texture and mouthfeel. These rank among the best noodles in the game. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: 11am-3:30pm, 5:30pm-9pm
Days Closed: None

Takano | 多賀野

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken & Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Chūka-soba (特製中華そば)
Located just across the street from Ebara-Nakanobu station, this amazing little ramen shop is run by a husband and wife team working in tandem. The noodles are handmade from whole wheat. The shop specialty is a delicate niboshi shoyu ramen. For each order served, the master pours the soup through a strainer full of dried niboshi directly into each bowl, further infusing the broth with the natural essence and umami of the fish. Takano also serves tsukemen and shio ramen (the latter featuring a special salt from Okinawa). A homey atmosphere meets masterful execution here — one of the best ramen experiences in Tokyo.    
Opening Hours: Mon, Thurs, Sat-Sun: 11:30am-2:30pm (or until the soup runs out); Tues & Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-8:30pm (or until the soup runs out)
Days Closed: Wednesday
2-15-10 Nakanobu, Shinagawa, Tokyo
東京都 品川区 中延 2-15-10

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Tori-Soba (特製鶏そば)
Spaghetti Os are to handmade pasta in Italy what your average chicken noodle soup is to a bowl of Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi-san serves tori soba, one of the more popular styles of ramen on the Tokyo scene recently. A shoyu ramen that uses chicken soup and chiyu (chicken oil), tori soba is typically served with straight, thin noodles topped with slices of tori chashu. Among the many notable shops serving this genre that have opened in the past couple years, we rank Yamaguchi in Nishi-Waseda among the best. Note the rich yellow layer of chiyu floating on the surface of this soup. Take a sip. Yes, that was an orgasm you just experienced – in your soul. [Read full review]
Opening Hours: Tues-Sat: 11:30am-3pm, 5:30pm-9pm; Sun & Holidays: 11:30am-5pm (or until soup runs out)
Days Closed: Monday
2-11-13 Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku, Tokyo

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