Ramen Beast 2019: Tokyo's 20 Best Ramen Shops

Ramen Beast 2019: Tokyo's 20 Best Ramen Shops

Sakurai Bowl3.JPG

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 hundreds 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 eye on Japanese tradition.

Our 2019 top 20 list is again based on nearly 15 years of ramen hunting across Tokyo. Some of the shops are newcomers, others are established veterans. Things change, so remember that this list is not permanent — this is a snapshot of the elite Tokyo ramen scene in early 2019.

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 100 other Tokyo shops that could be on this list. Making these calls is painful, 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

Chūka Soba Benten | 中華そば べんてん

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

A legendary shop originally located in Takadanobaba, Benten opened in 1995, serving house-made noodles in a Tokyo-style soup of chicken, pork and fish. Long lines were a daily occurrence. OG master Tanaka-san announced the shop was closing in 2014, but two years later he revealed his surprise return in Narimasu. This is a beloved shop with a strong following, boasting long lines almost every day. It's a must-eat bowl for all serious ramen fans — a cult ramen and 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

Ramen Gottsu | らーめん ごっつ

Style: Tonkotsu & Gyokai Double Soup
Bowl to Crush: GOTTSU Ramen (GOTTSU らーめん)

Gottsu is all about new-school Tokyo ramen. The shop interior is slick and spotless. The ramen is served in tall, angular white bowls. The house specialty is a velvety tonkotsu gyokai soup with the tiniest hint of sweetness. The chashu topping is sliced paper-thin and roasted in a way that calls to mind high-quality ham or bacon. Both the menma and soft-boiled egg are superb. Tiny slivers of yuzu peel top it off with some freshness. No MSG. An excellent bowl. In addition to the specialty, Gottsu also serves a niboshi with chicken ramen, as well as a tsukemen option. Order anything on the menu with confidence. Master Saitou-san apprenticed at Watanabe in Takadanobaba before founding this shop, which he runs with his wife.

Opening Hours: 11am-3pm, 6pm-9pm (Sunday open lunch only)
Days Closed: Monday & 3rd Tuesday of the Month
1-29-16 Nerima, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 176-0071

Hototogisu | SOBA HOUSE 金色不如帰

Style: Shio & Shoyu w/ Hamaguri Clams
Bowl to Crush: Ajitama Shio Soba (味玉塩そば)

Launched back in 2006, Hototogisu became known as one of the very first shops to incorporate Hamaguri clams as the main component of its soup, and one of the first to use a delicate triple soup as well. Master Yamamoto-san has tweaked the menu slightly over the years, but Hototogisu still ranks among the upper echelon of Tokyo ramen shops. The shio ramen is the recommendation here. The soup is a light, clear triple blend of Hamaguri clams, sea bream and dried gyokai (sea ingredients). On top of the bowls come extravagances like porcini mushroom duxelles sauce, golden inca berry sauce, white truffle oil and pancetta bacon bits. Noodles are homemade in the shop using six types of flour. Originally located in Hatagaya, Hototogisu moved to a new location in Shinjuku in 2018.

Opening Hours: 11:30am-3pm, 6:30pm-10pm
Days Closed: None
2-4-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0022

Ramen Kanekatsu | らーめん かねかつ

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken & Handmade Noodles
Bowl to Crush: Ramen + Ajitsuki Tamago (らーめん+味付玉子)

Master Masaru Ootomo hails from Fukushima prefecture, and runs this five-seat hidden gem just on the edge of Saitama and Tokyo. While there are several ramen options on the menu, including some limited seasonal specialties, first-timers are expected to go for the standard ramen, which comes with a clear, immaculate chicken-based soup. Everything is exquisitely crafted, but most impressive are Ootomo-san's made-to-order noodles, prepared by hand for each and every customer on an old-school, hand-cranked noodle machine.

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

Koukaibou | こうかいぼう

Style: Tonkotsu & Gyokai Double Soup
Bowl to Crush: Aji Tsuke Tamago Ramen (味付たまごらーめん)

Opened in 2001, Koukaibou was one of the first "new generation" shops to break away from traditional ramen technique and explore new territory. Taguchi-san, the shop master, does all the cooking solo and was among the early innovators to employ a double-flavor soup – now a common approach throughout the ramen world. The soup here is tonkotsu-gyokai fusion with niboshi. It's rich and smooth, but easy to drink – uncommonly light and balanced for this genre. Another interesting characteristic: this bowl has much less soup than a standard bowl of ramen. Taguchi-san has been quoted saying that he wants to create the kind of ramen that you can eat every day.

Opening Hours: Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri: 11am-3pm, 5:30pm-6:30pm; Sat & Holidays: 11am-3pm
Days Closed: Wednesday & Sunday
2-13-10 Fukagawa, Kōtō-ku, Tokyo 135-0033

MENSHO | めんしょう

Style: Shio, Shoyu & Tsukemen
Bowl to Crush: Anything

Open since December 2016, this shop has become the focal point of master Shono-san's budding ramen empire. The concept here is 'Farm to Bowl,' and adjacent to the dining area behind glass one can see a noodle-making room, where fresh wheat is ground into flour, blended, pounded and sliced into fresh noodles. All of the bowls here are sophisticated and carefully designed. Both ramen and tsukemen available, with umami-rich clear soups, fresh house-made noodles and premium toppings. The shio ramen contains a light, clear soup that is 100% ocean-based, and topped with karasumi (salted mullet roe) and scallops encrusted in charcoal-blackened negi, ma-kombu and Okinawan sea salt. The karasumi is meant to be dipped in with the noodles, while the scallop is for dipping into the soup to release the flavors of the crust. The house tsukemen contains a medium-strength shoyu soup made from ducks sourced in Iwate prefecture. The tsukemen noodles are especially exquisite — made from fresh flour that has been milled in-house, you can taste the aromatic ground wheat in every bite.

Opening Hours: 11am-3pm, 5pm-9pm
Days Closed: Monday
1-17-16 Otowa, Bunkyō-ku, Tokyo 112-0013

Mendokoro Honda | 麺処ほん田

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

Master Honda-san and his namesake shop have occupied a corner in Higashi Jujo since 2008 and they still draw lines every day. Menu offerings include shoyu, shio and tonkotsu-gyokai ramen, as well as tsukemen. The presentation is fabulous, as is the taste. With any ramen order you'll be asked to choose between hosomen (thin, straight noodles) or temomi men, which are broad, flat noodles shaped by a fist pounding from the master (the tsukemen noodles are entirely different). Both noodle varieties come from Kokoro No Aji Shokuhin. When it comes to choosing which bowl to order, go with your gut. Everything here is legit.

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

Menya Ittō | 麺屋一燈

Style: Tori-Paitan w/ Gyokai
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Noukou Gyokai Ramen (特製濃厚魚介らーめん)

Menya Ittou has ranked amongst Tokyo's finest ramen shops since it opened in 2010. Master Yukihiko Sakamoto makes his soup with gyokai, tonkotsu, and chicken — the birds are specially sourced from a farm in Japan's Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo — and it's 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.

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

Menya Kissou | 麺屋吉左右

Style: Tonkotsu & Gyokai Double Soup
Bowl to Crush: Ajitama Ramen (味玉らーめん)

Kissou is run by a dedicated husband and wife team, with no support staff. The husband makes the ramen, while the wife handles the customers. They run a strict but efficient system, and the bowls are delicious. Photos of the ramen are allowed, but no other pictures may be taken of the shop interior or staff. Kissou serves a double soup of tonkotsu and gyokai — velvety and umami-rich. The noodles are house-made, and the egg topping is elite level. Both the tsukemen and ramen are worth trying. Only open for a few hours during lunch, like many of the finest ramen shops.

Opening Hours: 11:30am-3pm
Days Closed: Wednesday & Sunday
1-11-3 Tōyō, Kōtō-ku, Tokyo 135-0016

Menya Mizukaze | 麺屋 瑞風

Style: Tori Paitan
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Tori Paitan Ramen (特製鶏白湯ラーメン)

Master Kenji Okamoto opened this small shop of just six seats in 2016. The main draw is the tori paitan ramen, with a soup made from pork, chicken meat, chicken feet, chicken skin and pork feet. The complex soup simmers for nine hours before it's ready to be served. Also on the menu is a niboshi ramen, made from two different types of niboshi and saba. Noodles are supplied by the purveyor Murakami Asahi Seimenjo. If you need heat, go for some of the death sauce available on the counter.

Opening Hours: 11:30am-2pm, 6:30pm-9pm
Days Closed: Thursday & Friday
3-11-13 Tanashichō, Nishi Tokyo-shi, Tokyo 188-0011

Menya Sakurai | 麺屋 さくら井

Style: Shoyu, Shio & Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Ramen (Shoyu) 特製らあ麺 (醤油)

Open since November 2016, Sakurai in Mitaka serves up high-quality bowls of shoyu, shio and niboshi ramen. Master Sakurai Yuta says he's trying to make refined comfort ramen that you can eat every day. The soup is composed of two varieties of chickens from Hakata and Oyama, mixed with pork bones, shiitake mushrooms, Nagasaki dried sardines, Hokkaido kombu and several kinds of katsuo. The shoyu tare contains six different soy sauces sourced from around Japan. Noodles sourced from Mikawaya Seimen, with kaedama noodle refills available for the niboshi ramen. No MSG. No flaws apparent.

Opening Hours: Mon, Thurs-Sat: 11:30am-3pm, 6pm-9pm; Tues, Sun & Holidays: 11:30am-3pm
Days Closed: Wednesday
2-15-27 Nishi Kubo, Musashino-Shi, Tokyo 180-0013

Muginae | 麦苗

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Shoyu Ramen (特製醤油らあめん)

Open since 2016, Muginae remains one of the hottest 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 trend of high-end cooking technique entering the ramen kitchen, with only carefully sourced ingredients used. 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

Niboshi Ramen En | 煮干鰮らーめん 圓

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

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 at En comes with thin, house-made noodles in a niboshi-shoyu soup. The star is the soup, a clear, flawless broth of divine umami. 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. Since its debut in May 2009, En has consistently been ranked one of the very best shops in Japan for niboshi ramen.

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

Nonokura | 手打式超多加水麺 ののくら

Style: Shoyu & Shio
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Chūka Soba Shoyu (特製中華そば醬油)

One of the best ramen shops to open in Tokyo in 2017, and commanding queues of customers ever since. Nonokura's soup stock contains whole chicken carcasses, chicken meat, four types of niboshi and kombu. The thick teuchi style noodles are made fresh every day by master Shirakaiwa-san, who trained at the well known shop Ikaruga for seven years. Premium ingredients are used in the toppings. The shop is named after Shirakaiwa-san's daughter and son, Nonoka and Kurato.

Opening Hours: 11:30am-2pm, 6:30pm-9pm
Days Closed: Sunday & Monday
3-11-11 Kameari, Katsushika, Tokyo 125-0061

Ramen Sugimoto | らぁ麺 すぎ本

Style: Shoyu & Shio
Bowl to Crush: Shoyu Tokusei Ramen (醤油 特製らあ麺)

Sugimoto-san trained at Shinasoba-ya for three and a half years under the late, great master Sano-san, before opening up his own shop in Saginomiya. This shop quickly became regarded as one of the better spots for a chicken-based shoyu and shio ramen on the west side of Tokyo, but in early 2018 he acquired the old noodle machine that Sano-san used. There is now a noodle-making room in the back of the shop pumping out freshly made noods daily — a significant enhancement to an already excellent shop. Both the shoyu and shio are lights-out here, consisting of a clear, chicken, gyokai and vegetable soup, served with toppings such as pork and chicken chashu, handmade wontons, bamboo shoots and high-end farm eggs from Nagoya. No MSG. Elite level.

Opening Hours: 11:30am-3pm, 6pm-9pm (Monday open for lunch only)
Days Closed: Tuesday (if Tuesday is a holiday then open and closed the following day)
4-2-3 Saginomiya, Nakano-ku, Tokyo 165-0032

Sansanto | 燦燦斗

Style: Tonkotsu & Gyokai Double Soup
Bowl to Crush: Ramen (らーめん)

Sansanto is open for only 2 ½ hours each day (6pm-8:30pm). The master, Gotou-san, says 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. Gotou-san's soup is a classic tonkotsu-gyokai double soup. 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.

Opening Hours: 6pm-8:30pm
Days Closed: Monday & Thursday
3-16-15 Nakajujo, Kita, Tokyo

Shibata | 中華そば しば田

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken & Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Ajitama Chashu Chūka-soba (味玉チャーシュー中華そば)

Master Shibata-san served his apprenticeship at Raku-Raku in Kichijoji. He serves chuka soba and niboshi soba — both bowls are outstanding. Chukka soba is traditionally a cheap, everyday variety of ramen, but Shibata's rendition is prepared with gourmet subtlety using premium ingredients, such as duck and hamaguri clam-based shoyu soup. If you want a fishier-based soup then you can't go wrong with the niboshi soba. The marinated egg topping is elite level and not to be missed. Noodles supplied by the purveyor Mikawaya Seimen. An award-winning shop since its debut in 2013.

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

Takano | 多賀野

Style: Shoyu w/ Chicken & Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Chūka Soba (特製中華そば)

Takano is run by a husband and wife team, and it sits right across from Ebara-Nakanobu station. The shop is consistently ranked one of the top ramen shops in Tokyo. The noodles are handmade from whole wheat. The 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 the 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 overall in Tokyo.

Opening Hours: Mon, Thurs, Sat-Sun: 11:30am-2:30pm (or until soup runs out); Tues & Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm, 6pm-8:30pm (or until soup runs out)
Days Closed: Wednesday
2-15-10 Nakanobu, Shinagawa, Tokyo
東京都 品川区 中延 2-15-1

Tsukemen Michi | つけ麺 道

Style: Tonkotsu & Gyokai Tsukemen
Bowl to Crush: Tokusei Tsukemen (特製つけ麺)

With one of the finest bowls of tsukemen in all of the land, Michi is an esteemed stop on the Tokyo scene. The double soup is made with chicken, tonkotsu and gyokai, and it's surprisingly silkier and smoother than many of the other top-level shops of the same genre. The noodles come from the prestigious Kanejin noodle purveyor, and the toppings are laid out with precision and care by master Nagahama-san, who trained at the legendary Mendokoro Honda. A shop that consistently draws a long line for one of its precious eight seats, and for good reason.

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

Uchoku (迂直)

Style: Shoyu Tsukemen
Bowl to Crush: Katsuo Kombu Dashi Tokusei Tsukemen (鰹昆布出汁特製醤油つけ麺)

Uchoku opened in December 2018 and is one of the hottest new shops on the scene. The shop has just seven seats and a small noodle room in the back where the handmade noodles are cranked out each morning. The main offering here is tsukemen, and the fresh noodles are served in a kombu dashi. The shoyu soup consists of a chicken base along with katsuobushi and kombu — crisp and smooth. Rather than asking for wari-soup after you finish your noodles, you pour the remaining kombu dashi from your noodle bowl into your soup. An elite new-school style shop, sure to attract waves of fans throughout 2019.

Opening Hours: 11:30am-3pm
Days Closed: Monday & Thursday
3-10-16 Amanuma, Suginami-Ku, Tokyo

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

Ramen Beast: Tokyo's Best Tsukemen Experiences

Ramen Beast: Tokyo's Best Tsukemen Experiences