En | 煮干鰮らーめん圓
Style: Shoyu with Niboshi
Bowl to Crush: Niboshi Ramen (煮干らーめん)
When friends ask, we tend to say that it's impossible to pick a favorite ramen shop in all of Tokyo. There are just too many ramen masters working at the very highest level. But if we were forced to pick one bowl to rule them all, En would be among the front-runners.
This is the quintessential Tokyo ramen shop. The tiny interior is functional and unpretentious – a throwback to ramen's humble origins – but 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.
Niboshi-shoyu ramen is an extremely popular genre in the Japanese ramen world, and it's especially prevalent in Tokyo. Within the category, Tanaka-san is a champion. He's revered by ramen geeks. Since its debut in May 2009, En has consistently been ranked one of the best shops in Japan.
The bowl comes with thin, house-made noodles in a 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 food.
The star here is the soup, a clear niboshi-shoyu. If there's one bowl that might teach you the essence of Japanese ramen, this is it. The balance of the soup becomes increasingly apparent as you eat. After the meal, you might find yourself feeling surprisingly light, almost refreshed – it's like the gustatory afterglow usually associated with eating great sushi. Not finishing your soup here would be criminal – it's straight gold.
En often offers a side dish of fresh raw egg with soy sauce served over white rice ('nama-tamago gohan'). Occasionally, the staff will present you with a wooden box to choose an egg from. Various eggs lie in a bed of wheat husks with little paper labels indicating their origin. For example, on a given day they might have a duck egg from Tochigi and an extra-golden chicken egg from Nagoya. Choose your egg.
En is based in Hachioji, an hour west of Shinjuku by express train. Luckily, it's only a five-minute walk from the station. There are many superb shops in Hachioji. Exploration is what the ramen game is all about.
En | 煮干鰮らーめん圓
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