Rage | 麺尊RAGE
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 connoisseur and apprentice to appreciate.
The vibe at Rage is youthful and easygoing. In both style and substance, the shop represents the next generation of the Tokyo scene. Located down a shotengai in the quirky neighborhood of Nishi-Ogikubo, the interior is simple and spacious. Street art made by the master's friends covers the walls; skateboards and single-speed bikes are often parked at the entryway. True to its name, the shop was blasting Rage Against the Machine and old school hip hop on our first visit.
Rage's master, a young, friendly dude named Hirota-san, previously ran a shop in Shinjuku called Niboshi Chuka-Soba Tsukemen Suzuran. He's good friends with Kazuto Iwamoto, the founder of Yotsuba in Kawajima Saitama. Iwamoto-san has served as something of a mentor to Hirota-san, and the mutual respect of the two masters can be tasted in the similarity of their elite-level tori-soba dishes.
On standard days of service, Rage offers three bowls: shamo soba, (a chicken-based shoyu ramen, also known as tori-soba), niboshi ramen and maze-soba. All three are excellent, but the shamo soba is probably Hirota-san's most popular bowl. A tokusei extra-topping option is available for each dish.
Rage's shamo soba soup is made with two types of shoyu — ki-joyuu and kaeshi — and four types of shamo chicken. Shamo is 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). Hirota-san uses shamo chickens sourced from a few different farms around the country, including "Tokyo shamo" (farmed near the capital), "Aomori shamo-rokku" (Aomori = city in Japan's northern Tohoku region), "Tochigi ougon shamo" (Tochigi = an area north of Tokyo; ougon = golden), "Tosa shamo" (Tosa is the old name for Kochi Prefecture).
The obsessive, abundant use of obscure bird pays off marvelously. This soup is about as soul-satisfying as it gets. Slurp it up, drink it down. Hirota-san is shooting for the stars and he's already chasing some of the tori-soba greats — shops like Toy Box, Yamaguchi and Kanekatsu.
The young master is also a pro when it comes to toppings. Unless you're a light eater, you'll definitely want to order the tokusei here.
Hirota-san's tori-chashu, prepared teion chouri-style (air-packed and slow-cooked at a low temperature), is some of the tenderest we've tasted in town. There are two types of buta chashu in the bowl. The less fatty of the two is made from Japanese kinka ham, a variety of dry-cured Chinese ham that is traditionally used in Chinese soups. Kinka pigs are raised on a diet without grain, which results in a leaner meat. After the hind legs of the pigs are salted and hung in a breezy spot to dry, a mold forms on the exterior as the ham matures underneath. The process is similar to the way bonito is cured in Japan, so it's sometimes referred to as "bonito ham" here. More trivia: The unique maturation process involved in kinka ham curing alters the chemical composition of the fat, making its structure more similar to plant-based fats. All of which is to say: Rage's toppings are pretty fucking great.
For menma, Hirota-san serves a house-made osaki menma — a sweeter, less fibrous variety that uses the tip of the shoot. The egg topping is legit. All of the bowls are finished with a few sprigs of kaiware (radish sprouts).
Rage's noodles are supplied by the renowned Tokyo noodle company, Mikawaya Seimen. Many of Tokyo's best shops get their noodles from Mikawaya. Some hardcore Japanese ramen geeks even claim they can guess exactly which product line a particular shop serves. One ramen head told us he thinks Rage uses Mikawaya Seimen's noodle no. 22 (could be true!).
Rage's niboshi ramen is just as excellent at the shamo soba. It's lightly bitter with a nice umami undertow. Again, there's a lot going on here. Hirota-san puts four varieties of niboshi into the soup — baby anchovy, shirose (a kind of sardine), iwashi (standard sardine), and mackerel. Also in the mix: konbu, yakiboshi (dried, slow-grilled fish) and a little house-made niboshi oil made from shirose soaked in shirashimeyu (refined canola oil).
If you're in a no soup mood, go for the maze-soba. It comes with a smoked egg yolk, which infuses the whole dish with rich, slow-smoked goodness. A slice of lemon freshens it up. It's like a soup-less ramen BBQ in a bowl — fucking outstanding.
Every Monday, Hirota-san runs a "Monday Ramen" special, suspending the shop's usual menu to flex his muscles and do some experimenting. Sometimes he'll prepare an extra pungent niboshi, other days it’s some experimental tori soba. You can count on high-quality, whatever the master is trying out. It's a nice way to keep things interesting for his local fans.
Rage | 麺尊RAGE
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