Tsuta | Japanese Soba Noodles 蔦
Style: Shoyu & Shio w/ Chicken
Bowl to Crush: Ajitama Shoyu Torisoba | 味玉醤油そば
Tsuta debuted in 2012 and has been rated among the best ramen shops in Tokyo since. The master, Oonishi-san, spent time working at a much-loved shop in Yoyogi called Mejiro, which sadly closed its doors several years ago. But ever since he opened Tsuta it’s been nothing but accolades.
The shop is simple and neat, tucked away down a quiet side street a few minutes on foot from Sugamo station. The specialties here are shoyu ramen and shio ramen, but they also offer a few other options. Everything served is stunning, of course, but try the shoyu if it’s your first visit.
Oonishi-san’s shoyu soup is dark and clear, with a broad but subtle flavor. Note the layer of golden chiyu (chicken oil) glistening on the surface. Fabulous. The noodles are housemade; the egg and chashu topping are both impeccable. It’s all very simple, balanced and classically Japanese. A couple years ago, Oonishi-san tinkered with the menu and began putting a dob of black truffle oil into each bowl. The earthiness of the truffle balances surprisingly well with the deep homeyness of the shoyu — a gourmet touch that compliments rather than distracts: props.
The truffle tweak seems to have struck a chord, too — at least with the French. On December 1, 2015, Tsuta became the first ramen shop in Japan to be awarded a Michelin star.
Tsuta was already a respected spot on the Tokyo scene, drawing a sizable line every day (partly because of how easy it is to access compared to many of Tokyo’s other elite shops, as it sits just a few minutes from a central stop on the Yamanote Line). But ever since the star, the lines have become simply insane. In order to avoid causing too much disturbance in the local neighborhood, Tsuta has had to institute a special ticketing system to control the crowds. If you’d like to visit for lunch or dinner, you now must line up in the morning for a ticket, which specifies a time when you can come back to eat your bowl. The line-up for lunch tickets begins at 7:30am, and the wait often runs over two hours long.
While Tsuta’s cooking, service and respect for the game are absolutely unimpeachable, it’s important to note that this is not “the best ramen shop in Japan,” no matter what Michelin might suggest. There are at least 20 other shops in central Tokyo alone working in equally rarified air — trying to pick one ramen shop as Tokyo's best would be subjective to the point of ridiculousness. All of which isn’t to say you shouldn’t go to Tsuta if you’ve never been before. Go. Eat. Be amazed.
Opening Hours: Tue-Fri: 11:30am-3pm, 6pm-9pm; Sat-Sun, Holidays: 11am-3pm
Days Closed: Monday
東京都豊島区巣鴨1-14-1 Plateau-Saka 1F
1-14-1 Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo