we had to swing by Tokyo Station to make some JR Pass seat reservations for a Shinkansen ride (btw, Happy 50th, Shinkansen System!) and i checked Foursquare for local dinner recommendations. i came across a high score for 六厘舎TOKYO (Rokurinsha) — one of the tips there referenced a tweet from Momofuku founder David Chang:
i think the best ramen in world is the tsukemen at Rokurinsha in Tokyo. the only ramen i'd queue up for.
— Dave Chang (@davidchang) February 15, 2013
and i was sold.
wait, what’s tsukemen?
you know regular ramen (not the instant noodle type), right? well, it’s sort of like that, except the noodles are served separately from the soup. the noodles tend to be thicker and the soup is more like a hearty and intensely-flavored stock. to eat it, you pick up some noodles, dip it in the soup, simultaneously picking up some of the goodies in there, and then pop it all in your mouth. i found it was easier to just place a whole clump of noodles into the soup at once and then eat a couple bites at a time, versus dipping every time.
the biggest problem of the night was that it wasn’t very clear where this restaurant was located. there was a Foursquare tip referencing 1st Avenue Ramen Street in the station, but we spent a good 15 minutes wandering the station looking for it. so, i’m here to help:
the key: you need to head to the Yaesu (east) side of Tokyo Station. if you’re on the Marunochi (west) side, look for signs that will guide you to the passageway the leads you eastward. once you get there, look for the sign that says Tokyo Ramen Street and follow it all the way down.
continue past the stores, continue past the line for the Garrett Popcorn (yes, the same one from Chicago…yes, seriously, a line), continue past the lines for the other ramen shops until you reach the end of the “street”. you’ll see lockers and restrooms in the corner, and Rokurinsha is right where the hallway turns. the door is around the corner but it’s likely you’ll see the line before you round it. it’s a tiny shop, with around 25-30 seats total.
if you don’t read kanji, just look for the triple hexagon logo. my parents are not used to waiting in line for things so definitely don’t tell them about how i waited for the Friends Central Perk popup! oh and that 30 minute sign (in orange) is quite accurate.
the sign there in Japanese (thanks to the Chinese translation below that my parents could read) says that you can’t wait in line until the entire party is there, and you may not leave the line except to go to the bathroom, in which case you should inform the people behind you of what you’re doing.
there may or may not be a laminated menu that gets passed down the line. if not, you might be able to get one from below the ordering machine (more on that below).
as far as we could tell, the only difference between the top two is that the more expensive one has some…whatever that thing in the lower right of the more expensive bowl is. heh, well, i’m no food expert so even though i ate it, i couldn’t tell you what it was. my dad and i got the ¥1080 one, and my mom got the top left ¥950.
when you make it to the front of the line, you may be asked to place your order at the machine while waiting for your seat. the waiter will help you if you have trouble, so don’t be afraid to ask! oh, if you want an extra large portion, you can upsize as well by selecting that button on the machine (ask for help to figure out which one).
sidebar: using an ordering machine in many smaller Japanese restaurants, you place your order using a machine right inside the entrance. after paying, it dispenses little cardstock tickets (one for each thing you ordered) that you hand to a waiter.
so, how do you work it? first, figure out what you want. insert your money in the bill and coin slots in the middle. press the buttons corresponding to the items you want to order. as you press, a ticket will pop out and the display will update to show your remaining funds. just keep doing this until your order is complete. once you don’t have enough money left to buy anything on the menu, your change will be dispensed automatically. otherwise, press the button to the right of the change cup to cash out.
look at me, so excited to eat! by the way, if they don’t give you a paper bib with your food, be sure to ask for one! tsukemen can be quite messy!
the flavoring of the stew (it’s really too thick to be called soup or broth, now that i think about it) was quite rich and even a bit overly salty. the pork slice and the egg were amazing, and i think i prefer these super fat ramen noodles (like udon-size) to the regular stringier type. the only thing i would have liked was the stew to be warmer — it seemed to be a bit too cool in parts for me. yes, it’s that thick it has parts lol.
the key thing to do, though, is at the end, when you’re out of noodles but still have stew left (and you will have stew left), is to ask for some yuzu-tinged broth to be poured in. it turns the stew into a drinkable soup, and the yuzu flavoring is great with the hearty and salty stew.
if you have some time (well, a lot of time, if there’s a line) at Tokyo Station, either after or before a train trip, it’s definitely worth a stop, especially if you haven’t had tsukemen-style ramen before (like me!). i don’t think i’m a fan of it, but i’m glad i tried it once. next time i’ll probably wait in one of the other long lines on “Ramen Street” and get something a bit more traditional — i think i prefer my ramen soupy. apologies to Mr. Chang, but let me just say i’m a big fan of your crack pie!