chukasoba tomita: chukasoba tomita and the case of the impossible egg
Blame Taishoken, for Tokyo ramen has, in recent years, become synonymous with precisely two things: tsukemen dipping noodles and multi-broth blended soups. Old school shoyu ramen masters may well lament the overwhelming popularity of the trend; late one night at the legendary Ganso Ebisu Ramen, the influential Shibata-san, creator of the namesake Ebisu ramen substyle, sighed with mock exasperation when I mentioned a few of his new generation rivals, shops which routinely sit atop the city’s ramen rankings. Shibata’s modest little operation in Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s premier traditional shoyu ramen-ya, yet you could hear a green onion drop with nary another customer in sight while I was there one evening.
Chukasoba Tomita is Ganso Ebisu’s polar opposite, the very cream of the newfangled competition. Nestled in suburban Matsudo, this likewise unassuming corner restaurant (the owner lives upstairs) sits way, way out in Chiba prefecture some forty minutes from central Tokyo by train. The place routinely trounces Menya Kissou, TETSU, and all the rest, dominating Ramen Database scorecards with the top spot on the 2009 and 2010 annual and all time rankings. So is it the best ramen shop ever? Well, that would be a stretch, as the Tokyo-centric database users skew heavily towards the region’s most popular styles - again, tsukemen and gyoukai.
Best ever or not, take that afternoon train ride from central Tokyo on the Joban line to Matsudo station, walk two blocks and you’ll find yourself staring inexplicably at a queue at least twenty to thirty deep even in rain. Assuming you’re a fan of the style, Tomita indeed lives up to the hype. It’s everything Kissou is and more, with robust and chewy noodles and a thick, hearty dipping broth that hits you like a shot to the gut, full of wafu shoyu flavor and and torigara chicken bone density. It’s not quite perfect; I’m of the opinion that that the udon-like noodles are too slippery to drag enough broth from bowl to mouth during slurping, and I found Kissou’s to suffer from much the same problem. But on all other fronts, Tomita’s got them beat. Think rock and roll; these guys are cranked up to eleven, while the competition is stuck on nine and a half.
The real miracle of my late lunch at Tomita, however, was an oft-overlooked component of the dish. Simply put, the hanjuku tamago, the half-boiled egg, had been prepared to such a state that one could hardly fathom its existence in the material world. The egg white, ever so gingerly set on its perimeter, had remained runny, while the outer shell of the yolk had similarly firmed up. There’s no way this is possible, I’d thought. Best ramen shop ever? I don’t know, but there’s obviously some witchcraft at work.
|tomita's gyoukai is thick, gritty, strong and brash. a perfect liquid for dipping tsukemen noodles, it's punchier and fuller-flavored than any other gyoukai i've had. must explain why this place routinely sits atop the ramen database rankings.||10|
|chewy and slippery with an udon-like texture, these noodles have great tooth and bite. my only complaint is that the dipping soup kind of slides right off the strand, or gets flung clear across the counter or on your clothes. wear a bib?||9|
|perhaps the chashu is a touch more restrained than the one at menya kissou, but the egg is the real miracle. i simply can't fathom how they did it.||9.5|
|with such a hearty portion of noodles, who has room for side dishes?||NA|
|a tiny little corner shop on a narrow street in the far-flung suburbs of the capital city, the place is packed even in rain. it's as quintessential as you can get, right down to the shredded lantern.||8|
|truly one state-of-the-art gyoukai slurping experience, perhaps as good as tokyo gets in that regard.||10|