Lovingly called Baba by the locals, Takadanobaba has justifiably gained a reputation as one of Tokyo’s best and fiercest Ramen battlegrounds. The suburb boasts several of the well-known chains such as Ippudo and Ramen Jiro along with a host of other good places. But tucked away down a back alley, with an entrance you could easily miss, is one clear winner – Watanabe Ramen.
Despite the song “Walk on by” playing on my entrance (something I had done several times trying to find the place), I sat down to try out a bowl and was richly rewarded, by not only the refined atmosphere of the store (8 seats around a small counter and one chef), but also by the thick, rich and intense tonkotsu-gyokai (pork bone and fish) soup.
The 1980s classic “Let’s get physical” by Olivia Newton John was playing at the time my bowl of Ramen came. The words “let me hear your body talk” seemed particularly appropriate, and after a few full flavoursome mouthfuls of the broth, I was certainly listening. The soup was not for the faint hearted, as it felt and tasted like several bowls of Ramen flavour had been packed into one – the faint gyokai (fish) flavour becoming more and more noticeable as the meal continued. The pre-heated ingredients on the noodle gauze was a nice touch, as were the thick rectangular cut almost brick-like menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), and the onsen egg was perfectly boiled yet deliciously runny on the inside.
The chef wore a traditional “No Ramen. No Life” t-shirt and a sign encouraged @WatanabeJuan on Twitter. Perhaps this is the chef. Perhaps it is the official account. Whoever. Whatever. Watanabe Ramen was a real standout and definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in Baba.
Do you agree? Disagree? Have you been there? Let me know by leaving a comment.
Opening Hours: 11:00am － 20:00pm
Address in English: 2-1-4 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo-to 169-0075
Address in Japanese: 〒169-0075 東京都新宿区高田馬場2-1-4