Kinmaru Ramen

With a bigger reputation for luxury shopping and lavish dining, Ginza may not have earned a spot on the list of Tokyo areas for cheap eats or ramen shops. That is not to say that these gems don't exist in Ginza. They do. They just don't dominate Ginza. There is a place for excellent tonkotsu ramen in Ginza and that is at Kinmaru. Thanks to some web search and ramen blogs, this place is a wonderful find.

We walk in, select and pay for our choices at the vending machine located right at the door. Our ramen tickets are dispensed from the vending machine. We go up to the counter and get a seat for ourselves. Aren't ramen shops in Japan fun that way? As soon as we are seated, one of the two men working behind the counter (which is also the kitchen) walks over and takes our ramen tickets. He then proceeds to ask us a question in Japanese and of course we suddenly blank out on what he is asking. We say to him "Eigo o hanasemasu ka?" (Do you speak English?) and then to find out that he doesn't. He then proceeds to prepare our ramen behind the counter. We make ourselves comfortable on the high top seats and then of course only at this time we finally realize what he just tried to ask us: how firm we'd like our noodles to be. At Kinmaru, the noodles can be boiled up to 5 different levels of firmness depending on the diner's preference. We learnt about this from Ramenate before heading to Kinmaru and then only to forget to say bari (hard) to the young man working at Kinmaru. I imagine it to be quite a challenge for the young man, a Japanese-only speaking person, to attempt asking and describing in English the different al dente levels that can be prepared for the noodles! Note: According to Ramenate, the 5 options are: yawame, bari, bari bari (very hard), mecha bari (super hard), and kona otoshi (noodles are plunged into boiling water just long enough to remove the flour).

My bowl of tonkotsu ramen and T's order of tsukemen arrive, and the noodles are presumably boiled to a default level of the normal or popular choice. At Kinmaru, tonkotsu ramen is served with thin-strand noodles while thicker noodles are used for tsukemen. For tsukemen, the noodles and broth are served separately with the purpose of dipping the noodles into the bowl of intensely flavored bowl of broth before getting slurped into the mouth. The noodles for my tonkotsu ramen are somewhere between soft and firm; T's noodles for his tsukemen go toward the firm side. The tonkotsu broth is deliciously flavorful without the slightest hint of a porky smell that could be a potential turn-off. It's rich without being too thick if you wanted to drink the broth up until the last drop. In addition to the slices of chashu pork that have come to be expected of ramen, a spoonful of stewed pork belly is added to the bowl. The noodles for the tsukemen come with a good amount of different toppings instead of the usual plain serving of noodles. Besides the chashu pork, there are sprouts, nori (seaweed), and scallions.

How do you make a tasty bowl of ramen even more tasty? On the counter are bowls of condiments-- raw garlic cloves (with garlic press) and pickled vegetables. We press some raw garlic into our noodles and they noticeably perk up the already tasty broth. As for the pickled vegetables, I like to eat them straight from my spoon to my mouth without mixing them with my noodles. But that's just me.

1-13-10 Ginza

Look for the two standing white banners at the entrance.

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