Ramen shop Aoba in Nakano

Ramen is one of those foods that exist beyond my understanding, simply because I can’t (or choose not to) eat food that contains red meat or chicken. (It should also be said that I’m not a huge fan of noodle soups like udon for example so I don’t feel like I’m missing so much.) So, I stand outside on occassion, especially when the shop is “famous,” and wonder a bit what all the fuss is about. This particular shop, in Nakano (one of Tokyo’s “Ramen Towns” apparently), is called Aoba and Naoko confirms that it is indeed famous and consistently in the top 10 of ramen establishments. I’ll leave those assessments to the aficionados but will chime in that it is certainly on my current short list of top 10 fascinating shop exteriors in Tokyo.

Click here for the series.

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15 Responses to Ramen shop in Nakano – Aoba

  1. Quinlan says:

    Excellent series. I’ve been meaning to eat at Aoba for a couple years now. The 1-hour lines have always scared me away though. I usually limit myself to 30-minute lines.

    In the photos there didn’t seem to be too many people waiting. Maybe I’ll give it another try sometime soon.

    If you don’t like udon, how do you feel about somen or zaru soba?

  2. Dirk says:

    I love ramen. It puzzles me that it is virtually unknown in the west, all people seem to know is sushi, a real shame. I also like the culture of ramen-mania, people chasing all over the country to find THE soup.

    Anyway, looks like Q and I have to tackle that one on our own.

  3. Kurt says:

    Quinlan-
    thanks for commenting. You should know that all these photos come from weekdays, and not at prime time lunch hour. I have shot similar stuff on the weekend but didn’t use it as it was Medium Format stuff and didn’t really fit as such, but trust me, you want lines there are definitely lines on the weekend. (So the short answer is go on weekdays). Also, when I was there the day I took the last photo of the woman cleaning, that was only about 1:30 p.m. I couldn’t really figure out if they were closed that day (a Thursday) or they had closed up shop early (I read they sometimes do that if they “run out”).

    As for other noodle dishes, they’re “okay” (udon being preferable to soba or somen) but not something I seek out unless it’s the cold of winter and I’m looking for a cheap tachigue bowl of kake-udon to warm me up. There’s just something about soups in general that I don’t like, I always feel I get full on the broth and not on something substantial.

    Dirk- sushi a shame! shame on you 🙂

  4. Gary says:

    Ramen is SO overrated – I just don’t get it. Now and then, I think I want to eat it, but then I order it, and I am reminded how oily and heavy it is, then I don’t eat it again for another 6 months or so. Now soba and udon, they are pretty healthy and very tasty. Down with oily noodles, hurrah for healthy ones!

  5. kevin says:

    Great ending to the series with that last photo, Kurt.

  6. William says:

    Noodles are the only Japanese food i really enjoy, the rest i generally loathe and endure. The best noodle shop i have been to is called Bikuya and is located on the side of a winding road somewhere in the forrested hills of southern Gunma a few km off route 406. The restaurant is owned by a delightful family and has many points of interst beside the quality of the food, such as the open hearth at which they cook and smoke fish from a stocked (sorry)indoor pond. I find a trip to Bikuya after relaxing in one of the many onsen in the area most acceptable. The soup contains fresh herbs etc. from the owners garden and, unlike some noodle dishes, is not found wanting in terms of taste. I havn’t tasted anyhting like them anywhere ele, they are simply magnificent. The noodles are like flat udon(do these have a name?), but not quite so worm-like in texture as some (yes, i tried a worm once). Check it out for a real taste sensation.

  7. james says:

    soba! soba! soba!

  8. charlie says:

    Shame indeed on you Mr Easterwood.
    Know your udon.
    First, it has no similarity to ramen. You might just as well say ‘I don’t like ramen so I don’t like soup.’
    Secondly, you can have non-soupy udon.
    Suggest you go down to Shikoku for a holiday and enjoy the almost infinite varieties of udon.
    Charlie.

  9. maria says:

    Hi. I’m a Japanese girl (from Yokohama) , living in Germany and studying violin. I have no idea who You are and if I may write here.
    Anyway, I found Your Japanese pictures are so beautiful and I haven’t thought that Japan, the disorderly Tokyo can taken photograph so nice.
    What I regret, the Japanese people want to copy Europe and USA too mach. So I hoped from Your photos if they could find that their country is also nice like EU or so.
    I’m sure that I wrote English so bad. Sorry

    All the best.

    maria

  10. Kinki says:

    Love the photo – speaks volumes about the salaryman culture, so critical to Japan (for better or worse). I myself am not a lover of ramen. I just don’t like runny soups.

  11. Jonah says:

    I love ramen, especially the really hot, spicy kind. Yeah it’s not that good for you, but it tastes great. There’s a great ramen chain here in Hokkaido called “Aji no Tokeidai” and they have the best “gekki-kara” ramen. Hokkaido noodles are also thicker and have a deeper color to them. There’s nothing like a bowl of spicy hot ramen and a side dish of gyoza.

  12. Quinlan says:

    Okay, so Dirk and I went to Ramen to try out their famous Chu-ka Soba (ramen). I got the “toku-sei” which features extra meat and a seasoned egg.

    It was quite good, but it doesn’t rate up in my top 10 places for ramen. It just goes to show that personal preference is the main factor in deciding what is really good in terms of any food. My favorite ramen shops make the top 100 ramen lists, but generally don’t make it past the 30 mark.

    The ramen that I find to be truly divine has a bit stronger broth. I recommend Hakatenjin (博多天神)in the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku, Santoka (山頭火)(above Milord in Shinjuku) or on the same alley as Aoba in Nakano, and Koumen, which can be found in Ikebukuro, Ueno, Shinjuku and Yoyogi. (If you go to Koumen (光麺), definitely get the Tantan men. They have the best tantanmen that I have EVER eaten.)Ajigen (味元) in Ikebukuro on Rikkyo-dori is a my favorite spot for spicy miso ramen. (Get the O-ro-chonn at Ajigen.)

  13. Quinlan says:

    Ack, should have proofread before I posted that. I meant that we went to AOBA, not some magical place simply called Ramen.

  14. mark says:

    I have to admit ramen is one of my guilty pleasures. For our wedding anniversary we got Grandma to babysit and could have gone anywhere but had ramen from down the street. Need to find a smoke-free shop then we can all go.

    Though I would agree with Gary in saying it is over rated espically all the teevee coverage. I like what I like and don’t need a taranto to tell me it’s UUUUUMAIIII!

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