Its fans are legion, and its patrons almost exclusively men. Debates about Ramen Jiro rage across chat rooms, message boards, and spill over to the streets of Tokyo. Jiro is the Sarah Palin of ramen joints. You either love Ramen Jiro or you despise it. There are no ambivalent attitudes to be found regarding this Tokyo mini empire.
The queues are long and they move glacially slow for a ramen-ya. Once you sit down for a bowl of their ramen you’ll know why. This is not fast food. This is a 15 round winner take all fight to the finish. And it will take all 15 rounds. The light of heart or of digestion need not apply. Things can get real ugly.
There are more than 30 Ramen Jiro branches spread across the Tokyo metro area. It’s that popular. I sampled the original location in Mita right in the shadow of Keio University. I’m told it’s the oldest and still the best of all the Jiro outlets. One things for sure, its success certainly hasn’t spilled over into their interior design. This branch is as sparse as probably the day it opened. There’s counter space for about 20 seats. The only “decoration” is a bunch of vintage Keio University placards on the wall.
The setup is the ubiquitous ticket machine system. You pre-pay for your ramen from the machine, a ticket spits out, and you hand your ticket to the counter person once you sit down. As with most cult ramen joints there’s not a lot of choices. You get order the the tonkotsu ramen (in various sizes), extra chashu, cabbage, bean sprouts, and chopped garlic. That’s about the full depth of your options.
Ramen Jiro produces the most “unique,” bowl of noodles I’ve ever eaten, or more accurately, tried to eat. The “soup” is tonkotsu based but there’s a also a heavy oil slick layer of pork fat. I would conjecture that if you allowed the gravy (and it’s more gravy than soup) to cool to refrigerator temperature the liquid would form a solid fatty mass. The noodles themselves are as thick as udon and perhaps twice as heavy. Then there’s the chashu that’s more fat than meat. Add a healthy dose of wilted cabbage, and bean sprouts. Perhaps there as a de-greasing agent? Top all this off with a liberal (and I mean lunatic fringe) optional amount of chopped garlic. This is a bowl Ramen Jiro.
I don’t know if I should characterize this stuff as food, or the most diabolical/efficient calorie delivery vehicle ever devised by man. Many cannot finish their first bowl of Ramen Jiro. I know I couldn’t finish my first (and last) bowl. Heck, I couldn’t finish half of it. Eat a bowl of this stuff and you won’t be hungry for the next 24+ hours.
Porkfat-a-palooza. I have re-occuring nightmares about this ramen. It is the greasiest, ungliest, vilest, filthiest, bowl of ramen that I’ve ever attempted to eat. If this ramen were sex it would rated beyond triple-x, and banned internationally as crime against humanity. We are talking way beyond bukkake or DP. I feel ashamed just remembering the experience.
Needles to say, I am not a fan of Ramen Jiro. And I can’t fathom why anyone would be other than the sheer gross out and challenge factor. People who like Ramen Jiro are the same people who try to eat 10 pound hamburgers.
And yet, people genuinely love this place. Rameniac gave Jiro perfect 10s across the board! And he’s not the only one. You don’t get to 30+ locations without a loyal fan base. Honestly, this place leaves me scratching my head bewilderment. I guess there’s no accounting for taste.
2-16-4 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Near Keio University