Charged recently with the responsibility of finding one unique ramen restaurant out of thousands in Tokyo, my research led me to Nagi Golden Gai. There are five Nagi restaurants in Tokyo (and two in Hong Kong), each with a different concept.
It was the style of ramen and the location that attracted me. As I was staying in the popular Shinjuku area, it was an easy and interesting walk to Golden Gai through Kabukicho—the entertainment and red light district. The Golden Gai district lies within Kabukicho and feels like old world Tokyo, with narrow alleys full of old houses that were once brothels and are now primarily bars.
The Nagi Golden Gai experience is fascinating—from the walk up and down the stairs, to the wait for a call through a tube, to the two types of noodles and the unique broth made with niboshi—dried baby sardines. With just ten counter seats in cramped quarters, you'll be rubbing elbows with your neighbors. Order interesting sides like chicken skin in ponzu or collagen-filled tonsoku (pig's foot), and your counter space will be full—especially if you're dipping your noodles tsukemen-style. (I highly recommend it.)
Nagi Golden Gai
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.