I once read that there are over 20,000 ramen restaurants in Tokyo. That's a lot of noodle slurping for one city. We're talking about dedicated ramen shops, with primary focus on just one food item, like many restaurants in Japan. When you go to a ramen shop, you get in line, order, eat while the soup is hot and before the noodles get soft, and get out. No cocktails, no lounging about with your friends, no lingering. A recommended seven minutes to finish your ramen, then hit the road. (Yes, I'm a bit bitter about the two-hour wait at Ippudo that prevented me from trying the ramen during a recent trip to New York City.)
Furthering my love of ramen in Japan, many of these restaurants specialize in just one type of broth. For example, some serve only tonkotsu (like liquid bacon, made with pork bone broth), while some serve only shoyu (soy sauce based, typically made from chicken bones and using wavy noodles, and my personal favorite). Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised to find an old-fashioned niboshi broth, made from dried baby sardines (see more about broths and flavorings in our ramen style guide).
With so many quality restaurants serving ramen at reasonable prices (you'll rarely pay more than $10 for a bowl), it's tempting to travel throughout Tokyo tasting bowls of noodles. For me, stomach space and concerns about cholesterol become the biggest obstacles. After sampling my fair share over the years, I present eight of my favorite ramen bowls to try in Tokyo in the slideshow.
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