Chuuka Soba Manchiken (中華そば 満鶏軒); The Foie Gras Ramen, Kinshicho
Manchiken opened earlier this year when their owner decided to move the main store, Madai Ramen Mengyo, to Kinshicho for a bigger operating area. As the space across the street was also open, he decided to open up a second ramen restaurant. The result is this incredible Kamo (duck) based ramen that has captured the palette of Tokyo ramen enthusiasts. Although only opened for less than a year, it has risen rapidly through ramendb and tabelog’s ramen rankings and sits above the main store, Mengyo, for both.
What makes this restaurant (as well as their main restaurant Mengyo) great for ramen lovers and casual diners is that they are open from 11:00-21:00 every day with no break. Since the restaurant doesn’t close between lunch and dinner hours (like most popular ramen restaurants in Tokyo), the lines are usually short during off peak hours and easily accessible even if you’re stopping by for a quick bite. Be careful through as they sometimes have specialty seasonal menus that attract huge crowds and long lines. If you’re lucky, however, you might get to meet the owner, who worked previously outside of ramen, and takes especially good care to thank each and every one of his customers at the door. The owner’s immense dedication and appreciation for his customers have made this restaurant a huge favorite among both ramen and gourmet fans.
The basic ramen here is the Kamo (duck) Chuuka Soba in either Shio or Shoyu tare varieties. Both are quite good although I prefer the Shoyu as it has a bit more depth in its flavor. The Shio is very gentle and you can taste the duck broth unadulterated, but I think it lacks a bit of the complexity the Shoyu flavor provides. Each bowl is topped with a couple slices of duck breast, few cubes of duck thighs, a sprinkle of citrus zest, blanched mustard leaves, and a few sprinkles of leek. They also provide a rice bowl set that includes a healthy scoop of rice topped with green onions, duck cubes, and a bit of citrus zest.
The broth from the duck is incredibly flavorful and the other ingredients of the broth help eliminate the gaminess that duck broth tends to have. The Shoyu tare is just the right level of intensity that it doesn’t overpower the duck broth and rather helps accentuate its flavor. My favorite part of the bowl is the bit of rendered duck fat oil that sits on the surface of the soup. Each strand of their perfectly made flat noodles gets coated with this thin layer of duck fat and makes for an incredibly flavorful bite, each and every time. The blanched mustard leaves brings a nice sweetness to the bowl and the citrus zest helps to cut through the fattiness so as not to bore you with fat with every spoonful. If you opted for the rice bowl be sure to leave some soup for later. You’ll want to pour some soup in to your rice bowl at the end to make an incredible duck porridge that you won’t want to miss out on.
Another popular menu item here is the Tsukesoba, their interpretation of the tsukemen. The one pictured is the Tokusei, or deluxe version, which includes extra duck slices as well as a marinated half boiled egg. As the duck broth base is quite concentrated, even though the tsukemen soup isn’t thick or dense, it makes for quite a flavorful bowl. The soup is served pipping hot so be careful not to burn yourself from the duck fat that coats the surface of the soup. To be honest, besides a bit more concentrated broth base than the regular Chuuka Soba, there isn’t much to separate the two, so I’d recommend just choosing based on your preference. If you like tsukemen more than regular ramen, this will more than satisfy your need without feeling like you missed out.
Finally, their most memorable bowl is this Abura Soba, or mixed, oil noodles. If you’re unfamiliar with this style, Abura Soba is a variety in which noodles are placed on a bed of condensed soup and oil. You are provided with just enough of the soup and oil mixture that it evenly coats your noodles and toppings when mixed together. What makes this the most memorable and probably the most popular menu item is that each bowl is provided with a healthy serving of foie gras as a topping. The decadent foie gras pairs perfectly with this dish as it would likely melt and disintegrate in to the soup if provided in their ramen bowl or tsukemen and waste the precious duck liver. Of course, as it is quite fatty and oily due to the nature of the dish, the bowl is also topped with grated daikon radish and some citrus zest to help cut through the fat. The green onions add a refreshing crunch and help give the bowl a variety of textures. The bowl pictured is the Tokusei, or deluxe version, of the dish hence the extra duck cubes and slices, but I think the regular bowl has more than enough to satisfy your need. While I typically recommend ordering a restaurant’s bread and butter and go with their regular ramen, if you only have time to visit Manchiken once, definitely go for the Abura soba. Even the Tokusei is just 1100 yen, which is more than reasonable for the amount of foie gras and duck toppings provided.