Hatsune (はつね); The "Godfather" of Tanmen, Nishi Ogikubo
Hatsune (はつね), located just a few minutes from Nishi Ogikubo Station, has been the gold standard for Tanmen (タンメン) in Tokyo for decades. Opened sometime in the 1960s, the owner has kept with tradition and continually serves his iconic Tanmen to hundreds of customers per day. Hearing about Hatsune’s immense popularity, I arrived first in line, 30 minutes before opening, and the line had grown to at least 15 before the doors even opened.
There are about 6 seats in the small restaurant and the chef makes each bowl to order. He starts by sauteing some carrots, cabbage, and bean sprouts in a Chinese style wok before simmering the vegetables in his traditional Tanmen broth. While simmering, a portion of noodles begins boiling in a nearby pot. Once the noodles have cooked, the chef takes a quick taste of the soup and adjusts his seasonings accordingly before pouring over the perfectly cooked, traditional Chinese style noodles. If you opted to add the roast pork (チャーシュー), he’ll carefully score the meat before heating them up in the soup and placing them carefully over the vegetables and noodles.
The flavor profile is very light, but incredibly flavorful. With the only real fat and oil coming from the oil he uses to saute the veggies, this bowl will fill you up without making you feel too heavy after. The Chinese style noodles are a perfect compliment to the soup; a nod to traditional tanmen recipes the Japanese have come to love. Vegetables are cooked to perfection; enough to get rid of any raw bitterness, but still leave a crunch to give customers a variety of textures within the bowl. The roast pork bites through easy because of the scores the chef puts in before cooking. Overall, the combination of soup, vegetables, noodles and roast pork make for an incredibly, unforgettable bowl.
Can’t say enough about this classic establishment. Hatsune has upheld its amazing quality and popularity longer than any restaurant I have visited thus far and I can’t imagine it slowing down any time soon.
Written by S. Mizuno