Kamunabi (神名備); "Star" Char Siu, Nishi Nippori
Kamunabi is a unique ramen shop located about 6-7 minutes from Nishi Nippori station. Honestly the shop looks like a Chinese restaurant than a ramen shop. There are no ticket machines, a waitress will walk you to your seat, and in addition to counter seating, there are bigger tables meant for groups. The menu however features their most popular dish, ramen, and you’ll be immediately drawn back to the realization that you’ll be enjoying a nice, hot bowl of ramen soon.
So the biggest surprise here was the price. A regular bowl of either Shoyu or Shio Ramen comes out to a whopping ￥1296, or roughly $12 USD. Their Char Siu Ramen, which comes with a healthy portion of extra pork slices comes in at ￥2052, or $20 USD. Undeterred and having heard great things about their char siu, I opt to order their Char Siu Shoyu Ramen. The waitress, having guessed (accurately) it was my first time, strongly suggested I order just their regular ramen. Never one to doubt employees at the restaurant, especially in Japan, I opt for the regular Shoyu Ramen. When my bowl arrived, I was quite glad I did.
The price here definitely reflects the massive portions you get. My bowl felt like it was a good 1 kg of food and the roast pork slice was huge. In addition to the pork, the ramen is topped of with a healthy portion of blanched bean sprouts, fried shallots, and thinly sliced green onions. The broth is taken from pork, both meat and bones, as well as a variety of dried fish and mushrooms resulting in quite a refreshing soup. The shoyu tare had enough saltiness to flavor the broth and complimented the yellow, Chinese style noodles. There’s a hint of a certain spice that I couldn’t quite put my finger on so I moved on to the “star” of the show, char siu. One bite and I immediately realize what the spice was…star anise. An overpowering flavor and aroma filled my nose upon biting the massive pork slice. The fattiness and chewiness of the roast pork is cut through with the herbal essence of the star anise making the combination very enjoyable. If I had to compare it to something I would say any meat topping choices when you order a Vietnamese Pho. Definitely the star attraction of the bowl, the entire bowl of ramen paired fantastically with the pork. The contrasting textures of the crunchy bean sprouts, meaty pork, chewy noodles and crunchy fried shallots resulted in an amazing medley of taste and flavors.
While the price point may seem a bit steep, the tickets to this show is definitely worth paying to see the “star” attraction to this show. Their unique use of star anise, their massive pork slices, and incredibly flavorful soup is well worth it in my opinion.