Menson Rage (麺尊Rage); Skateboard Ramen, Nishi Ogikubo
When you first approach Menson Rage, you’ll think you walked in to a skate shop with its collection of skate decks, posters, and t shirts. The chef here is an avid skateboarder and has reflected his decor as such. Don’t be fooled though, this isn’t just a skateboarder making ramen on the side, quite the contrary. In fact this is a ramen chef that skateboards as a hobby and you’ll witness his true craft once you eat a bowl of his amazing ramen.
Rage has separated itself from other ramen shops by using a breed of chicken not commonly used by other restaurants, Shamo. Shamo is famous for its use in Southeast Asia for cock fighting and, due to its gamey flavor, not often used for chicken stock. Rage however has combined the Shamo with a variety of other ingredients to create a unique broth that has captivated the palette of ramen enthusiasts around Japan. The restaurant has already made Tabelog’s annual Top 100 Ramen list two years in a row now (2017, 2018) after opening in 2015 and is a favorite among Shoyu ramen fans.
The restaurant itself is located just a short walk from Nishiogikubo station. The store has a front waiting area where skate memorabilia are on full display along with the restaurants’ original t shirts, stickers, chopsticks and mugs. In the back is the restaurant, seating around 14 guests. The counter seating gives customer a full view of the chef in action, but if you come in a group, there are table seating that can accommodate up to 6 guests. Menson Rage really values customer service and appreciates the community atmosphere the shop provides so you’ll find no ticket machines here. Once seated a staff member will come around to ask you for your order.
Menson Rage has four ramen varieties; Shamo soba, Niboshi soba, Tsuke soba, and a Maze soba. Each of the four ramen have the option for tokusei, which comes with all of the available toppings. The Tsuke soba is a tsukemen style ramen, Maze soba is one with no broth, and the Niboshi and Shamo sobas are the typical ramen that you’re probably most familiar with. The restaurant’s specialty is the Shamo soba.
If I were to describe the Shamo soba with one word, it would be heartwarming. Upon finishing a bowl for the first time, I left the restaurant feeling so content. The bowl doesn’t do anything fancy, it's a chicken broth ramen done well...extremely well. When you first receive your bowl, you’ll witness the intense dedication to detail. The noodles are carefully separated in to individual strands and folded over to allow the eater to pick up a chopstick full without much effort. The bamboo shoots are placed around the rim of the bowl as not to interfere with your noodles. Roast Shamo slices are placed carefully over the noodles above the soup line so you can enjoy it as is if you prefer. Their perfectly marinated half boiled egg sits perfectly next to the roast pork slices and the bowl is topped off with a sprinkle of sprouts and minced onions.
The flavor profile here is a light, chicken soup. You’ll initially taste the richness of the soy sauce, but the aftertaste is the perfectly pulled broth of the Shamo. As Shamo is a gamefowl, one might find the soup to have a bit of a gritty flavor, but the chef does a nice job of getting some sweetness out of vegetables to balance out the flavor of the broth. The toppings are perfectly paired with the soup; homemade bamboo shoots give a nice crunch, the sprouts have a refreshing bite, and the two char siu varities are seasoned just enough not to overpower the delicate soup. The bowl has a good balance of texture; chewy noodles, crunchy bamboo shoots and diced onions, as well as tender char siu.
Be sure to order their rice bowl as well. The char siu pairs perfectly with rice and makes for a nice side dish.
Shoyu ramen in Japan tend to not get a lot of love unless it wows and shocks the diner, but Menson Rage has found a way to create a bowl that’s both simple and captivating all at once. From their use of an underutilized chicken breed to its unique skateboard inspired interior decor, Rage is definitely worth visiting if you’re in Tokyo.