Chuka Soba Ranchu (中華蕎麦 蘭鋳); Simply Ramen, Hounancho
Chuka Soba Ranchu is located a healthy 25 minute walk from Hounancho station, but after your nice exercise from the station, you’ll be greeted with some of the best Chuka Soba and pork char siu you’ll have in Tokyo. Ranchu is a quaint little shop with a no frills interior. A counter surround the kitchen where the chef prepares every bowl to order. There is no ticket machine, the chef will take your order at the table and he will let you know the price of your order and have you leave money on a little gold plate in front of you. The menu is simple serving a Chuka Soba, Ajitama Soba (with egg), Oomori (extra noodles), Yebisu beer, and a Otsumami (pork char siu).
The simplicity of the restaurant is my favorite part of Ranchu. The chef here serves one ramen and one ramen only. On my visit I decided to order the Ajitama Ramen and the Otsumami. Once my order was taken, the chef started making my bowl by warming up the broth needed for my bowl individually in a small pot. While the broth warms, the noodle are thrown in to the boiling water and the pork char siu are sliced.
My meal began with the otsumami which is flavored in the same style as the one in the ramen, but made with a high fat content pork. A bit of seasoning tare is poured over the pork cubes and green onions slices, giving a nice salty flavor that tempts you to drink more of their Yebisu beer. The other restaurant patrons around me were enjoying a relaxing time with their otsumami and beers much like one would at an izakaya. The jazzy music playing in the store puts you in to a bar atmosphere while you wait for your bowl of ramen.
The bowl is topped with thin slices of menma bamboo shoots, a sprinkle of green onions, and the marinated egg. The care taken in to preparing this simple, but fantastic bowl can’t be understated. The noodles are carefully and perfectly folded over after separating individually so they don’t clump while you eat. The bamboo shoots are placed around the rim of the bowl in order to not interfere with your noodle eating. The pork slice carefully sit on top the noodles so they don’t cook within the soup.
The soup here is fantastic to say the least. I could go as far as to say that this is an amazing soup restaurant with noodles in the soup. The soup is a delicately simmered Niboshi broth with a salty, umami infused soy sauce tare. Its neither dense nor overpowering, but yet the gentle niboshi really hits every taste bud as it fills your mouth. The fishy after taste is cancelled out by the perfect blend of various vegetables included in the broth simmering process. The shoyu tare is a bit saltier than normal, but pairs perfectly with the fish based broth. The smokiness and saltiness of the shoyu accentuates the incredible niboshi broth. Noodles are made by the famous Mikawaya Noodle shop for the restaurant. The water content is low and cooked al dente making for a nice chewy texture. Be sure to bite in to your pork char siu before it cooks and soaks up too much of the soup. Cooked to a rosy pink, the char siu is tender enough to bite through, but leaves enough bite to contrast the rest of the textures in the bowl. The edges are broiled giving it a smoky flavor. Menma bamboo shoots are fibery, but thin making for an easy eat. Egg was cooked and seasoned to perfection giving a nice creamy addition to the broth when cracked open.
I really loved how each topping worked in unison to highlight the flavorful broth. Not one topping has a ton of flavor, but adds enough to the bowl to make the soup better when consumed together. The al dente noodles make you chew through the soup infused noodles bursting with flavor with each bite. The smokiness of the char siu adds an extra flavor profile to the soup that can only be tasted when eaten in unison.
The shop is a bit of a trek, but there are parking lots near the restaurant if you opt to drive there. However, with the otsumami and beer at the restaurant, I highly recommend walking from the station. The otsumami, beer, and ramen will definitely have you feeling content on your walk back so give it a go. You’ll simply enjoy their simple atmosphere and simple menu.