Ramenya Toybox (ラーメン屋トイ・ボックス); Best Shoyu Ramen, Minowa
When beginning my quest for finding the perfect bowl of ramen I dove headfirst in all of the famous internet rankings, websites, and magazines I can find about shops in and around Tokyo. I knew of the hype of all the shops that typically hold on to the top spots, or have received Michelin stars, but the one that most intrigued me was this shop, Ramenya Toybox. Located just a short walk from Minowa, Minowabashi, and Minami-Senju stations, Toybox is what I believe to be is the Sukiyabashi Jiro of ramen. (If you haven’t seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you definitely should) The shop might look hard to find, but even if you get there too early (as I did pictured) a long line will form as the opening time approaches and you’ll definitely know you’re in the right place.
The intense dedication Toybox puts in to every little detail is nothing short of amazing. From interviews and articles I have read about the shop, Toybox uses a handpicked selection of the best Nagoya Cochin chicken available to him (Nagoya Cochin is what is believed to be the Kobe Beef of chicken). From his hand selected chicken, he separates them in to sections he needs for the different parts of his ramen. The breast and thigh meat are used to make the toppings. The bones and carcass are used to create their incredibly delicious broth. The skin is used to help create the fat and oil added to the bowl at the end. The motivation to use every aspect of the chicken brings out the purest chicken base ramen I have had so far.
Even the chef’s preparation of the bowl is nothing short of perfect. Each portion of soup is carefully measured out of a stock pot and warmed up to order. The bowl are warmed over the boiling station before filled with the tare and soup. Once the noodles are boiled to the right texture, they are placed in with the soup and an assistant will make sure that each noodle is separated so you won’t have any clumps as you eat. Finally each ordered topping is placed over the noodles and carefully placed in front of you.
The most popular bowl here is the pictured Shoyu Ramen. In addition to using handpicked, high quality chicken, the chef here also uses a variety of 5-7 of the best shoyu soy sauces in Japan which best pair with his chicken broth. To be clear, this isn’t the best soy sauces in Japan (although a couple have been said to have won awards, but can’t be known for sure as he keeps his blend a secret), but rather the soy sauces that pairs best with this particular broth. I have to agree with his choices because the soup is delectable. The chicken broth is clean and pure with the soy sauce accentuating the delicate soup. The chicken fat which rise to the surface give the soup an amazingly rich flavor that brings the whole bowl together.
The noodles here are made specifically for the restaurant. The thin, flat noodles are made to ensure that it doesn’t overpower the soup and is shaped in a way to help cling the perfect amount of soup per bite. Homemade bamboo shoots (menma) circles around the edge of the bowl, with a thin slice of char siu is carefully placed over the noodles. Topped off with a marinated egg (extra cost) and green onions, the bowl is perfectly made in every imaginable way. The crunchy bamboo shoots and crisp green onions give a nice variety of texture to the soft, tender char siu. The char siu is just slightly seasoned to not overpower the soup and is a nice pairing with the egg which isn’t too runny as to ruin the soup. The toppings act to accentuates the delicate flavor of the chicken broth and shoyu tare combination and will definitely blow you away as you polish off your last spoonful.
Already a favorite among Tokyo ramen enthusiasts, Toybox has recently been recognized as a recommended restaurant by the Michelin guide so gourmet diners have also begun frequenting this small little shop. Lines can get quite long on weekends and they close once they run out of soup, so be sure to get there early to ensure a bowl. You’ll definitely won’t be disappointed and leave with the type of appreciation you might have for somewhere like Sukiyabashi Jiro.