Madai Ramen Mengyo (真鯛らーめん麺魚); Specialty Seafood Ramen, Kinshicho
Earlier I wrote about Manchiken, a duck specialty ramen restaurant located about five minutes from Kinshicho station. Madai Ramen Mengyo, located right across the street, is actually the original restaurant that spawned the branch shop of Manchiken. As opposed to the Kamo duck ramen at Manchiken, Mengyo serves up some of the best fish based broth ramens you’ll likely ever have. The plural is deliberate as Mengyo is famous for serving up specialty menu items of different fish broths every week. If you’re a fan of fish broth based ramen, you might end up coming here every week (as I have for the past few weeks now) to try their fantastic weekly specials.
If you’re familiar with fish species, or if you understand Japanese, you’ll see from the aesthetic of the restaurant that they specialize in Snapper, or Madai, ramen. Everything from their logo to paintings on their interior walls indicate their dedication to the snapper. The ramen is no different. The Madai Ramen is incredibly popular and is brimming with flavor drawn from the snapper. The recommended menu item is the one pictured below, a bowl of Madai Ramen with a side of rice topped with steamed Madai flakes.
The soup, as you can see, is white, milky, and opaque. Its color stems from a long and arduous process of simmering the snapper to extract as much of the umami broth as possible. The flavor is unlike any other ramen I have had before. The chef has somehow managed to eliminate the fishy aftertaste that might remain from pulling so much flavor out of the fish and create an incredible soup that extracts the flavors of the ocean that work perfectly for a bowl of ramen. The tare, or flavoring oil, is salt based working perfectly for this broth as it gives it a Japanese seafood Nabe like flavor. The chef definitely realizes this similarity to Nabe and offers wasabi, ginger and yuzu as topping (for free) if you’d like. Just ask the staff which condiment you’d like to have.
The bowl of ramen is topped with blanched mustard leaves, a bit of yuzu (Japanese citrus) zest, and smoked pork slices. The noodles are made specifically for the shop and has a bit of wheat or barley mixed in. The entire bowl is perfectly tailored toward the delicate snapper broth. The noodles are thin enough not to overpower the soup and the smoked pork slices compliment the soup well. The yuzu helps give the bowl a nice refreshing kick. Pictured are the free, extra condiments. I think the wasabi worked best with the soup as it gave it a spicy kick. The ginger and yuzu koshou were also good and there’s no harm in asking for all three so see which one you’d like most. The pictured rice bowl comes at an additional cost, but was definitely worth the money. You get a nice heaping spoonful of the steamed snapper with some green onions and yuzu zest sprinkled over. What made it amazing was pouring in any leftover soup from the ramen to make a porridge at the end. The inspiration likely comes from a tradition of putting rice in leftover Japanese Nabe broth and in the same way, the flavors were fantastic.
As I previously mentioned, Mengyo is famous for their specialty menu. One in particular that stood out was this ramen made purely out of Conger Eel. As you can see, there are no toppings and the broth is pulled only from the eel. The ramen comes with a rice bowl topped with grilled eel. Honestly, this was even better than the snapper ramen. The broth was incredibly flavorful and worked best without any toppings. The unadulterated flavor of the eel paired perfectly with their noodles and made for an incredible bowl of ramen. Due to the popularity of this dish, the owner has said he will try this dish again so be sure to be on the look out. Specialty menus at Mengyo is quite popular so be sure to come early. I came about an hour and a half before opening and was still the 15th person in line. By the time the shop opened, the line was closing in at 100.
If you’re looking for something different from typical bowls you might find around Tokyo, definitely give this place a try. Not only are their specialty menus fantastic, the regular Madai Ramen is perfectly made as well. While some may be scared off by a fishy soup broth, its definitely worth going outside your comfort zone for this bowl.