Menya Kissou (麺屋吉左右); A RamenDB Favorite, Kiba
If I’m being completely honest, and in an effort to be as transparent as possible, I’m not the biggest fan of the ramen here at Menya Kissou. My opinion on their ramen isn’t due to the ramen at Kissou being bad, but because the ramen variety they serve at Kissou is not my cup of tea. Kissou actually has a lot of fans and is one of the most popular ramen shops based on ramendb’s rankings. The rankings influenced my want to come here and I don’t want to put down the restaurant just because of my preference so I’ll try my best to keep this review as unbiased as possible. Just wanted to say this ahead of time so that you can take my review with a grain of salt.
The shop is about a five minute walk from Kiba station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line. Google maps will be your friend here as it is a bit of a maze to get to. Once you arrive, however, you’re definitely not gonna miss it as it draws huge lines regardless of the day of the week. I came on a Saturday about thirty minutes before opening and the queue was already about ten people deep. Kissou is closed on Wednesday and Sundays and their hours are 11:30-15:00. I wouldn’t recommend arriving anytime after 13:00 however as the lines will be way too long and they may run out of soup by the time it’s finally time for you to sit. They are nice enough to let you know if they will have enough for the people in line, but I highly recommend coming as early as possible to ensure yourself a bowl. Kissou has just two ramen varieties, the regular ramen and their tsukemen. The ramen is on the left in red and the tsukemen in on the right in blue on the ticket machine which is located outside. The two big buttons up top are the Ajitama versions of the ramen and tsukemen which comes with their marinated soft boiled egg. On the second row, you’ll find regular ramen and oomori ramen (extra noodles). The third row has Oomori Ajitama versions which come with both extra noodles and the soft boiled egg. The fourth row is the toppings available which are dried seaweed, menma bamboo shoots, extra char siu and a glass of Ebisu beer. Kissou’s homemade menma bamboo shoots is one of their most popular toppings and many will get multiple orders of it. You can ask to have it on the side so you’ll see some patrons order one on the side to have with beer before the ramen, and another order to have extra menma bamboo shoots in their bowl.
I opted to get their Ajitama Ramen and as it was my first time, didn’t get any additional toppings for the bowl. As you can see from the photo, the bowl comes adorned with their famous menma bamboo shoots, dried seaweed, a slice of pork char siu, and a sprinkle of green onions. So the soup here is what the Japanese ramen enthusiasts have called “W soup”. The name of this ramen variety stems from the Japanese pronunciation of the letter W which sounds like the word double. The two broths that make up the W soup are a thick pork broth and a Niboshi, dried sardine broth. In my opinion, the W soup in general is a bit bitter for my liking. However, Kissou does do a great job of taking a lot of the bitterness out of their soup. The soup is thick and creamy due to the thick pork broth, but has the nice umami flavor from the niboshi broth. It is a bit reminiscent of a tonkotsu soup, but has the added fishy flavor of the dried sardine. You can really tell that this was a nice heavy simmer as it would be quite difficult to pull this much flavor out of the pork bones and niboshi on a light simmer. For those who love a heavy flavor, the W soup will be perfect for you. I personally think this actually works better as a tsukemen so I will have to come back and try the tsukemen version if I ever come back and endure the line.
The noodles are made in house to pair with their soup. It has a bit of an eggy flavor, I can only presume these are egg noodles. The texture is a bit chewy, and has some subtle kinks to it which help cling the soup as you slurp up the noodles while also having enough bite to endure the heavy soup base. The time and dedication in making this bowl is evident with their homemade noodles as I would assume it would be quite difficult to get a noodle maker to get the flavor right for this bowl. It was incredibly good and perfect for the soup.
As I said before, the homemade menma bamboo shoots are incredibly popular and it only took one bite for me to understand why. The bamboo shoots have a distinct flavor likely from sauteing them in a soy sauce and sesame oil blend. They hold their shape well and remains crunchy throughout making it a great pairing with beer as well. I will definitely be getting an extra order if I come for the tsukemen. You only get one slice of pork char siu, which I was a bit disappointed about since they do not offer a Char Siu Ramen and the extra topping order for them is quite pricey. I don’t have any complaints about the flavor, however, as it is incredibly tender, juicy and delicious. The char siu has a good amount of seasoning that it doesn’t take the flavor profile of the soup and adds a different dimension to the bowl. I truly appreciated the green onions as this bowl benefits from the fresh, crunch of the green onions to cut through the heavy, fatty soup.
All in all, for a W Soup, I thought it was quite good. I can understand why W soup lovers would love the bowls here at Kissou as they are very dedicated to making the best of this ramen variety. The restaurant itself is a bit far from central Tokyo, but you can pair your trip to a trip to the new fish market in Toyosu or to the numerous coffee shops in the area (Coffee is incredibly popular in this part of Tokyo). If you’re a fan of the W soup, I also recommend checking out Ramen Gottsu in Nerima. If you do end up going, don’t hesitate to let me know your opinion on twitter, instagram, or facebook. Or even here in the comment section below. Would love to hear about everyone’s opinions on the ramen!