Hyakuen Shokudo Chuka Soba Ishikawaya (百笑食堂いしかわや); Top Newcomer in Chofu, Kokuryo
A recent trend I’ve noticed in regards to new ramen restaurants is that a lot of them tend to be setting up shop outside central Tokyo. A number of these restaurants gaining popularity among ramen enthusiasts have been opening up in the Nakano, Suginami, and Chofu areas of Tokyo. Instead of targeting popular stations with lots of foot traffic, these shops have been specializing in their niche ramen styles and relying on word of mouth to get hungry patrons to come to their store. What brings ramen enthusiasts to these restaurants in the first place is usually pedigree. Much like in horse racing, ramen aficionados flock to new restaurants headed by up and comers with the hopes it’ll be just like their “parent”. Hyakuen Shokudo was particularly interesting as the owner’s actual parent heads a long time ramen establishment in Hachioji, but gained a majority of his ramen tutelage under the staff at the famed Shibasakitei in Chofu. Hyakuen Shokudo’s DNA combined with his training definitely had me excited and I was more than pleased with his results at his new shop.
Hyakuen Shokudo is located just three minutes from Kukuryo station on the Keio line, 15 minutes from Shinjuku. The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00-25:00 (1:00 am) and 11:00-22:00 on Sundays. Since the shop is open all day, you won’t find their queues to be too long regardless of the time, but it is a popular restaurant around 10:00 pm when many residents living in the area come home from work searching for a late night dinner. The menu, from what I saw, is only offered in Japanese so translations are as follows. The first row is the Tokusei Chuka Soba (Shoyu Ramen with all toppings) and Tokusei Shio Chuka Soba (Shio Ramen with all toppings). The far right is the Japanese style roast char siu over rice. Second row is the Chuka Soba (Shoyu) followed by the Chuka Soba with egg, Chuka Soba with won tons, and Chuka Soba with extra roast pork char siu. The third row are the same, but in the Shio (salt) ramen variety. The fourth row is their specialty ramen of Ishikawa Black (a spicy soup blend), Ishikawa Shio Lime Black (added salt and lime), a Ginger and Miso Ramen, and the Hachioji ramen (the chef’s father’s famous ramen variety). The final row on the bottom are toppings and drinks starting with a button of Rice or extra noodles (choose at the table), followed by the soft boiled egg, pork char siu, small beer, regular beer, craft beer, and Chu-hi (Japanese cocktail). Once you have your tickets purchased, you’ll be directed to your seat at the counter by a staff member and leave your tickets on the table for them to collect.
So I brought a friend along with me on this trip and since he was ordering the regular Shoyu Ramen, I opted for the Ishikawa Black so I can try two different varieties. Of course, followers of this blog will know far too well, I couldn’t resist ordering the rice bowl so ended up getting the roast pork char siu over rice as well. Starting with my bowl of Ishikawa Black, I have to say, this was one of the more unique ramen I have had in a while. Using their Chuka Soba stock as a base, the seasoning sauce to round out the soup consists of a dark shoyu blend mixed with an infused, black peppercorn oil, and Sansho Japanese peppercorn. The spice will knock your socks off and warm your body in an instant. The layer you see floating on the surface is the infused oil with the ground Sansho and Black peppercorns. The soup has multiple layers of flavor starting with the peppery spice from the oil. From there you’ll get the very deep and rick chicken stock of the broth that has subtle hints of sweetness, most likely from a vegetable blend in the stock. Finally the Sansho peppercorns kick in warming your chest as you swallow each bite. The ramen isn’t the type of spice with chili peppers so its not gonna linger long after your bite, but the pepperiness of the soup will sting your taste buds for a while.
As I ordered just the regular bowl, my ramen came topped with a couple slices of their char siu, few menma bamboo shoots, Japanese sprouts, and a spoonful of grated onions. Noodles are a typical thin, round Chinese style noodle which paired incredibly well with the soup. The soup is quite spicy, in the unique way black peppercorns will spice up your soup. It tingles your tongue and so you don’t want to take in too much at once or you might be coughing up a bit of the soup before going down. Therefore, the thin noodles were great since it didn’t grasp too much of the soup with every bite and helped slurp just enough to have an enjoyable mouthful. The pork char siu was more meaty than tender which held up well to the incredibly flavorful soup. While the grated onions and sprouts might seem like it would lose out to the strong soup, it actually does the opposite in that it gives it a nice refreshing change of pace mid bowl to give your tongue a break from the peppery spice.
After polishing off my bowl of the Ishikawa Black, I moved on to my rice bowl before trying a bit of my friend’s shoyu ramen. I’m definitely glad I ordered the rice bowl to have in between bowls as I needed this break for my palette to go back to normal from the strenuous attack of peppery goodness. The pork char siu is exactly the same as the one in the ramen, but is garnished with ground sesame seeds, Japanese sprouts, and finally a grated daikon radish mixed with their specialty sauce. The sauce was a bit zesty, while bringing some savoriness to the pork which is a bit bland by itself. I enjoyed the toasted notes of the sesame in combination with the zesty sauce which mixed together into a nice paste that lathered my pork slices well. I myself would have preferred a bit more rice, but flavor wise this bowl was pretty on point.
So the Shoyu Ramen here is a very gentle soup and is fairly reminiscent of the Shoyu Ramen at Shibasakitei (which would seem obvious since he previously apprenticed there). I would say the flavors are not as refined as the one in Shibasakitei with a bit stronger fat content here. You can visibly see the fats and oils in the soup upon first glance as it has a glossy finish. However I did enjoy their rather unrefined soup as the shop is more a local establishment for regulars than one catered for hardcore ramen aficionados. The friendliness of the soup catering to a wider clientele made the bowl very welcoming for all levels of ramen lovers. The gentle chicken stock mixed with the rather light soy sauce (in comparison to the Ishikawa black) was rather soothing and made me feel right at home.
While coming from a rather prestigious pedigree, Hyakuen Shokudo makes for a rather heartwarming ramen visit. You can feel the friendly vibes from the shop staff to other patrons with conversations flowing rather casually and beer flowing rapidly. While many come to Tokyo to try the best available, I know some would like to experience these local favorites. If the latter is what you’re looking for, I definitely recommend a visit! As always, don’t be a stranger and leave me a comment on any of my social media platforms, or right here in the comment section below to let me know what you thought. Enjoy!