Matsudo Tomita Menban (松戸富田麺絆,마츠도토미타멘방 킷테그랑셰점), Tomita's New Location, Tokyo Station
Earlier this year, shopping center Kitte located near Tokyo station decided to make their own version of the Ramen Street that you can find within the station. In order to compete with the juggernauts of restaurants included in Ramen Street, Kitte convinced the famous Osamu Tomita of Chuka Soba Tomita fame to build a shop here. If you’re unaware of who Tomita is, I would highly recommend checking out the documentary Ramen Heads, a fantastic movie detailing the day to day operations of his award winning Tsukemen restaurant in Chiba. To give a quick summary of Tomita’s history, he trained at the birthplace of Tsukemen, Taishoken in Tokyo, before opening his own shop in Matsudo, Chiba a decade and a half ago. Since then, Tomita has garnered numerous awards ranging from best tsukemen in Japan and even as high as best ramen shop in all of Japan. Tomita’s original location in Chiba still gathers ramen lovers from all corners of the world, queuing from 7 am when he begins handing out tickets for when customers can expect to sit down and enjoy a bowl. Tomita has since opened locations in a number of tourist hub locations from Narita airport to Lalaport shopping center in Odaiba. He now attempts to make his mark in the hugely competitive market of Tokyo station and after trying a bowl, I think he is on his way of accomplishing just that.
The restaurant is located in Kitte shopping center which is right across the street from the south exit of Tokyo station. Tomita is on the B1 floor so take the escalators down and you’ll see a row of ramen restaurants when you get there. The line is quite easy to navigate, looking just like the check in line at the airport, and a shop staff will direct you to when you need to purchase your ticket. I couldn’t find a picture of a full menu so I took pictures of the ticket machine of the ramen choices that were available. I usually translate the menu, but there is an English option on the touch screen and the sheer number of menu items (most of which are topping variations of the same bowl) would make this review unnecessarily long if I did. Let me just say though, order the Tokusei Tsukemen, which is the one on the bottom right on the first picture. The tsukemen is their bread and butter and given the fact that its quite pricey and you likely won’t find yourself coming to Tokyo station just for ramen often, its worth the splurge. The rising prices of each menu selection corresponds to the amount of noodles you’ll get. I ordered the medium and it was more than enough food, but those with a bigger appetite might want to opt for the large. For those of you who are here on vacation, or even if you’re not on vacation, there are souvenir boxes available that you can purchase to make your own Tomita tsukemen from the comforts of your own home. Might be nice as a memory for yourself, or to share with a ramen loving friend back home.
So pictured above is my medium Tsukemen with all toppings. In addition to the noodles and soup, the tokusei version comes with four different char siu varieties and a marinated soft boiled egg. Within the soup is the typical toppings of char siu blocks, menma bamboo shoots, yuzu garnish, naruto fish cake, and a slice of dried seaweed. Much like a majority of tsukemen restaurants, Tomita serves the noodles shocked cold and soup pipping hot. To really experience the dedication put in to the tsukemen, try just a stand of the noodles by itself. Tomita himself says that noodles can be enjoyed as is and he preaches that if the noodles aren’t good enough to eat by itself, its not good enough to pair with his tsukemen broth. The thick, square cut noodles are fantastic and has an incredibly, earthy, wheat flour flavor and aroma to them. Texture is nice and chewy, stretching very well and will need a bit of strength to bite through, rather than falling apart in your mouth. It’s a bit difficult to explain how different the noodles here at Tomita is compared to those from other tsukemen restaurants I’ve had so far (apart from Menya Itto). The time needed to knead the dough and rest the noodles are crucial to elevate the texture and flavor.
My only complaint about my toppings was that they were all quite small in terms of portion size and would have preferred a bit thicker slices on my char siu so it didn’t fall apart in my soup as I dipped them in, but flavor wise, they were all fantastic. My favorite was definitely the broiled, char siu slice on the far left. The smoky aroma mixed with the soy marinade made for a fantastic flavor profile that matched incredibly well with the pork and fish based broth. To be honest though, I can’t think of much that wouldn’t pair well with this incredible broth which is by far the highlight of this entire bowl. So its majority pork and dried fish broth, with some remnants of chicken bones for the soup. Unlike the soup at say, Menya Itto, which is primarily a chicken and dried fish broth, at Tomita you’ll get a pronounced pork smell and flavor which is uniquely disguised under copious amounts of dried fish. You’d think that the thick, creamy texture comes from the tonkotsu broth, but honestly I’m pretty sure it comes from the intense simmer of all of the ingredients from the marrow to the bones, melting at the high temperature and blended in to the soup. I can’t imagine just a tonkotsu broth becoming this thick. The tare seasoning sauce is a dark, rich, nutty soy sauce that accentuates both the pork and fish, blending them perfectly in to one cohesive soup. The rich fattiness of the pork and insane umami punch of the fish is then cut through with the fresh yuzu and spring onion combo which refreshes your mouth before each bite. The dried seaweed is forgettable, but the hidden menma bamboo shoots, which by the way are also made in house, blew my mind. It was the perfect combination of salty and sweet with that twang of sourness coming from their fermentation/aging, and the simmer in their perfect seasoning sauce. It was both melt in your mouth, and stringy bite all at the same time due to how its prepared and cut.
Above are more picture to entice you to come visit Tomita at Kitte near Tokyo station. If my essay long descriptions didn’t already tempt you, I’m sure these pictures will do the job. It’s pretty difficult to get some high quality tsukemen in central Tokyo as the main shop for Tomita (Chiba) and Menya Itto (Shin Koiwa) are a good hour long train ride away from Shinjuku, so to be able to have tsukemen of this quality is a blessing. I know some of you are wondering though, is it as good as the main shop in Matsudo, Chiba? Short answer is no. However, unlike the airport and Odaiba locations (which is forgettable and borderline not recommended) the Tokyo station location is as close to the main shop as you can get. What makes it on par, for me, is that I can enjoy it without the long commute and even longer queue from 7 am. Here at Tokyo station, you can walk in and out within an hour as long as you avoid the lunch and dinner rush. Come here at 4 pm and you’re likely eating in 15-20 minutes. This efficiency, and speediness outweighs the hassle of going to Chiba, in my opinion, and makes it a must go for ramen lovers. If you watched Ramen Heads and you’re determined to make it to the main location, there is nothing stopping you, but just know that it is almost just as good right here in Tokyo.