Medaka Tantan (めだかタンタン); Gundam Tantanmen, Higashi Nakagami
In terms of distance, Medaka Tantan may be the furthest from Central Tokyo of all the restaurants listed in the top 100 of Tabelog’s ramen rankings. I wish I could tell you of all the great things to do around this area to convince you to make a visit, but there is literally nothing in Higashi Nakagami of interest that I could talk to you about. However, turns out the ramen at Mendaka Tantan is the only reason you need to make your way out to towards Akishima City. For those of you who read my blog and are in the US military, more specifically Yokota A.B., you’re in luck as this is only a short 10 minutes away from Fussa station. For those coming from Shinjuku, you’ll need to catch the JR Chuo Ome Line towards Ome and get off at Higashi Nakagami station. The shop is just a few minutes walk from the station and you’ll be greeted with this bright yellow shop front.
One of my favorite parts about Medaka Tantan is quite frankly, its homely atmosphere. I’m not much of an anime or manga fan, but for those of you who love Gundam, this is the restaurant for you. Owner and head chef here is a huge Gundamn fan and displays his collection of poster, figurines, and props from all Gundam generations throughout his shop. While not a fanatic, I could still appreciate and feel some nostalgia looking at some of his collection. Anyways, back to the ramen. The two most popular menu items here is the Shiruari Tantanmen (with soup) and the Shirunashi Tantanmen (without soup). The most popular side menus are the Mabo Tofu, Chahan (fried rice), and their Curry. I opted to get the fried rice and both Tantanmen varieties on this visit. Tantan has a lot of different Chinese menu items that you’ll find at local Chinese food establishment as well so I think Medaka Tantan would be best if you came as a group to split and share among friends.
Starting with the Shiruari Tantanmen, as you can see from the photo, the soup is quite light (relatively) in comparison to other Tantamen bowls. While not as thick, it definitely has a great kick in terms of flavor and spice. The reason behind the “lightness” of the soup is probably rooted in their use of soy milk rather than a more traditional one adding corn starch to thicken the soup. However, since soy milk is used, the soup isn’t as emulsified as a lot of tantanmen and you’ll see your chili oil rising to the top, but its still a very delicious bowl. My favorite part was definitely the toppings and the noodles. The assortment of water greens, bean sprouts, and sliced onions tastes phenomenal with the soup as it is refreshing and really cleanses your palette from the spiciness. Together with the noodles, you get an amazing variety of flavors and texture that is unlike traditional tantanmen. The strong hits of sesame flavor with the subtle hints of chili oil really brings the bowl together. A bit of sauteed minced pork is mixed within the soup and adds some great protein to the bowl. The noodles are traditional round and thin Chinese style noodles that have a nice bite to them and has a nice egg-y flavor that compliments the soup pretty well.
My favorite bowl here has to be the Shirunashi Tantanmen. Since it lacks the soy milk based soup, the intensity of the spice and sesame flavor really powers through. The noodles are fantastic here as it has a bit more texture due to it being a bit more under cooked than the Shiruari version as it doesn’t cook in the pipping hot soup. That subtle difference makes a key difference as it really needs that added texture to withstand the more concentrated flavors. Definitely not for everyone as it could be a bit too intense for some, but for someone like me that seeks out the spiciest items on the menu, this was heaven. The spicy miso pork saute is fantastic and loved that it wasn’t mixed in with the sauce underneath. It allowed me to adjust how much I want per bite and let me enjoy the bowl at my pace. I liked the freedom I had with this style rather than the one with soup so I definitely thought this was a better bowl.
No matter which you pick, I guarantee you’ll have a nice time here at Medaka Tantan. Not only are the staff friendly, they have the interesting Gundam decor that’ll keep you entertained while you wait for your bowl. They also serve beer and other Chinese style appetizers as well so you can kick back and enjoy the place like a Izakaya if you’d like. Just be sure not to get too drunk and forget to order that tantanmen!