Menya Mizukaze (麺屋瑞風); My Favorite Toripaitan, Tanashi
One of the most difficult parts about traveling to the different ramen shops around Tokyo is deciding which bowl to get once I survive the long train rides and even longer queues. Given the time spent before even sitting down at the counter, I always want to try all of the available options so that I don’t have to come back and endure the commute and wait again. With that said, long time followers of the blog will know that I sometimes order more than one at many of the shops I write about because the restaurants have multiple varieties that are highly regarded. Menya Mizukaze, while offering two varieties, is actually famous for one particular ramen style, the Toripaitan. I was tempted to order both the Toripaitan and the Niboshi, but the restaurant has a strict one bowl policy so I decided on their famous Toripaitan. I’m certainly glad I did as it may be the best Toripaitan ramen I have ever had… so good in fact that I came back and ordered exactly the same thing. So, my apologies for only writing about the Toripaitan, but honestly this is one place where there is only one ramen to order.
Before I start, just an FYI, Menya Mizukaze has updated their opening hours. Mizukaze is now open from 11:30-14:00 for lunch and 18:30 to 21:00 for dinner. The restaurant is closed on Fridays and every first, third, and fifth Thursdays. The picture of the store front makes it look like there are no lines here, but I actually got the opening hours wrong (hence the warning) and ended up coming an hour early. By the time the shop opened at 11:30, there was about 20 people in line. One thing to take note of if you end up lining up is that the restaurant only sits 6 and there is only one chef, the owner, working to make each bowl. He makes the ramen two at a time so it can take a while even if the line is 15-20 people. If you do decide to wait it out, you’ll need to buy your ticket at the machine before taking an open seat. The first row is the Niboshi ramen and the second row is the Toripaitan ramen. The first column is just the ramen, second comes with a soft boiled egg, third column is the Tokusei which comes with an egg as well as some cubed char siu, and the fourth comes with even more char siu. The third row is the extra toppings of more noodles, egg, and char siu, in that order. The fourth row is the Chahan, or fried rice, in different sizes with the fifth row being just plain rice. The last row is reserved for special occasions when they serve a special menu item or special ramen sets, but I’ve yet to come when this was offered.
I decided on the Tokusei Toripaitan ramen which comes beautifully presented in this opaque, white bowl. In addition to the extra toppings, the ramen comes with a handful of spring onions, raw onions, and dried seaweed. The hype I read from Japanese ramen enthusiasts on Ramendb, tabelog, and twitter made me weary that it might not live up to expectations, but those worries quickly disappeared after one taste of the incredible soup. Toripaitan is a ramen style that can be described as the chicken version of Tonkotsu, which is made with pork bones. The broth is made from chicken carcass simmered over high heat with vegetables to taste. What results is quite a rich broth, but lighter than one you might get from a Tonkotsu broth. For those who have never had Toripaitan ramen, the flavors may be a little intense, but for those of you who have had it will probably agree with me in thinking that Mizukaze’s version is the best in Tokyo.
The flavor profile for this bowl is what I can only describe as a chicken cream soup although it isn’t as thick as you might expect from a Toripaitan. As you can see from the photo, the soup is actually quite thin, but the richness of chicken flavors makes you feel like you’re having a cream soup. A lot of the criticism some people have about Toripaitan soup is that it can sometimes be bitter due to being simmered on high heat for such long hours. However, at the top ramen restaurants like Mizukaze, they ensure that the bones are scrubbed and cleaned to reduce a lot of, if not all of, the impurities that could add bitterness. What results from this intense dedication at Mizukaze is a perfectly savory soup with a hint of sweetness from the added vegetables. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but the soup tastes very clean… a condensed chicken soup in cream form. The noodles Mizukaze uses is a straight, round noodle which pairs perfectly with the soup. The noodles doesn’t have any added flavors that would muddle the soup and clings the perfect amount per bite. The pork char siu slice is fantastic and is so tender that it literally melts in your mouth while the cubed version has a bit more texture and bite to them. The cubed version is apparently the one they include in the fried rice and is equal parts fatty and meaty which I would assume would work well with rice. The soft boiled egg was cooked to perfection, but not too runny to seep in to the soup. Green onions and regular onions added a refreshing flavor and crunch to the bowl which helped to cut through the fattiness of both the soup and char siu helping round out the bowl.
The biggest reason I wanted to try Menya Mizukaze was the comments regarding the hot sauce and how it enhances the flavor of the soup. As a hot sauce fanatic, I had to try this combination. The hot sauce is reserved for those who request it as it is stored in the refrigerator so when the chef looks like he has time, ask for him to bring it out from the back. Apparently the chef changes up what hot sauce he has available and on my visit he had Tabasco (provided at the table), Tabasco Habanero Sauce, and the Blair’s Death Sauce. I opted for the Blair’s Death Sauce which was the spiciest available and was not disappointed with its pairing. As I mentioned earlier, the soup is similar to a cream soup because of how rich the flavors are. The vinegar and spiciness of the hot sauce cuts through the richness of the soup flavor and is similar to adding hot sauce to clam chowder. It was the first time I’ve ever added hot sauce (chili peppers are offered in many restaurants) to ramen and I was glad I got to try this out. During my first visit, I reserved the hot sauce until the last few bites of my noodles, but on my second visit I asked for it almost immediately. I do recommend trying the ramen without the hot sauce first, but if you enjoy spicy food as much as I do, you might get addicted to this flavor combination and get it from the start. Finally, as the soup is quite rich, they do provide soup wari, or a lightened broth, to add at the end. It does lighten the soup quite a bit so be careful not to add too much.
For those of you looking for a ridiculously high quality Toripaitan ramen, you need to make your way to Tanashi and try this bowl. As a Toripaitan and hot sauce lover, I may be a bit biased as it checked off two of my favorite things, but I can guarantee you won’t leave disappointed. Again, be careful for the lines as the wait is typically longer than other shops, but other than that, I hope you enjoy their incredible ramen.