Menya Sho (麺屋翔); Best Chicken Shio Ramen in Tokyo?, Shinjuku
Continuing on my string of Shinjuku ramen restaurants, today I bring my review of the famous Menya Sho. I’ve always wanted to visit Sho, but as surprising as it may sound, I’m actually very rarely in Shinjuku other than work and have avoided a lot of ramen shops in the area. Of course, after requests for more reviews on Shinjuku ramen shops, I had to add Sho to my list. The shop is actually located closer to Okubo station than Shinjuku station, but is still easily accessible by foot from Shinjuku. If you’re coming from a different area though and happen to catch the Sobu line, get off at Okubo to reduce your walk. Due to their recent popularity on social media in the past couple years, Menya Sho is extremely foreigner friendly with menus and ticket machines all in English. Even the posters outside describing their different ramen varieties are written in English. If you’re a bit weary of going to a ramen shop in Japan because of the language barrier, Sho would be the perfect place to start.
I came to Menya Sho after already having a bowl at Fuunji so I only had the stomach to eat the Tokusei Shio Ramen on this visit. Surprisingly, Sho has a ton of options so I’ll have to come back and review some of their other varieties. As opposed to Fuunji, Sho makes their ramen to order, so I handed my ticket to the chef and I sat tight watching them make my bowl from the counter seating. Water is self serve with cold retaining cups and water provided on the top counter. At your seat is the chopsticks, napkins, a bib to prevent getting soup on your clothes, black pepper, and toothpicks. The wet towel is to wipe your table so don’t mistake it for a “oshibori” (hand towel). For those with longer hair, you can ask the wait staff for a hair band to avoid getting hair in your food. Might not seem like much, but after the poor customer service I received at Fuunji, I really appreciated all these small, subtle acts of kindness. The entire shop welcomes you with a “Irashaimase!” (Welcome!) as you walk in and a grateful “Arigatougozaimasu!” (Thank you!) as you leave.
After about 4-5 minutes of waiting at my seat, my bowl of Tokusei Shio Ramen arrived. The ramen is beautifully presented showcasing every topping perfectly with sparkles coming from the golden soup. My Tokusei Shio Ramen was adorned with three different types of char siu, thin strips of menma bamboo shoots, two different won tons, soft boiled egg, Mizuna (water greens), a bit of shredded leeks, and shredded red peppers. The soup here is fantastic, using a primary chicken chintan broth with a tare consisting of four different salt blends from France, Italy, Mongolia, and Japan. Char siu consists of one roasted pork belly, two sous vide pork shoulder butt, and one braised pork shoulder butt. The won tons are one shrimp and one pork.
The soup for the Shio Ramen is fantastic which isn’t that big of a surprise as it is their main claim to fame. As it is a chintan soup, the broth is made from a low simmer of chicken carcass to draw as much flavor out without getting too much bone marrow resulting in a light and airy broth. You’ll initially get the salty flavor notes of the Shio tare, but it is immediately followed by the savory chicken broth. I haven’t had a refreshing chicken shio soup like this in a while and was very satisfied with both how light it is, but also how impactful it is in terms of flavor. The noodles were thin and flat, pairing with the soup quite well ensuring that the right amount of soup clung to the noodles with every bite and just subtle wheat flavor as not to interfere with the gentle chintan soup.
The highlight for me however was how great each char siu variety was. The braised pork belly (dark pork in photos) had a great smoky aroma and taste, with a good amount of fat to keep the slice moist and juicy. The sous vide pork slices was surprisingly flavorful as it soaks up the soup from the ramen. Braised pork shoulder butt was nice and meaty adding another texture profile to the dish. It is difficult enough to make one good char siu variety, but I was satisfied and enjoyed every one at Menya Sho. The won tons were regrettably, forgettable and I would have preferred more char siu to be honest. Honestly though, that was my mistake, as I should have ordered the Char Siu Shio Ramen instead which replaces the won ton with more pork slices. While it wasn’t terrible, it was far from the best I’ve had and the char siu slices were miles ahead in terms of flavor. Mizuna was fresh and crunchy helping cut through the fattiness of the pork slices and the menma bamboo shoots were stringy and soft which was a pleasant surprise. Soft boiled egg was a bit overcooked as you might see in the photo, but the salt marinade made for a great flavor and worked well with the bowl.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my bowl here at Menya Sho. It’s a pretty popular ramen shop drawing a bit of a line on weekends, but nothing ridiculous and if you do end up waiting, you probably won’t be without a bowl for 20 minutes from getting in queue. If you’re staying in Shinjuku and you’re looking for a nice bowl of ramen nearby your accommodations, this is definitely the shop for you. It’s just over a five minute walk from the station and is a very tourist friendly restaurant. If you end up getting anything other than the Tokusei Shio Ramen, be sure to tell me about it on facebook, instagram, or twitter! (Links below)