Ramen CiQUE (ラーメン チキュウ); The Shio Tomato Ramen, Asagaya
I haven’t finished my top 5 Shio Ramen list yet, but for certain Ramen CiQUE will be on that list. One of my favorite bowls of ramen in general, CiQUE is a modern take on classic Shio ramen. Everything from its chic interior and unique ramen and toppings will have you reconsidering ramen in general. Opened out of an old bar, the counter seating feels just like sitting at a fancy, drinking establishment. The seating is quite limited since the restaurant is usually operating by just the chef/owner. There is a complaint about the dead space in the shop, but it really can’t be helped as they would likely not be served anyway. It does, however, make for a pleasant wait since more people can fill in the back inside rather than waiting outside in the heat/cold depending on the season.
The ramen served at CiQUE come in two varieties, Shoyu and Shio. Unlike other ramen shops however, the two varieties use two different broth bases. The Shoyu ramen is a W (double) soup of a Toripaitan (rich chicken broth) and fish while the Shio ramen is a Torichintan (light chicken broth) soup. Both are very highly regarded, but I think the Shio ramen here is one of the best I have ever had. If its your first time, I highly recommend selecting the Shio. Extra toppings include pork loin slice, pork belly slice, marinated egg (salt), marinated egg (shoyu), bamboo shoots, green onions, seaweed, roasted tomato, butter, corn and two different rice bowls. On weekdays, during lunch, extra noodles are free, but any other time, it’ll be an extra 100 yen. I definitely recommend pairing the egg with the ramen type you selected and if you do indeed order the Shio ramen, order the roasted tomato topping. The rice bowl is quite good and a pretty good bargain for 150 yen, so if you’re looking for a bit extra, give it a try.
After giving the chef my tickets, I was seated at the counter in front of the kitchen. As he meticulously prepared my ramen by warming up the soup and boiling the noodles, he put together my rice bowl. In Japanese this rice style is called Hakkoku Gohan, or 8 flavor rice. The rice is cooked then seasoned with 8 different spices ranging from sesame seeds, pickled plum, quinoa, etc. Its sometimes served with curry and other soup bases which would explain its pairing with the ramen. The flavors are very uniquely Japanese and paired fantastically with the soup.
Pictured here is the Shio ramen with marinated egg (shio) and roasted tomato. The soup is a light, but flavorful Torichintan made from a gentle simmer of the chicken carcass (as opposed to a hard simmer to get the Toripaitan broth). The combination of the light chicken broth with the homemade shio tare creates a wonderful burst of flavor without feeling too heavy. The noodles used here is a thin, Kansui (sodium carbonate) rich noodle which help accentuate the soup rather than overpower it. Bowl is topped off with a slice of pork belly char siu, blanched spinach, dehydrated tofu, bamboo shoots, sliced scallions, and a slice of dried seaweed.
As you can see from the photo, the soup is very clear and light. The flavor, however, is quite powerful and has a very intense chicken and salt flavor. The salt tare really accentuates both the sweet and savory profiles of the chicken broth. Due to the delicacy of the soup, none of the toppings are overpowering as to not distort the incredible broth. As mentioned above, the roasted tomato is a highly recommended additional topping and gives the bowl a nice acidity to the dish. As for the tomato itself, much like how salt will draw the sweetness out of tomatoes and watermelon, the shio tare brings out an amazing sweetness out of them. There are quite a bit of ramen restaurants in Japan that dabble with the concept of tomato and ramen, but CiQUE has set that bar very high with this dish. The pairing really was made in heaven and is one of the main reasons why I consider this shio ramen to be one of the best in Japan. I really enjoyed the dehydrated tofu which worked well to soak up the soup while giving texture to the bowl. As it is a light Torichintan broth, the soup lacks a bit of fat, but is compensated by the fatty, pork belly char siu slice. The soft, but chewy noodles, crunchy bamboo shoots, and crisp scallions really round out the bowl.
As I am in love with the Shio Ramen at CiQUE, I admittedly have only ordered this variety on every one of my visits. I will report back one of these days to try the shoyu and give feedback on that bowl as well. However, that should tell you just how highly I regard this bowl. I have yet to encounter a shio, or tomato topped ramen that has surpassed this one. Definitely a must visit restaurant for your Tokyo travels.