Ramen Gottsu (らーめん ごっつ); The Holy Fish and Pork Broth, Nerima
So when I first started visiting the top ramen shops around Tokyo, I would come across shop staff members from Toy Box, Shinka, Shibata, Ichiban Ichiban, Kujira Shokudo, and Sugimoto wearing tshirts that featured the logos for all of these restaurants. Upon further research I found that a couple years ago these shops decided to do a collaboration pop up serving a ridiculous bowl that takes the greatest components from each restaurant. One of the shops that was featured on these tshirts that I hadn’t yet gone to was Ramen Gottsu. I have always heard about it, but given its location in Nerima (which is quite far from my house/work) I had yet to visit. In a welcome surprise, I ended up having a client meeting in Nerima earlier this year and I figured this would be my chance to try a bowl. A brisk 6 minute walk from the station, Ramen Gottsu has lived up to the high standards I’ve come to expect from my visits to other shops on the collaboration list.
The menu here is quite simple; they have a bowl of Ramen, Niboshi Ramen, and Tsukemen. The most popular item on the menu is the Gottsu Ramen which is their regular ramen with a soft boiled egg, char siu roast pork, and a spoonful of their spicy miso ground pork. For those who order the tsukemen, you have the option for more noodles for 50 and 100 yen more. Toppings at Gottsu include the spicy miso ground pork, soft boiled egg, smoked soft boiled egg, roast pork char siu, scallions, menma bamboo shoots, and seaweed. As for the side menu, Gottsu offers rice, Tamago Kake Gohan (raw egg over rice), roast pork over rice, won ton, and a homemade cheesecake. As I was not too hungry I opted for the Gottsu Ramen and a side of the roast pork over rice.
My meal began with the Gottsu Ramen. I was surprised that I didn’t receive my rice bowl first, but they recommend I try the ramen first and pour some soup over the bowl mid meal. Then use the spicy miso ground pork (that you see on the left) for a flavor change and pour a bit of that soup in to the rice bowl after. Not one to question the owner, I dove in to my ramen first. The style at Gottsu is what the Japanese have nicknamed W soup, or double soup (W for the Japanese pronunciation of the letter W closely resembling the pronunciation of double). The two broths that make up the double are a Niboshi dried fish broth and a deep pork broth similar to a tonkotsu. Popular restaurants which use the W soup include Koukaibou and Kisso, but this has to be the best one I’ve had so far. I’m usually not a fan of the W soup as I don’t quite like the distinct pork smell that it has, but Gottsu has somehow managed to reduce that aroma and create a great soup. When you first taste the soup you’ll get hit with the distinctly Niboshi fish flavor, but immediately after you can taste the deep pork bone flavor. It’s a thick, viscous soup due to the pork broth which feels very creamy to the touch.
The noodles are a straight, medium thick noodle which pairs pretty well with the soup. I would have liked them to be a bit thicker, but it had a lot of wheat flavor and didn’t overpower the soup which was nice. The soft boiled egg was perfectly cooked as you can see and melted in to my bowl after breaking in half. After a few bites, I started on my rice bowl and added some soup, but let me first describe how great the spicy miso ground pork was. As you can see from the above picture, it doesn’t look like much. Upon first glance I honestly thought it was just a chili paste with some saute ground pork mixed in, but it packs huge flavor with a very rich miso base, strong garlic punch, and a nice kick of spicy chili peppers all saute together with the ground pork. It truly changes the flavor of the soup, so definitely mix it in half way through so you can appreciate the flavor of the soup on its own first. The miso isn’t going to make you grab a glass of water right away, but it has a nice kick that wakens your taste bud so be prepared. For whatever reason, the combination of these ingredients somehow cuts through the soup and makes it a bit more smoother which seems to have the opposite effect of what I would imagine a miso paste to do. I think the garlic and chili peppers help to cut through the fat of the soup to reach this effect.
Next off, the rice bowl. As I mentioned earlier, I had a bite of the rice bowl, then with the soup, and again with the soup after I had mixed in the spicy miso. I must say, the pork char siu in my ramen was forgettable as it was cut quite thin and didn’t have much flavor, but cubed and placed over a bed of hot rice made it infinitely better. I think I enjoyed the meatiness and texture of the cubes of the char siu compared to the slices in the ramen which made me enjoy it more. Also because of the surface space, you can really taste the char on the pork which adds a nice smoky aroma. A bit of shoyu seasoning is poured over the top and it helps cut through a bit of the fat that remains on the pork. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a must order, but enjoying the soup in its different states with rice was phenomenal. The starch of the rice counterbalances the fatty soup and makes for a nice risotto type flavor that I quite enjoyed. If you want the extra meat, definitely get the roast pork bowl, but if not, at least get the simple rice bowl.
I was quite glad I went to Gottsu for two reasons. One, I realized that while a W soup is not my favorite type of ramen, places like Gottsu can easily make me appreciate the flavor because of their dedication to the craft. Its still not my favorite ramen variety, but I will be more likely to try a famous W soup ramen shop now knowing that it can be made to this quality. And two, every ramen shop from the collaboration list I have gone to so far has yet to disappoint and is giving me the motivation to make it to the rest.