On the list of Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo, sushi joints reign supreme, along with French, Japanese (kaiseki) and yakitori restaurants. But ramen seems to be an elusive category as there were many restaurants who received the Bib Gourmand nod since the guide’s inaugural Tokyo edition in 2007 but none got the coveted star – until 2015. Tsuta, a small ramen joint out in Sugamo, made history that year when it became the first ramen restaurant in Tokyo – and the world for that matter – to be awarded a Michelin star. This is followed by Nakiryu, who received a star in 2017 for its dandanmen. And now, joining this prestigious rank is Sobahouse Konjiki Hototogisu, another small ramen restaurant, hidden in the back alleys of Shinjuku.
Sobahouse Konjiki Hototogisu is one of the 29 new one-star restaurants in 2019’s Michelin Guide Tokyo. It is also only the third ramen restaurant in the world to get a star. The signature shouyu soba is a ‘triple soup’ bowl of noodles, where the clear pork broth is blended with wa-dashi (Japanese stock) and hamaguri clam dashi, and then topped with truffle sauce as well as porcini oil and flakes for that bold umami punch. (In case you’re wondering, the words ‘soba’ and ‘ramen’ are sometimes interchangeable, as ramen is also referred to as ‘chuka-soba’, which mean ‘Chinese noodles’.)
We, on the other hand, much prefer the shio soba. The base stock blends two different types of salt (Mongolian rock salt and Okinawan sea salt) and it’s the perfect foil for the hamaguri clam and red sea bream soup’s distinctive seafood sweetness. The noodles are then finished with Italian white truffle oil, porcini mushroom sauce, pancetta bacon bits and inca berry sauce. This adds a pesto-like robustness and depth in the overall flavour. It is moreish, and you’ll be compelled to finish the soup till the last drop.
There’s tsukemen (dipping noodles) too, along with add-ons such as eggs, char siu pork slices and more. And the best part is, you’ll find an English explanation sheet (pictured above) to help you make your purchase at the vending machine. Do note that there are only seven counter seats, and based on our past few visits this month, the queue can get pretty long. So wrap up in your warmest clothes and be patient – it’s worth it, especially since a bowl of Michelin-quality ramen here will only set you back ¥900.