10 ramen bar champs
If you think it looks just like a chic izakaya, you're not far off: found right in between Roppongi and Nishi-Azabu, Gogyo specialises in pairing ramen with alcohol, with everything from sake to wine and cocktails available. Their signature kogashi ('burned') ramen consist of a thick soy sauce- or miso-based soup topped with charred fat, making for a flavourful, smoky experience. Just don't be surprised when the kitchen fills up with flames during the cooking process.
Take a quick walk from the east exit of Ebisu Station to find this ramen izakaya on the second floor of an inconspicuous office building. Kamachi's lunch menu resembles that of any other ramen shop, but the night-time experience is something else: the soup selection ranges from seafood and yuzu to standard miso, shio and shoyu, while appetisers and alcohol are available in impressive quantities as well. First-timers might want to start off with the seafood and rock salt ramen (¥700) in clear soup – a refreshingly light choice.
Formerly just a standard noodle shop, this Shinjuku favourite offers a varied menu of ramen, tsukemen, abura-soba (ramen without soup) and booze-compatible appetisers in hip surroundings, attracting a steady stream of noodle-lovers both day and night. Their ajitama chuka soba (¥900) is served in a strong seafood-based soup and comes topped with a soft-boiled egg and flavourful chashu pork. As for the drinks, make sure to explore their highball selection, which includes offbeat varieties like a maple-flavoured mixture.
Step out of Nippori Station's south exit and look for the tanuki statue marking the spot. The two-storey building's ground floor is occupied by a standard noodle shop, while the izakaya upstairs combines ramen with drinks and tends to get rather rowdy late at night. Burari's speciality is the creamy, thick tori-paitan ramen (¥780), but their spritzy tori-soba (¥680), served in a clear soup, is also well worth trying. Friends of dipping noodles will find the tsukemen part of the menu satisfying, too.
A one-woman show run by former pin-up model Takako Hayakawa, this ramen bar has built up an army of regulars on the strength of both its extra-special salt-based soup and the owner's voluptuous appearance. Although the latter can be enjoyed at all times, the ramen is served only when Hayakawa feels like it, making this one something of a challenge for noodle hunters. When it is available, though, the shio-shoyu ramen (¥650, ¥900 for a large size) is a masterpiece: bathing in a katsuo-dashi soup and stacked with green onion and kombu kelp, this one is the perfect finisher for a long night of boozing.
Italian flavours meet ramen at this playful bistro, situated a brisk five-minute walk from Akihabara Station. The pizza and pasta here is average at best, but you can't argue with the barrel wine nomihodai, available at an eye-popping ¥600 per hour. When you're all plonked up, finish the night with their spicy tsukemen (¥500), served with flat noodles and a fiery soup that's a mixture of doubanjiang paste, Sichuan peppers, green onion, ground beef and chilli oil.
This Jinbocho representative stands out for its Yamagata cuisine and wide variety of local sake on offer. Even the ramen is made mainly with Yamagata-grown ingredients – a case in point is the charcoal-grilled chicken found on top of their standard shoyu ramen (¥930). This masterpiece is served with chewy, thin noodles and a slightly sweet, flavourful soup, and is best combined with rare delicacies like fresh ayu fish (¥1,050) from Yamagata's Mamurogawa.
The rough-and-ready neighbourhood of Kanamachi, far out in Katsushika-ku, is the unlikely home of this excellent izakaya that also happens to serve delicious ramen. The menu changes daily, ranging from appetisers (from ¥380) to a continuously rotating selection of noodle concoctions. If you're only visiting once, try their signature Kanamachi Ramen, an orthodox mixture that's best paired with some cheap shochu or beer.
This Hamamatsucho joint serves as a standard noodle shop at lunchtime but turns into a full-fledged pub at night, offering everything from pizzas to kushiyaki (skewers). All three pizza choices (margarita, anchovy-tomato and gorgonzola) go for ¥500 a pie, but the ¥100 yakitori and other skewers are the real cheapo attraction. Noodle fiends won't be disappointed with the double soup (tonkotsu and seafood) served with Zoot's standard ramen (¥700).
Located on a sleepy residential street not far from the Sumida River, Mukojima's top ramen izakaya is a little tricky to find but rewards intrepid noodle-hunters with back-to-basics chuka soba, available in four flavours: shoyu, shoyu-chashu, shio and shio-chashu. The standard salt option (¥650) is their most popular dish, and for good reason: the slippery noodles and strongly flavoured soup make for an ideal conclusion to a night of boozing and snacking on seafood.