Japan Eats

Greasy Spoons (and Chopsticks): Shichifukuya Ramen

greasyarticleimage copy

In the first of a series on the Baba-Waseda ramen belt, Nick samples the wares at Shichifukuya.

Let it never be said that Nick’s word is not his bond. As promised, today begins our tour of the rich vein of ramen that extends from the college neighborhood of Waseda over to the home of Astro Boy, Takadanobaba. I’ll start with the highlights and add in the often older, but not always as noteworthy others afterwards.

Chashumen

Chashumen

To keep your mother happy, we begin near school, and a prestigious one at that. If you take the elevator out of Waseda station (Tozai line), turn right and walk just a bit and you’ll come to Shichifukuya, a fairly new place with the traditional-looking front and ticket machine that most new ramen shops favor these days.

Before any of that, though, the smell is going to hit you. Not like a fist, not like a dainty hand in a white glove, but like a doll jumping into your arms, only in this case, the dame is huge and it’s you being picked up.

Lovely smell. This can’t always be said, even of the best ramen, so it’s a bonus for Shichifukuya.

There’s a ticket machine outside, with a bill slot high enough that anyone who doesn’t need to duck when playing leapfrog might want to bring a taller friend to help out.

I went for the chashumen (850 yen), which was the second-most popular item according the stickers on the machine, and went inside.

Shichifukya is done out in wood, with kind of a rustic thing going on. It has the usual counter seats, but more of them than usual, as the kitchen has an L-shape. There are bigger tables at the back.

The ramen did not disappoint. The noodles were on the thick side and were good, if unremarkable in their own right (by which I mean above average in total, average for a good ramen shop).

The soup was a thick, textured miso-tonkatsu – the kind of soup it’s nice to let roll over the tongue for a while. No mere oily medium for noodles was this. The smell led to a broth that kept its end up. Large sheets of nori gave a strong marine hint to the porkstravaganza, but it was welcome.

A good start to a good tour and a solid anchor at the Eastern end of our route.

Shichifukuya is near Waseda Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai line, across Tsurumakicho from Waseda Middle and High School. Take the elevator up, turn right out of it, go past the soup curry shop and you’ll see a black wood-fronted shop with an inviting smell that precedes its appearance on your right.

Restaurant Review: Bunryu (Takadanobaba)

Bunryu’s original shop in Takadanobaba has a long and proud history of making good Italian food. Less than

There are always a couple of tagliatelle dishes on the menu.

a one minute from JR Takadanobaba station, this small restaurant has been keeping restaurants happy and coming back for more since the 1973.

While the restaurant itself is not large, there is enough seating for parties as large as 10, and customers dining alone can easily be accommodated at the central island table.

The bookshelves, ceramic lamps, and other assorted classic touches are nice, but the real attraction is the food. Lunch is a great time to try this restaurant out, as it becomes considerably more affordable for the average non-executive or university professor, but be prepared to wait if you arrive right  at noon. While in the queue, you can busy yourself deciding which of the four lunch courses you’d like to try. At 950 yen, the A course gets you a salad, pasta dish of your choice, and post-meal cup of coffee or tea. If one happens to be sporting a decent appetite, then opting for a course that comes later in the alphabet is advised.

The other three courses, B through D, build in varying degrees and amounts of Italian-inspired delights with the most involved being the D course at 2,800 yen. For that price you’ll enjoy an appetizer, salad, pasta and meat or fish dishes of your choice, homemade bread, and the aforementioned hot drink.

From the pasta menu, anything featuring Tagliatelle (a pasta noodle made with egg) is a safe bet.

There is also, of course, a small variety of pasta, meat, fish, and pizza a la carte selections available. Pasta dishes are 750 at lunchtime, while everything else is priced between one and two thousand yen.

Beer and house wine are 300 yen during the afternoon.

Bunryu happens to be very popular with the local university professor crowd, so it is not uncommon to find them there reading a book in the afternoon or having dinner with small groups of graduate-level advisees in the evening.

Bunryu also has a restaurant in Kunitachi.

Directions: JR Takadanobaba Waseda exit (accessible from Tozai and Seibu-Shinjuku lines as well). Find “Big Box” (there’s a police box at the foot of it), and from there locate Mizuho Bank across the street. Bunryu is in the basement beneath Mizuho in the FI building.

Address: 169-0075  Tokyo-to Shinjuku-ku Takadanobaba 1-26-5 FI Biru B1

Telephone: 03-3208-5447

Hours: Lunch 11:30-14:00; Dinner 17:00-22:00 (until 21:00 on Sundays)

Guru Navi: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/a530000/

Bunryu Website: http://www.bunryu.co.jp/restaurant/index.htm