I'm tempted to talk about my experience at "Rokurinsha" in Osaki before the food, but that would be unfair to this slightly unconventional, but very tasty ramen. A pork and fish broth at first seems like a funked-up workin' man's twist on surf and turf, but these guys pull it off.
Served as tsukemen, or dipping noodles, this isn't a pretty looking ramen. The broth is an unattractive brown laden with chunks of onion. There's a single slice of chashu buried in there as well. But very unique is a pile of finely grated smoked bonito- not flakes, but more like a powder. For toppings I ordered chashu shavings and an incredible lightly marinated half-boiled egg- an atypical "aji-tsuke tamago". I love it when they don't hardboil the eggs so you get pasty yolks, but get it with that bright yellow glassy jelly. Their eggs are like that. The chashu shavings are the crunchy or tasty bits that have come off of the pork roll. They give the soup a stew-like quality. There's also a thick slice of chashu in every order. That was nice but not memorable. The noodles are a thick gauge kinky type, closer to udon than most ramen, and are produced from a very reputable Asakusa noodle maker. I actually love this type of noodle. They've got some real bite to them and a cool kind of doughiness. They didn't skimp on the noodles, which shows a dedication to seeing through the whole dish.
Ok, so what's remarkable about this ramen is that it manages to pull off the best of the pork and fish broth worlds. It's got a distinct, bold tasty flavor, without being overwhelming and heavy. It doesn't come off as thick and greasy like many pork soups, but at the same time it's not overly fishy or bitter. It carries a subtle, but natural sweetness from the fish broth that evenly balances the grind of a pork and chicken broths. And there's the perfect level of saltiness here, so you're not reaching for the water jug every few spoonfuls. The bonito gives it a nice smokiness and, ingeniously concieved, sops up the broth and then clings to the noodles when you dip them. What a great idea. This is one of the more interesting ramens I've ever had and I'll be back for more visits.
The goofy backstory to my visit started when I researched this place on Ramen Database.com, a site I've become enamored with lately because of it's daily ranking of nationwide ramen shops by it's dedicated users. I came to look at the ranking as a sort of Dow Jones for ramen, since they had status arrows indicating trends in how particular shops were performing. Someone's got a lot of free time on there hands... Anyway, I was looking for ramen shops in Osaki and noticed "Rokurinsha" was in the top 10. The morning of my visit, I checked to see that it had jumped to number 1. Wow, does that mean they beat Ohio State or something? No, actually a posting mentioned that the shop was featured on TV the past Saturday, so excitement was building. Long lines were expected. So the shop opens at 11;30 am and I get there, not necessarily by design, at 10:40. The shutter's down and the benches in front are empty. I grab a Mitsuya Cider and a newspaper and make myself comfortable. Not five minutes later does a group of 3 college guys show up and take the seats next to me. By 11:00am, 30 minutes before it opens, there at least 25 people now queued up. It was an overcast, chilly day, and this place is a good 10 minutes from the station. But here we all were, pathetic, weak for ramen souls, waiting in line in some anonymous residential neighborhood. As it turns out, the shop is closet-sized, with 12 tightly packed stools around a counter. "Rokurinsha"- great, interesting ramen, a little bit of a long wait, and prepare to rub elbows with the guy next to you.
Ordered: Tsukemen + aji-tsuke tamago + chashu shavings
Cost: 1000 YEN
Location: Osaki, Yamanote Line (10 minutes from the station)
Address: Shinagawa-ku, Osaki 3-14-10
Note: Opens at 11:30am and stays open until they run out of broth. Closed on Tuesdays.
Check out: www.ramendb.com