Kikanbo Ramen (Kanda)

12 comments
ramen

When it comes to ramen, I leave that in Mr. S’s capable hands. The “S” does in fact, stand for soup noodles, haven’t I mentioned that before? All kidding aside, he does do his due diligence when it comes to finding great ramen shops about town, anything from your standard tonkatsu, miso, shoyu, and tsukemen to more specialized bowls like yuzu shio, roast beef and beef broth (instead of pork), tan tan mien, burnt garlic, and “ladies ramen” which has more veggies and a lighter broth. The sheer amount and diversity of ramen shops in this city is a testament to: (1) the popularity of ramen in general amongst Japanese and tourists (because it is typically cheap, a quick meal, and hella oishii when done right), and (2) the fact that ramen preference is highly a matter of personal taste.

Just a little background, Mr. S and I both love love love spicy food. So, after the 10th time that I heard him bring up this spicy ramen shop, I figured, alrighty then, let’s do this. So we made our way to Kanda, which is one stop north of Tokyo station on the Yamanote line. Immediately around Kanda station, the alleyways are well known for the plethora of ramen shops that draw in salarymen at all times of the day. Just around the corner from one of these alleys is Kikanbo Ramen, a ramen shop that specializes in spicy miso ramen.

Kikanbo takes spicy to another level, literally, by using 2 kinds of spice, for which the customer can choose the level of spice for each kind. The first kind is kara which is your standard pepper kind of hot (too much = pain, chug water, repeat). The second is shibi which is the spice associated with Sichuan peppercorn, which is not a pepper. Less of a spicy kind of hot, and more of a numbing, tingling, floral sensation that many have said to be awesomely addictive. We use a shitload of this stuff in Chinese cooking–anywhere from Sichuan pepper oil, to sauces, to the ground, toasted pepper forms. The combination of the two types of spice will perk up every single tastebud and nerve ending in your body.

Like many ramen shops, this is the ordering procedure:

1. You walk in and order from a vending machine. The choices are all in Japanese, but you can ask for their English menu, which I took a picture of below. You’ll also notice the many traditional Japanese demon masks that adorn the restaurant, staring at you to intimidate you into trying the hottest levels of spice.

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2. The staff will direct you to a seat at the 10-seat counter. Then you’ll show your ticket from the vending machine to the staff, and they will ask you for your chosen levels of kara and shibi spices. I recommend the medium and medium (futsu futsu) levels if you enjoy spicy things but still want to be able to taste your food midway through! More adventurous spice lovers can order the “demon demon” which will blow your head off, and maybe your colon! Below is an annotated picture of the spice level menu.

Levels

Pick your levels 

3. Order a cold beer. You’ll need it, trust me.

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4. Watch the kitchen staff behind the counter do their magic. For each bowl, the cook will first wok-fry miso paste with seasoning (to develop the taste) and then add in the pork-based broth along with the desired amount of spices and cook some more. The noodles are cooked separately, and all are assembled in a bowl, and then toppings are added.

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Deluxe ramen at Kikanbo

The prep line

The prep line

I ordered the futsu-futsu level of the “Deluxe” ramen which comprises a regular portion of noodles, half portion of bean sprouts, a seasoned egg, and double pork. This was like… if really good dandan mian and miso ramen had a love child, this would be it, times 100. The broth is thicker than your average ramen broth consistency, akin to a gravy, which coated the noodles nicely with each bite. Full-bodied, and intensely aromatic with the combination of heat, Sichuan peppercorn-induced tingle, and rich miso. Every bite was spectacular.

Other ramen elements are also worth discussing here, especially the roast pork and bean sprouts. The roast pork were thick thick slices of a shoulder-cut with some fat. The best seasoned and most tender pork I have had in ramen by far. Fork-tender, for sure. The bean sprouts too were also intensely seasoned because they are cooked in the wok with the miso broth, so it arrives already wilted into the soup and flavored.

As all of these intense flavors were coursing through my mouth, my ears and body were filled with the constant beating of taiko drum tracks that the restaurant plays over the speakers. You will hear it in the short video below. The heat, spice, beating drums, nerves firing, mouth tingling…ahhhh… I felt ready to go to battle after the meal. And, without knowing it, I finished my entire bowl, and then some more of Mr. S’s pork.

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Go, but be prepared for a bit of a wait. Kikanbo’s tsukemen shop is a few doors down, but they only serve tsukemen. The only other branch in Tokyo is in Ikebukuro. All addresses are below.

Getting There:

Kikanbo, 2-10-10 Kajicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Tsukemen Shop: 2-10-9 Kajicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Ikebukuro branch: 1-13-14 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

12 thoughts on “Kikanbo Ramen (Kanda)”

  1. Thank you for posting the English menu; I would be heading to Tokyo with my aged folks next month and their deluxe ramen with scallops sounds like a good reason to be making the trek to Kanda.

    1 question: We would be heading up to Kanda on the JR Yamanote line – is it suicidal to be making the trip up from Shinagawa at around 6pm for dinner?

    Your thoughts?

  2. Hi May, I’m glad you guys will be going! I think 6pm should be really early enough the line will not be long. There might not be a line that early actually. But if there is, it will move fast. The ramen eaters in there don’t linger. Just make sure you don’t go at 6 on a Sunday. It closes early that day.

  3. Thanks again for your reply. We’d be putting up in a hotel that is pretty close to the JR Yamanote line; because the folks can’t walk that far, we’d be keeping to areas that hew pretty close to the JR Yamanote line for meals and sightseeing. I was wondering if the evening crush on the Yamanote line would be manageable (in the anticlockwise direction heading towards Kanda) around 6pm…..some folks have commented that it is best to avoid the subways and the Yamanote line between 5-7pm during weekdays.

  4. Hi May, yes not only do the trains get crowded, but major stations like Shinagawa too. A lot of foot traffic. And depending on which entrance of the station you enter, you may need to walk a ways to get to the Yamanote gates. Shinagawa services the Shinkansen trains, and most of the local commuter trains, so it can get hectic in there. How about taking a cab from Shinagawa to Kanda? It is not that expensive, maybe about 1500-2000 yen. You can take the train on your way back from dinner.

  5. Ah….thanks for your reply. I am thinking of tweaking my plans so that we can adjourn to dinner from Ginza rather than from the Shinagawa area….the cab fare would be even more manageable then. Have a great week ahead!

  6. I just checked their website and it seems that their Kanda store is closed for renovations from 24 August 2015 to 11 September 2015….which means that if I still insist on having this ramen, I would have to head to Ikebukuro…if I am wrong, do correct me. I’d be checking your blog from time to time…..thanks for all the recommendations.

  7. Hi May, my husband was just there a couple weeks ago. He says the main location is closed for renovations, as their site reports. However, their store right next door (Chiyoda-ku, 2-10-9 Kajichō), which normally just sells tsukemen only, now has the miso soup noodles on their menu, so you can go there! The Ikebukuro branch is open of course, and you could also stop in there, but that will be a long trek.

  8. Hannah says:

    Does kikanbo only have pork based broth ramen and tsukemon. I don’t eat pork but really want to try this!!

  9. I love Kikanbo! I ate it often in my six month in Tokyo. Now I’m back in the states without it 😦

    Any idea how to make it or order it somehow???

    • Kikanbo withdrawal! That’s the worst. From what I’ve observed, the soup base is pretty involved, consisting of several different kinds of sauces and bases that are then wok-fried over intense heat. You’ll just have to make do with having the real deal when you come back to Tokyo again!

  10. ML112 says:

    ah yes, my favourite lunch spot during my 18 months stint in Tokyo. I miss Japan and especially this place. I never had this type of ramen ever again anywhere else unfortunately.

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