They say to try everything once. And so being a ramen fiend and voracious foodie, I was lured by the idea of cheese tomato ramen.
Tomato, cheese and basil? They all grace pasta rather beautifully, don’t they? So why not noodles? They’re basically the same right? Long chewy sources of carbohydrate.
I am now imagining armies of pasta and noodle chefs joining forces to riot against my sacrilegious words.
It’s OK – I understand that noodles and pasta are very different propositions. So a mash or clash of Mediterranean flavours with an Asian staple was too intriguing not to sample.
Besides, Taiyou Tomato-men (lit. Sun Tomato Noodles) had shining reviews on my good old friend, Japanese review site Tabelog. It’s a fairly hefty chain, in fact, with stores spattered across Tokyo, a few other Japanese cities, Taipei and Hong Kong.
I should add that I am sometimes too inquisitive for my own good. I also suffer from very poor decision-making/ borderline delirium when very hungry.
It was then, perhaps against my better judgement, that we squeezed into a table alongside various teenage girls who were slurping their tomato noodles contentedly after hitting the fashion shops in the Shinjuku My Lord shopping centre.
For me, a straight up bowl of the tomato cheese ramen (880 yen) and my even more reluctant yet starving dining partner ordered A Set – tomato cheese ramen with a mini bowl of rice and four cheese-stuffed dumplings (1180 yen).
I took a sip of the soup.
Reluctant dining partner gave me a withering look. “That is basically what I was expecting.”
“But the second mouthful isn’t so bad,” I protested. “It’s growing on me.”
And in fact, it did grow on me. Partially because:
- I was (fucking*) starving
- I added a (fuck-*)tonne of black pepper and Tabasco
[*Expletives added for demonstration of just how HANGRY I was when eating this]
My first impression was of a rather thin, uninspiring tomato soup. My second mouthful got a whiff of garlic and I got a little bit excited. Sadly, a whiff of garlic was all the garlic I was going to get.
The cheese and basil got lost in what was rather a one-dimensional tomato swamp. I slurped it eagerly. All I’d had to eat was half a sandwich and something so wondrously unremarkable was instantaneously wondrously comforting.
The pork, soft and tender, was nothing more than a textured lump in the tomato quagmire. Just very occasionally the bitterness of the Japanese mustard spinach cut through.
I discovered the black pepper. Then I discovered the Tabasco.
My dining companion gave me another withering look and added some chilli oil.
“I don’t like the taste of Tabasco,” he muttered.
He took particular issue with his cheese filled dumplings, which were fine in my opinion, if you really like creamy and heavily processed cheese. They were too rich and unnatural for me, but I can imagine them being incredibly popular.
The mini-bowl of rice came with some herbs and bacony bits sprinkled on top and was actually quite good when added to the remainder of the tomato soup to form what the shop misleadingly calls “risotto”.
I imagine Italians visiting this store and weeping.
Taiyou Tomato-men Shinjuku My Lord 2.5/5 – Perfectly edible – and perhaps worth a try if you’re culinarily curious – but unless you are a tomato-fetishist, you can probably go eat some tomato pasta and/or ramen. Just, you know, separately.
When: Daily, 11am – 11pm
Where: 東京都新宿区西新宿1-1-3 新宿ミロード 7F (Shinjuku My Lord, Tokyo)