I used to be a massive music fan, attending live concerts once or twice a month. From the age of 16 to 20, I was the epitome of fanatical. Then, I kinda chilled out a bit. I’m a rubbish fan – I get obsessed with something for a while, then lose interest. Fortunately, the connection between my full stomach and my happiness levels is quite strong so I don’t think I’ll get bored of food.
Now, I’ve been wanting to reconnect with live music a bit. So when I found out Iron Maiden were coming to Tokyo, ten years exactly after I saw them last, I seriously considered it. Then I found out they were playing the SUMO WRESTLING HALL and it was fate. I forked out the cash and got myself a ticket.
Concerts start early in Japan and when it says “Iron Maiden 7pm” on your ticket, it doesn’t mean support acts start around 7pm and Iron Maiden will be on stage by 9pm if you’re really lucky. It means THEY’LL BE ON AT 7PM. I made this mistake at my very first gig and I’m still sore about missing the first 30 mins.
Regardless of the early start time, I definitely needed a good meal to set me up beforehand. I had just been practising stock market reports from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which I am going to have to make LIVE ON CAMERA from next month.
I’ll tell you one thing. Being stressed/nervous/generally peeing my pants leaves me famished.
So when I saw there was a highly recommended ramen store in the vicinity, I was outside Marutama Ramen a good 15 minutes before it opened. The store itself opened in Ryogoku in 2002 and is the second in a small-scale chain, originally from Kawaguchi, near Mt Fuji.
Joined by two accomplices – one an American pilot on holiday who’d also turned up in the hope of some noodles before Iron Maiden – we were seated round the shop’s only table (mainly counter seats) with three bowls of ramen in front of us within 5 minutes. That’s efficiency.
We all ordered the ‘throw everything on top’ ramen: it had pork belly, char siu, sea lettuce, spring onion and a soy egg, and cost a hefty 1380 yen. That’s quite an asking price for ramen so I prayed it was good. (In Japanese, it’s called 角煮あおさ玉子入り / kakuni aosa tamago iri lit. ‘cubed pork, sea lettuce, egg put in’. You can also substitute the toppings to your tastes).
Marutama makes its signature broth from chicken stock, which I greatly believe produces some of the most flavoursome ramen broths out there. This broth was salty but smooth, and slid down so easily. It transferred flavour to the noodles and so I found myself slurping with aplomb. Only after pausing did the chicken flavour sneak up – but as a gentle mouth companion rather than an unwanted intruder! I found the noodles a little, soft and unremarkable on their own, but they were merely an accompaniment to the broth, rather than the main feature at this store.
The broth perhaps wasn’t the most complicated flavour-wise and could get a little repetitive – I added some black pepper purely for a bit of contrast – but with the saltiness level, it’s definitely not meant to be consumed in large quantities. Overall, I thought it was competently executed and I was very happy.
However, 1380 yen for all these toppings? I eyed them… well, I couldn’t fault the portion size. Two very generous chunks of stewed pork belly sat on top. I bit in – and the fatty, sweet, salty meat dissolved into my mouth, making love to every tastebud on its way down. It was so rich and dangerous – it makes you crave more until you realise its seductive richness will be very heavy on your stomach.
I must be a masochist.
The char siu was also delicious and the soy egg beautifully gooey in the middle. The spring onion gave a sharpness that cut through the fattiness and saltiness and, although the sea lettuce didn’t seem to have much flavour in its own right, it added textural variety.
All I can say was that my bowl ended too soon.
My newfound foodie friend sat back in his seat, content.
“Do we know what time this store is open until? I’m just thinking about… after the concert…”
Now if that’s not a testament to a delicious bowl of noodles, I don’t know what is.
Marutama Ramen 4.5/5 – Smooth, flavourful broth and toppings that surpass tastiest levels of most ramen joints. Very impressive.
Where: 2 Chome-11-1 Ryogoku, Sumida, Tokyo
When: 11.30am – 2.30pm; 5.30pm – 9pm
And, in case, you were wondering, Iron Maiden were awesome fun.
And so were the fans. Here’s an Eddie… and a lady in an EDDIE KIMONO!