[Nate sez]: This is it. The hands down, absolute, no contest, by far best bowl of noodles. It's ugly. It's mean. The service is third class at best. You have to wait in a long, ever-present line before being sent down greased stairs to wait a little bit longer. Did you buy your ticket? Because you can't order at the counter asshole. Get your damn water yourself, and if you want some soda, get it from the vending machine. Beer? you ask. Buy a ticket, give them the ticket, and wait your turn you ungrateful, foul beast.
I had been in Tokyo only three days when I stumbled across this mammoth noodle discovery. I was fumbling around, trying to find a Capoeira studio located somewhere in the vague vicinity around Takadanobaba station, asking every convenience store clerk or willing listener where this building is, and having absolutely no luck. If you think a map would help, you are sorely mistaken. This is Toyko. Ben has a degree in geography, and always knows where he is, and he's helpless in Tokyo. Tired and frustrated, I decide to give up for the day, and vow to search there again... maybe even tomorrow. Little did I know why I had really been there that day.
Wandering back to the train station I would find a bowl of noodles that would alter the course of Ben et Nate history. On the first floor of a nondescript white building, about 6 American blocks west of Takadanobaba JR station, on the south side of the road, you will see a line of hungry, eager Japanese males under a bright yellow sign that you can't read. If you don't see a line, the shop is not open. You should also quickly check your pocket, because the noodle-dar that you brought along is no doubt overloading, and will momentarily explode in the awesome presence of the quintessential Asian noodle dive.
Welcome to Ramen Jiro.
The single greasiest, filthiest, most crowded noodle shop I've ever been in, and nobody gives a shit that you couldn't wipe all the porkfat off the floor with the strongest caustic available on the market. This bowl of noodles is just that good. As I look around and take in the sights and the sounds (mostly raucous slurping), the overwhelming fragrance in the room is a deep hue of soul wrenching pork stock. This is not a pretty bowl of noodles; it will taunt you, it will tease you, and after 5 minutes of eating the crap out of this thing it will somehow breed more noodles, more bean sprouts, more cabbage, more melty, fatty, juicy chunks of days-cooked pork, more chopped garlic, more soup, more...ramen. I notice that every single bowl that goes back on the counter has been completely demolished, perhaps only a bit of soup remaining. It becomes very clear to me that absolutely no one can leave there without finishing the whole thing. I'm not sure if it's law or tradition, or if that voice coming from my soup taunting me, daring me, ordering me to eat it all was the cause, but I also demolished my bowl in its entirety.
The soul of the soup is the richest pork stock you've ever encountered. It's like drinking velvet - only the really, really porky kind. A savory "tare" or paste/sauce is added to give the soup its secret soy based overtones and character. Garlic infused rendered pork fat is dumped in before the noodles hit the bowl. The Noodles - holy shit! I don't know where the hell they found these but they are thick, round, chewy, eggy, salty, firm, curly, and soft all at the same time. The whole thing is topped off with blanched bean sprouts and cabbage, raw chopped garlic, and a pile of crushed chili powder. As if there isn't enough food, they shove a pile of illegal-tender pork in there too. If you ever make it here for some strange reason, when they ask you what you want in your bowl, just say everything.
Did I mention it costs 650 Yen? That's like $5.35. This is also most likely the single best deal on a meal available in the entire city of Tokyo.
As I stumble out of there drunk on pork and high on MSG, it occurs to me that I've only been in Japan for three days and as the first bite of soup and noodles hit my taste buds, I had already found what I was searching for: the best bowl of noodles in the world. It is also of Ben's opinion that this is a fact.
[Ben sez]: Reery, it's true.
What is truly shocking is that it stood up to everything else we encountered. Before we hopped on our plane to come back to the US, it was mandatory as serious noodle experts that we make sure, be 100% certain that the Ramen Jiro noodles from Takadanobaba in Tokyo are the best we could find anywhere. After hundreds of bowls and plates throughout Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Singapore, there was nothing even remotely close to the downright soul this bowl possessed.
It was one of those often sought (and impossible to predict) perfect meals. The magical coalescence of time, space, and pork work in mysterious ways, but when it strikes, you are grabbed by the heart and led through an unforgettable journey of taste-bending glory.