Big in Japan: The search for the perfect bowl of ramen continues

Today, Big in Japan brings you an update on one noodle lover’s countrywide search for Japan’s most perfect bowl of ramen.

I love ramen.

For some, it’s the rich color and briny pop of beluga caviar. For others, it’s the pink tint and soft flesh of fatty tuna belly.

For me, it’s got to be ramen, Nature’s most perfect food.

Since first coming to Japan several years ago, I have been engaged in a tireless quest to find the most perfect bowl of ramen. Like finely aged wine, matured cheese or sun-ripened fruit, good ramen must be appreciated, savored and at all times revered.

Last month, I wrote about the spicy ramen bowl at Two Guy’s Ramen, a neighborhood landmark here in the Nakameguro ward of Tokyo. Although I was quick to grant the title of ‘Most Perfect Bowl of Ramen,’ I may have found a worthy competitor.

For your visual consumption, I will now introduce you to the black sesame ramen bowl (kuroi-goma-ramen; ???????????????????) at Chiyomatsu (????), a small noodle shop just around the corner from Hachiko Plaza in the Shibuya district of Tokyo.

As a self-professed ramen aficionado, there are number of striking features about his particular bowl of ramen.

For starters, admire for a moment the rich ebony hue of the soup broth. Like the addition of squid ink to handmade Italian fettuccine, the black sesame paste is the soaring crescendo in this masterful culinary symphony.

When your spoon first breaks through the surface layer of pork fat, the black sesame paste begins to swirl through the broth like a seething black hole. This awakens the rich aroma of toasted sesame, which merges effortlessly with the heady aromas of miso and soup stock.

And the taste – oh lordy!

Like a heroin junky indulging in a back alley fix, the eyes dilate and the blood starts to flow the moment this sodium-fueled concoction races across your tongue. Health food it ain’t, but few calorie-packed meals comfort the mind and sooth the body quite like this feat of ramen engineering.

Of course, perfection is all in the details, which is why the black sesame ramen bowl at Chiyomatsu is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Like the wood trim on a fine automobile or the sparkling bracelet on a runway model, the latest subject of my affection is all about the accessories. From the addition of the finely shredded saffron and fresh sheets of pressed seaweed to the perfectly soft-boiled egg and cubed pork chuck, this particularly bowl of ramen is just as fashionable as it is delicious.

Chiyomatsu – I salute you. Although my quest for the most perfect bowl of ramen is far from over, the bar has been raised, and my hunger quenched (for the time being).

For more on Nature’s most perfect of foods, check out An Ode to Ramen, a four-part series on the history and culture of this heaven-sent dish.

Bon appetite!