There are currently three Michelin Star Ramen Restaurants in Tokyo (each boasting one Michelin star). From delicately spicy tantanmen to barrel-aged shoyu ramen, each restaurant specializes in a decidedly different bowl. Not sure which one to visit? Or what to order when you're there? We've got you covered!
Consider this your complete guide to Tokyo's Michelin Star Ramen scene.
#1 Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta (蔦)
First there was Tsuta. In 2015, they were the first ever ramen restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. Owner and master chef Onishi-san blazed a Michelin trail that many have tried to follow.
Tsuta's Michelin Ramen
While Tsuta serves shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt) and miso ramen, the house specialty is SHOYU. It's what you should order. The shoyu from Wakayama is barrel-aged for two years and gently commands the delicious and complex ramen soup.
This soup includes chicken, vegetables, asari clam, kelp, niboshi dried fish and bonito fish flakes. Truffle oil is added on top but doesn't distract. In addition, fig compote contributes sweetness and balsamic vinegar some saltiness. Everything is as close to perfect as can be - including the homemade noodles and toppings. In short, Tsuta is definitely worth the hype.
If you want to splurge, there's the ¥3,550 shoyu ramen (#1 on the menu above). It includes black truffle, egg, and roasted chashu pork toppings. Honestly, the black truffle sheets are nice but not necessary. If you're on a tighter budget, the ¥1,300 basic shoyu ramen (#3 above) still ticks all the tasty boxes.
Shop Hours / When to Visit
At their new Yoyogi-Uehara location, Tsuta no longer has a ticket system (they previously assigned times for everyone to come back later). Now you simply line up and wait. Go either an hour before opening (10 am) or for a later lunch (after 2 pm) on a weekday.
They may reintroduce the ticket system in the future. But for now, just line up! Again, Tsuta is most certainly worth the wait.
Shop Hours: 11 am ~ 5 pm (closed on Tuesdays)
#2 Nakiryu (創作麺工房 鳴龍)
Nakiryu was chosen next as a one star Tokyo Michelin ramen shop. This happened in 2017, just two years after Tsuta.
Nakiryu's Michelin Ramen
Nakiryu ramen offerings include tantanmen, shoyu, shio and san ramen (a more sour tatanmen). First-timers should order the TANTANMEN. Tantanmen is a dish with roots in China's Sichuan province, a region known for its hot and spicy cuisine.
But Nakiryu's Tokyo style tantanmen doesn't pack as much heat. It's far more subtle. Raiyu chili oil and sesame paste at the very top provide a slightly creamy and spicy flavor. In contrast, the soup below is mild and somewhat sour. These two flavorful layers come together beautifully. Excellently seasoned minced pork, thinly sliced green and white negi and ultra thin, homemade noodles round out this bowl.
Personally, I like Tsuta's shoyu ramen a little more. Don't get me wrong - Nakiryu's tantanmen is stellar. What's more is that for only ¥1,350 you can get Nakiryu's tantamen with all toppings. This includes two types of pork chashu, duck meatloaf, flavored egg and shrimp and pork dumplings. This is a savory bargain!
While waiting in line, you'll be given a menu (as above). Remember the circled # on the left hand side for the item you want. You'll need to find this number on the vending machine once you're inside. For the vending machine - put your money in, make your selection, give your order ticket to the staff. If the above tantanmen with all toppings sounds good, it's #1.
Shop Hours / When to Visit
To be safe, arriving an hour before they open is ideal (arriving at 10:30 am). Nakiryu is busy throughout the day...so be prepared to wait. The same Tsuta rules apply - arrive for an early or late lunch and it's the same for dinner.
If you're alone, make sure to bring something to keep yourself entertained!
Shop Hours: Wed-Sun: 11:30 am ~ 3 pm / 6 pm – 9 pm // Mon: 11:30 am – 3 pm (closed on Tuesdays)
#3 Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu (SOBA HOUSE 金色不如帰)
Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu was awarded its Michelin Star in 2018, completing the Michelin triangle. This was after being featured in Michelin's Tokyo Guide for several years. They're conveniently located in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo's most popular tourist districts.
Soba House's Michelin Ramen
Between the choices of shoyu and shio ramen, SHIO is most popular. Its salt seasoning makes for a light soup. The soup itself is a lively combination of clams, chicken, and pork. All together, it's a harmonious marriage of land and sea.
Like at Tsuta, Soba House uses homemade truffle oil. But unlike Tsuta, this truffle oil rests on top as a concentrated dollop. This way, you can add it to the broth as you like. But it doesn't stop there. There's also a similarly sized amount of French porcini mushroom oil. It's heaven on earth when these two aromatic oils playfully seep into the soup.
No menu here - you order directly from the vending machine once inside. I've translated it below. Ramen choices are Columns A-E / Rows 1-3. Tsukemen = Dipping Noodles / Kakuni Pork = Braised Pork / Ume Plum = (Ume means plum)
Shop Hours / When to Visit
You know the drill. Make sure to avoid peak lunch (12 pm - 1 pm) or dinner (7 pm - 8 pm) hours. Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu in the beginning wasn't as crowded as Tsuta or Nakiryu. But that's naturally changed after the Michelin star.
Since they open at 11 am, try and arrive at 10:15 am if you're going for an early lunch.
Shop Hours (closed on Weekends): 11 am ~ 3 pm / 6:30 pm ~ 10 pm
Tokyo Michelin Ramen - Closing Thoughts
If you're able to perform a Michelin Star Ramen hat trick by visiting all three, good for you! As to my personal favorite, it's likely a toss up between Tsuta and Soba House. Nakiryu is of course excellent in its own right.
There's always the question of whether these ramen restaurants are more deserving of the Michelin Star than others in Tokyo. But putting this point aside, these three ramen restaurants do deliver the goods. If you have time in Tokyo, you should make the pilgrimage to them.