The first thing I did when I got back to Tokyo last night was to grab a bowl of ramen.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. What I did, in order, was get through immigration, send half our luggage for delivery, and camp out overnight on a bench at Haneda Airport with the Hime-sama because it was too late to catch the last train home. Then we woke up with sore necks, fortified ourselves with murukku (which is a South Indian snack that tastes, in the best possible way, like spiced deep-fried ramen noodles), and caught a train to Kyodo. And then we sat down to a bowl at Ivan Ramen Plus.
I’ve got priorities, alright? Ramen is very high on that list.
Kyodo is on my commuter pass, but until today I’d never bothered to explore – which is a real pity, because it is such a charming place. Perhaps it was today’s weather talking – absurdly sunny and bracing, too warm for winter, enough that there were cherry blossoms already blooming on a tree or two. In the sunlight, the streets of Kyodo are bright and cute. This is probably an apt description, also, of this ramen bar.
Sat opposite a stationery store run by a kindly old ojisan, Ivan Ramen Plus looks like the result of Ikea giving birth to a ramen bar: sleek wooden tabletops, bright primary coloured accents, clean, simple shapes, globe lamps. It even plays American indie music. The early-lunch clientele were neither yuppie nor hipster, but your usual ramen shop-frequenting ossans, slightly incongruous against this Ikea catalogue page. I liked that a lot.
This place is all about experimenting, which explains why there’s a pasta masquerading as ramen on the menu – i.e., the cheese maze-men (you mix everything together and nom). Four cheeses, bonito flakes and an onsen tamago in a gloopy soup-sauce hugging tagliatelle-esque noodles, highly rated by critics but not by Hime-sama. She did not like it. I was less certain – it’s not that I’m anti-pasta, but I wasn’t in the mood for cheese or spaghetti. It may be spring, but it’s fucking cold if you’ve just flown in from 32C weather. I wanted hot broth flowing through my veins.
Enter the special agodashi ramen (Y980). I want to call it avant-garde, but that would be pretentious, so I’ll just say it was very artistically arranged and different from many other ramen. Look at how beautiful it is – slurpable, al-dente noodles, followed by slabs of lean pig with layers of melting fat, a tangle of menma (bamboo shoots). A little heap of crispy, sweet mizu-sai. All of this suspended in a sea of some of the best ramen broth I’ve ever had.
No land creatures were killed in the making of this broth: this is purely a product of the sea, and it opts out of the katsuobushi club with its use of ago (dried flying fish), dried shrimp and dried scallops (among, probably, very many other ocean-dwellers), with cheese and tomato for extra umami. The broth is basically the ocean in a bowl, at once deep and light, smooth and ridiculously good. So good I want to drink it for breakfast, lunch and tea. I could perfume myself with this broth and seduce a rich ramen-lover. Or perhaps Ivan himself. (I kid, he’s happily married.)
I slurped until I was too full to continue, and then some. It was a fine welcome back to this city.
Tokyo, I’ve missed you.
Tanbaya Building 1F