[Tokyo, Japan] If you are looking for that one ramen to try in Shinjuku, make your way to Menya Musashi 麺屋武蔵, one of the most popular ramen in Tokyo. Their accolades include several ramen awards since its founding in 1996, 8 shops in Tokyo (1 in Singapore), and is named by Frommer’s as one of the Top 6 ramen joints in Tokyo.
Menya Musashi’s founder Yamada Takeshi, together with Ippudo’s Kawahara Shigemi and Nanttsutei’s Furuya Ichiro are said to be icons of the ramen industry.
Musashi is a reference to the sword warrior Miyamoto Musashi, and is also short for 634 (therefore its website is m634.com). Interestingly, the tallest tower in the world Tokyo Sky Tree is also 634 metres.
First things first, I was slightly disappointed with the Menya Musashi in Singapore and felt I did not warrant the queue at the Raffles City branch, as the broth lacked oomph as compared to Ippudo and Ramen Santouka. It is almost like the Japanese and Singapore branches are unrelated with different styles. (But I do intend to give the Singapore Menya Musashi another try.)
However, the Shinjuku experience is almost life changing.
Menya Musashi in Shinjuku probably ranks as one of my best (and I tried more than 10 worthy Tokyo ramen joints), and does attract a long queue during peak hours. Both its signature and tsukemen dipping noodles (1000 Yen, SGD$16.00, USD$12.80) are basic but spectacular – with chunks of melt-in-your-mouth pork, chewy noodles and addictive soup which made me finish till the last drop.
Its highlight has to be the broth, a flavourful shoyu soy sauce base made with pork and chicken bones, with taste slightly ‘seafood-y’ due to the addition of dried saury fish. What’s really amazing is that the tsukemen soup dip still remains very hot after a while, which makes it continually delightful to slurp the strands.
Its noodle texture is slightly different from the usual, flat and semi-thick which is suitable for shoyu base broth.
However, the flavours are not too heavy or strong, and can be seen as too basic, which may not appeal to some.
What is really impressive is the visual experience the cooks present – it’s almost as if they are presenting a martial arts dance as they cook and dry the ramen noodles in the open kitchen with such great force, adding collective yells of “Hey-Hai” and Japanese idioms.
Personally, Menya Musashi makes one of my best ramen experiences. To help you to prevent confusion from ordering (especially for non-Japanese speaking foreigners like us), here are some tips to order ramen using the vending machine. It is not as idiot-proof as you would think.
How to Order Ramen in Tokyo via a Vending Machine
1) Know what you want to order even before you enter. Look out for a picture menu if they have. You do not want to hold back a queue by only making the decision when you reach the machine.
2) Put in your notes and coins first before making selection, not after. Make sure you have lots of 1000 Yen notes and coins ready. Some machines do not accept 10,000 Yen notes.
3) Make your selections. When in doubt, pick the first choice (usually the basic), the most expensive (usually their best with most toppings), or osusume (recommended specialty)
4) You can also add-on toppings and beer, usually below the ramen selections.
5) Collect the ticket.
6) Hand the ticket to the counter staff when they ask.
7) They are likely to ask you for
– soup base preference: Asari (light) or Kotteri (oily and heavy)
– type of noodles: futsuu (regular) or futo (fat)
– size: sho (small) or dai (large)
Menya Musashi 麺屋武蔵
Shinjuku-ku, Nishi Shinjuku 7-2-6, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan, Tel: +03 3796 4634
東京都新宿区西新宿7-2-6 ビル1F (About 5 minutes from the JR Shinjuku West Exit, near Prospect AXE or the former Oakwood Shinjuku Apartments)
Opening hours: 11:30am-3:30pm, 4:30pm – 9:30pm (Mon-Sat), 11:30am-4:30pm (Sun)