Sugamo (Japanese garden and Michelin Starred Ramen)

With my job coming to an end and our final days in Japan upon us, we knew we needed to really think about what we wanted to get done and experience before we got on our plane– Sugamo had two things on our list. Sugamo is a stop on the Yamanote line here in Tokyo, but it’s most well known for Rikugien and Tsuta, the first being a beautiful park which was influenced, design-wise, by Waka poetry, giving it a unique feel; the second (Tsuta) is a well-known ramen shop– possibly the best known ramen shop right now– which was awarded a michelin star.

With Tsuta, there are special procedures in place which are needed to be followed to get a bowl of their ramen. First, you need to get there and get a ticket (with a 1,000¥ deposit on that ticket) to come back at a later time. These tickets are offered after 7:00am and the earlier you get there the more time slot options you’re given. We got there at around 7:45 and opted for the noon timeslot.

After getting our ticket, we wandered around the area for a bit and headed over to a shrine, which we figured was likely to be open at 8am. It was a small, nice shrine, which was oddly filled with business people exchanging their business cards. I don’t know why… Anyway, we sat there for a while so we could wake up some more. We also checked out some turtles.

After resting for a bit and watching the office people interact, we wandered back over to Rikugien, one of the most treasured places in Tokyo, which is especially clear when you see the swarm of crowds which trekked over there on a weekday morning.

After we finished up there, we went back to Tsuta to take our place in the next line. We ended up both getting the shoyu (soysauce) based broth with the addition of wontons, which was well worth adding even though it might not make the picture prettier.

The flavor of this ramen is different than one might expect, mainly because the focal ingredient is truffles. While that is the most notable, non-traditional ingredient that was used, this restaurant takes great pride in their ramen and seems it as a uniquely Japanese meal; because of this they have a list of where the ingredients comes from within Japan, so their customers can know the exact farms or prefectures that helped create their delicious meal.

Some of the most notable aspects of this ramen were the wontons, which were only pork with not addition of seafood; the menma (marinated bamboo shoots), which were kept in a rustic, lengthy style which seemed to include the notches of the bamboo; the abura (oil) on top, which seemed to be a chicken oil which was cooked with truffles to impart more flavor; the ajitama (seasoned egg), which Sam said was probably the best he’d ever had; the chashu, which was beautifully cooked; and finally the noodles, which held onto the broth perfectly.

The meal was exquisite and was one of the best bowls of ramen we’d ever had, which is notable since neither of us really love truffles, while Sam actually seems to hate them. All-in-all, the ticketing procedure is a pain in the butt, but worth it if you don’t mind that process to try something tasty. If you only have a few days, there are other bowls of ramen which you can, and should, try, but this one is also worth a visit.

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4 Responses to Sugamo (Japanese garden and Michelin Starred Ramen)

  1. Robert Goldfarb says:

    I think re-entering non-expat life in the US isn’t going to be easy. The traditions in the very act of eating are not all that common here, close to non-existent. You guys are going to have to de-compress when you enter the now-strange atmosphere. Glad you will be with Deb and Bernie (Mom and Dad) when you arrive. Love, Popop

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    • Deborah Young MD says:

      Next time we’re all in Japan, this place is on the list! As for re-entry, Bob’s no doubt right. We’ll all have to be understanding. xox

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  2. Jeff Bryant says:

    Rikugien garden was one of our favorite places in Tokyo. About as close to sublime as anything can ever be.

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    • Hi Jeff!

      I agree, but would prefer if fewer people were there. When we went, it was still quite crowded for a non-vacation weekday. Personally, I think that Meiji Jingu has such presence and atmosphere that I can’t imagine anything possibly surpassing it for me. While I feel similarly towards both places, I also find it interesting that they manage to achieve this feeling in me through completely different means and motivations.

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