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Ramen Kugatsu-do: Delicate broth and fine noodles for a slurpsome summer

by Robbie Swinnerton

Born in China and raised in Japan, ramen’s hybrid heritage has evolved into a wide range of different guises. At one end of the spectrum are the alpha-male turbo-charged tonkotsu counters. At the other, you find lightness, delicacy and refinement. That’s the way Kugatsu-do does it.

Chic and airy, with a floor-to-ceiling window, all-white furnishings and a lavish flower arrangement in one corner, it feels more like a quiet cafe-lounge than a noodle joint. There’s even a glass-topped miniature Zen rock garden running the length of the (all-white of course) counter.

And it serves ramen to match. There are two basic styles: assari (light and subtle) or kotteri (heavier, fattier, forgettable). It’s the former that has made Kugatsu-do’s name. The soup is a delicate seafood broth with no factory-made additives. The noodles are as fine and light as sōmen noodles. The chāshū pork is lean and slightly sweet. The garnishes include arare-fu (tiny crunchy crackers), flower-shaped nama-fu (soft wheat gluten) and fragrant yuzu peel.

The main demographic is young women — the yuzu- and matcha-flavored desserts are also a big draw — but not exclusively. With the sticky, humid season approaching, Kugatsu-do’s setting near Yoyogi Park offers welcome refuge from the stifling throb of Shibuya.

2F Sato Bldg., 1-15-12 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 03-6327-4056; www.kugatsudo.net; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (Sat., Sun. and hols till 9 p.m.; closed Mon.); nearest station Shibuya; no smoking; noodles from ¥770; no cards; Japanese menu; little English spoken.