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Aitsu no Ramen Kataguruma: Tsukemen the show stopper

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Contributing Writer

As ramen shop names go, Aitsu no Ramen Kataguruma is definitely a mouthful, and I’m not sure it would make any more sense translated — kataguruma roughly means piggyback, or carrying someone on your shoulders. Tabelog, the restaurant review website, included Aitsu in its top 100 ramen restaurants in West Japan for 2017. With the award comes a wait, although you shouldn’t be hanging around for more than 20 minutes or so.

If you’re a fan of tsukemen, the ramen dish where the noodles are served separate to the soup, you’ll need to get there early. The urutora tsukemen (¥1,000) is limited to 20 servings at lunch and at dinner and it nearly always sells out. I recently arrived not long after breakfast — Aitsu opens at 10:30 a.m. — grabbed a seat at the counter and got my order of tsukemen in.

This is gourmet tsukemen. The dashi broth is served cold and looks like a bowl of mushroom soup, topped with the green stems of scallions. It also tastes, at least a little, like mushroom soup: It is light, creamy and velvety and made of chicken stock, with dried prawns stirred into the mix. You can choose how thick you’d like your noodles, and the dish is served with generous slabs of chāshū (braised pork belly) and bamboo shoots heated ever so slightly before serving. The tsukemen is worth the early start, but the regular ramen dishes are a worthy consolation prize.

Ramen from ¥750; no smoking; Japanese menu; no English spoken