What is NAKIRYU?
Ever wanted to eat world class 1 Michelin Starred ramen at a mere 10 bucks per bowl in your next trip to Japan? If so, maybe NAKIRYU in Tokyo is for you!
NAKIRYU is a small ramen shop which was first opened in 2012 in Otsuka, Tokyo. Since its founding, they accumulated a reputation for excellent ramen, and by 2017, they got their Michelin Star and became the second Michelin Starred ramen shop in all of Japan!
Their tantanmen is their most well-known dish, a kind of spicy ramen with thin noodles, ground pork, chillies, miso paste, and red pepper soup. Tourists from across the globe flock to Otsuka, Tokyo to try not just their exquisite tantanmen, but even their other ramen noodles such as their shoyu ramen, and others.
The best part about NAKIRYU is how, despite its prestige, it manages to offer affordable prices fit for ordinary folks! Their ramen prices, despite their prestigious Michelin Star, are reasonable just like most ordinary ramen shops in Japan. In NAKIRYU, you can experience a Michelin Starred dish for only around 1000 yen or around 9.29 USD — an opportunity that most surely won’t want to miss on their trips to Japan!
What is the Michelin Star Rating?
The term “Michelin Star” comes from the tire company Michelin’s renowned decades-long food reviewing initiative and brings with it a certain air of prestige when a restaurant possesses one.
For many restaurants, possessing even just one Michelin Star is already a triumph and a testament to their fine dining quality, drawing in more avid food fans to their restaurants as they brand their restaurants publicly with pride as Michelin Starred restaurants.
The company Michelin awards 0 to 3 stars through anonymous reviews. The anonymous professional food reviewers concentrate on the following aspects of a restaurant in making their reviews: quality, mastery of technique, personality of the chef, value of the food and its consistency.
According to Michelin’s standards, a one star restaurant is “a good place to stop on your journey, indicating a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.” This is the category under which NAKIRYU falls under, which has drawn tourists from across the globe to this tiny restaurant in Otsuka, Tokyo.
Things to note before eating at NAKIRYU
Getting to eat at NAKIRYU is not easy. In order to secure a seat at Nakiryu, customers first need to line outside the ramen restaurant until a spot becomes available. When you finally enter the restaurant, there are no tables and only 10 seats at the Nakiryu counter. Thankfully however, orders are limited to just one bowl of ramen per person, ensuring that the line moves quickly despite its length. NAKIRYU offers both lunchtime and evening services depending on their operating hours and like most ramen spots in Tokyo does not accept reservations.
Lining up at NAKIRYU
As the line for NAKIRYU can become very long, it helps to know that the line forms at the side of the restaurant on the corner with the park. Unless you arrive very early, don’t be surprised to see a long line of people eager to try out the world-class ramen of the restaurant.
Several food reviewers online have pointed out that those who wish to try out NAKIRYU should expect that a line can take up to one hour. As such, they recommend bringing entertainment, and even an umbrella in the case of poor weather.
Ordering at NAKIRYU
Just like with traditional ramen Shops, there is a ticket vending machine where you make your orders. The vending machine at NAKIRYU accepts ¥1,000 and ¥2,000 notes, but not ¥5,000 notes so make sure to have enough of these on hand!
Due to its popularity after receiving a Michelin Star, a large number of customers are foreigners so an English menu is offered to those standing in line that need it. Though the menu corresponds to the machine, the machine itself does not have any English translations, but thankfully it’s easy to figure out the dishes from the prices. It also helps to take note of the menu numbers of the dishes you want to order so you can get assistance from the staff.
At the vending machine, you place your entire order for ramen, side dishes and drinks and collect the order tickets from the machine. Pro tip, if you don’t know what to get, just go for the tantanmen which is worth only ¥850! You may also opt for the spicier version known as mala tantanmen which is also popular among customers.
Once seated, simply place your tickets on the counter for the chef to collect, and according to some reviewers, the chef will prepare your meal in as short as 5 minutes. The long waits outside the restaurant are nothing compared to the immediate gratification you get after receiving your order, surely a relief for the brave souls who waited an entire hour to try this world-renowned ramen.
NAKIRYU Opening Hours
The current NAKIRYU opening hours are as follows: 11:30 AM to 3 PM on Mondays; closed on Tuesdays; and lastly, 11:30 AM to 3 PM and 6 PM to 9 PM from Wednesdays to Sundays.
Numerous food reviewers recommend arriving early to the restaurant due to the long lines it can have during peak hours. Thus, it’s best to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the restaurant’s opening time or earlier in order to try and avoid long lines.
How do you find NAKIRYU anyway in Otsuka, Tokyo? The restaurant can be found near the Otsuka Station on the Yamanote train line, and the Shin-Otsuka Station on the Marunouchi Line and is only about 5 minutes away from these stations.
What can you eat at NAKIRYU?
The main menu of NAKIRYU includes choices of regular tantanmen, the more spicy variant called mala tantanmen, shoyu (a soy sauce flavoured ramen) and a salt based ramen as well as a varied selection of toppings, sides and some dishes, some of which are only available in the evenings. The dinner service includes additional dishes such as gyoza, braised pork and tofu. Meanwhile, the diced braised pork on rice is only exclusively available at lunchtime.
Water is provided at the table, and there is also a small selection of alcoholic and soft drinks on the menu. Because orders are limited to one main dish, some of the ramen on the menu has the option of having extra servings of noodles for especially hungry customers.
What is NAKIRYU ramen like?
The signature dish of Nakiryu is their tantanmen, a spicy Sichuan-inspired dish made of ground pork, chillies, and miso paste in red pepper soup. Those who’ve eaten it have described it as a “mindblowing” dish.
Reviewers have cited its homemade thin noodles which have a “perfect texture” that is smooth and slightly chewy. Meanwhile, reviewers have pointed out that the soup manages to be spicy yet creamy, bursting with flavor at the seams thanks to its various spices and ingredients, topped off by a subtle peanut flavor.
The mala tantanmen is also a good second choice according to reviewers. It is similar to the tantanmen, but spicier. However, some food reviewers have noted that though It looks similar to the regular tantanmen, it “tastes totally different!” Whatever reviewers mean by that, we can’t truly say, but needless to say it is quite an enticing dish.
NAKIRYU customers all seem to universally agree that it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience worth the trip to Otsuka, Tokyo for eager tourists and ramen fanatics. Despite the long waits, the gratification of the quick preparation of ramen in addition to its affordable price tag of less than 10 USD, all the trouble is worth it in the end.
So next time you book a trip to Japan, consider putting this Michelin-Starred restaurant on your bucket list, and make sure to try out their tantanmen and other equally prestigious menu items. This is truly something you would not want to miss!