Tokyo proudly has more Michelin star-rated restaurants than any other city in the world. The general assumption is that these restaurants are sleek on the inside and that the cuisine is extremely expensive. But this isn’t always the case—especially when it comes to ramen!
Tokyo boasts three Michelin star ramen restaurants that are affordable. Their boundary-pushing, modern ramen radiates culinary excellence. Yet you won’t have to worry about emptying your wallet.
Moreover, they are the only ramen restaurants to achieve Michelin status globally. But what exactly does Michelin star ramen look like? From spicy tantanmen to French cuisine-inspired noodles, let’s dive into award-winning ramen and everything you need to know.
You’ll find ramen restaurant Nakiryu in Tokyo’s unassuming Otsuka neighborhood. They offer several ramen choices, such as shoyu (soy sauce) ramen and shio (salt) ramen, but their tantanmen is the most celebrated. Tantanmen is a ramen style derived from spicy Chinese dan dan noodles. When tantanmen arrived in Tokyo, locals turned down the overall spice level and added sesame paste.
This is what you get with Nakiryu’s Tokyo-style tantanmen. Rayu chili oil and sesame paste float at the top of the soup—excellent sources of spiciness and nuttiness. Below this top layer of chili oil and sesame is a lighter, carefully refined soup. It’s bursting with flavor via various ingredients such as whole chickens, oysters and beef bones. It’s also slightly sour from black vinegar and apple vinegar.
The default topping is minced pork—common in tantanmen—and gives the broth extra meatiness. Chopped green and white spring negi (spring onions), add crunch and sweetness, and you can add optional toppings, like soft-boiled egg and sliced pork. They’ve appropriately chosen thin, springy noodles to accompany the multi-layered soup. Overall, Nakiryu is a crowd-pleaser, loved by both locals and tourists.
Things to note
Like most Tokyo ramen restaurants, you simply have to line up and wait. But due to its popularity, I’d definitely recommend visiting on a weekday. You order from a ticket machine. The buttons are in Japanese, but the staff has English menus if you ask.
- Ramen Styles: Shoyu, Shio and Tantanmen
- Recommendation: The spicy, layered tantanmen
- Location: Otsuka (Google Maps)
- Hours: 11:30AM–3PM, 6–9PM (lunch only on Mondays, closed on Tuesdays)
2. Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu
Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu is conveniently located in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. But their Michelin star ramen goes in a completely different direction.
Soba House serves shoyu ramen and tsukemen (ramen dipped in soup, but their creme-da-la creme is the shio ramen. Shio-style ramen is arguably one of the most complex styles to master, given its delicate nature. Soba House uses thick, homemade noodles, made from multiple types of wheat flour, specially imported from Hokkaido.
Their soup base uses Mongolian rock salt and Okinawan sea salt. It’s a light but lively stock made with luxurious hamaguri clams and sea bream. It’s complex and delicious. So naturally, it’s on the fishier side. But the taste is balanced and not overwhelming. Hovering at the top are little pools of black truffle oil, French porcini mushroom oil and Inca berry jam.
For ramen, it doesn’t get more modern than this. These delicious pools provide unique individual fragrances and opportunities to adjust the flavors of the soup. There’s a wonderful cut of soft pork shoulder for toppings, green and white spring negi, and menma (bamboo shoots).
Things to note
You likely have to wait in line at Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu. There’s a translated English sheet next to their Japanese language ticket machine. Compared to the other two ramen restaurants on this list, you’ll feel more pressure at this place to eat fast and leave.
- Ramen Styles: Shio, Shoyu and tsukemen (dipping-style)
- Recommended Ramen: Shio fish ramen with truffle oil
- Location: Shinjuku (Google Maps)
- Hours: 11:00AM–3PM, 6:30–9PM (closed Saturday and Sunday)
3. Ginza Hachigo
Its owner, Matsumura-san, was originally a French cuisine chef and wanted to experiment with traditional ramen. As a result, he doesn’t use traditional seasoning but instead uses ham prosciutto with sea salt from Guerande, France. This unique seasoning carries a soup made from duck bones, whole chickens, scallops, dried tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, kelp and chiyu (chicken oil). This all adds up to one decadent bowl of ramen.
The toppings are kujo negi (green spring onions) from Kyoto, menma and fatty pork slices with pepper caviar. He also uses thin noodles. They’re blended with durum wheat flour, generally reserved for pasta noodles. Ginza Hachigo harmoniously fuses East and West—a special blend of Japanese and French cuisine.
Things to note
Ginza Hachigo has a reservation system. But you need to show up in person to reserve (see below). Then, after getting in line and reserving, they ask you to come back at a later time on the same day. Lunch reservation starts at 9 a.m. Dinner reservation starts at 4 p.m.
- Ramen Styles: Shio
- Recommended Ramen: Chuukasoba
- Location: Ginza (Google Maps)
- Hours: 11AM–3PM, 5PM–7PM
There you have it—Tokyo’s three Michelin star ramen restaurants! Have you been to any of them? If so, what did you think? Let us know!