Ayu Ramen – Off the Beaten Track in Futako-Tamagawa
By Lisa Hong
Futako-Tamagawa is mostly known for its modern, luxury department stores, which have both great shopping and dining experiences. However, the smaller streets or “shōtengai”, are often overlooked. Which is a shame because some of the best food can be found in the shōtengai, which has existed long before the fancy “Depatos”.
The Futako-Tamagawa “Shōtengai” is popular for small bars, good produce, local restaurants, and ramen shops that specialize in different broths.
My favorite ramen shop in ALL of Tokyo happens to be right here. It’s called “Ayu Ramen”, which offers a unique, comforting bowl of simple broth, thin noodles, and charbroiled freshwater trout.
Be warned that this particular ramen shop is extremely popular and people will wait patiently, sometimes in the blistering cold or sweltering heat, to eat in this small shop, that seats only seven. I guess it isn’t so atypical to see Japanese people standing in line, but there are many reasons that set this place apart from other ramen shops.
When people think of ramen, they envision rich, heavy pork broth. In contrast, Ayu Ramen delivers fresh, clear, lightly-salted fish broth with noodles, shaved onions, dried seaweed (“Nori”), and a beautiful, flavorful grilled piece of trout. \
With the regular order, you get a quarter of the fish, which may be the head or tail end (it’s a surprise!), but everything, including the bones, are edible. The white flesh is tender, while the skin and other parts are crispy, all creating a delightful texture combination in your mouth. Because the chef leaves out the bitter guts, you can fully enjoy the salty, sweet, and charbroiled flavors of the fish. Add in the humble, yet delectable, broth and noodles, and what you get are different tastes that complement each other perfectly.
The restaurant is currently run by its 7th generation owner and chef, so this cuisine is tried and true. It feels so good in your stomach after slurping down every last drop of the soup. You may even make plans to come out to Futako-Tamagawa regularly.
How To Order
The friendly, inviting chef doesn’t speak much English, so knowing some Japanese will help you order. But if you need assistance, instead of staring quizzically at the Japanese menu, here are some recommendations:
Order the “Ayu Ramen” (600 yen), which, as mentioned above, includes a quarter of the fish. If you want a bigger piece, you can upgrade to the “Ayu Goto Haafu”, which is half of the fish (800 yen).
For the whole trout, order the “Ayu Goto Ramen” (1000 yen). I usually add an egg or “Tamago” (100 yen), which is always boiled perfectly. I am also obsessed with the “Ayu Yaki Onigiri” (200 yen) or grilled rice ball, which has chunks of the sweet Ayu fish throughout. Beer and sake is also available.
As you wait for your meal, take in the design of the place – polished wood counter, white walls with plaster artistically molded to represent the water and sky. But overall, the place has a homey, traditional feel to it – quite different from the department store wonderland just a few blocks away.
There are many draws to Futako-Tamagawa, such as picnicking or jogging by the Tamagawa River, and of course, the shopping (there is good reason why consumers flock here). Just make sure you add strolling through the “shōtengai” and eating at Ayu Ramen to your list of things to enjoy!
Hours: Open Everyday 6pm – 1am
Telephone: 03-5716-1521 (Japanese only)
***Look for the blue drapery with “Ayu”(鮎) written in big Kanji.