An unlikely gourmet combo makes for an “un-unforgettable” experience for our reporter.

Now that it’s the new year, our Japanese-language reporter Daiki Nishimoto would like to tell you something of a scary story. 

He admits that there’s no relation between New Year’s and horror, but he wants to share it with you all the same. It involves his recent visit to a ramen restaurant with an unusual twist–the eatery serves not only noodles, but dessert as well. Captivated by the premise of ramen with something sweet, he headed over to try it for himself, only to find that he spiraled into a pattern of memory loss while eating.

Let’s back up for a moment. Kugatsu-do (九月堂) is the name of the (amnesia-inducing?) eatery. A seven-minute walk from JR Shibuya Station in Tokyo, it’s almost equidistant from JR Harajuku Station as well. The neighborhood is located near the south end of Yoyogi Park which includes the Yoyogi National Stadium and NHK Hall.

A banner reading “ramen and a sweet spot” hangs from the entryway. Those two things don’t usually go comfortably together, so Nishimoto was plenty tantalized by a restaurant that claimed to specialize in both. According to the establishment’s homepage, it thought of itself as a kind of new concept “ramen cafe.” He stepped inside and took note of the stylish, cafe-like atmosphere, where many women were sitting, absorbed in conversation with their friends.

A ticket-dispensing machine stood beside the entrance. In terms of ramen, he could choose a ramen with a lighter stock (“assari”) or a richer one (“kotteri”) for 790 yen (US$7.27). Another intriguing option was tsukemen (cold noodles with dipping sauce) for 1,000 yen.

Glancing down to the button in light pink, he noticed a row reserved for the sweet treats. There was a chilled sherbet option available in sakura, yuzu citrus, or sesame flavors for 390 yen as well as a Japanese-style parfait option for 630 yen. Of course he knew he had to try something, but it was hard to choose just one. In addition, he debated ordering a lunch set and getting a mini-sized dessert in tow, but somehow that didn’t feel quite right. Finally he settled on the richer-stock kotteri ramen and a regular-sized yuzu sherbet.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye a magnificent bowl of ramen was placed in front of him. He was told that the dessert would come afterwards, but his curiosity got the better of him and he asked the worker if they could bring it out earlier.

He didn’t even try to hide his excitement when the bowl arrived.

The dessert glistened elegantly in the light, calling on him to take a bite. He somehow managed to summon his willpower and resolved to finish the ramen first.

While slurping the noodles he took note of their slender shape amid the rich, flavorful broth which all but pierced his taste buds. Droplets of oil were dispersed throughout and added to the refined taste. He gladly let himself be figuratively sucked in to the experience.

The umami flavor hit him hard with various facets of depth, but they all blended together marvelously in the soup. He wanted to praise the bold yet delicate preparation.

As Nishimoto continued to immerse himself in the exquisite ramen, the dessert continued to beckon out of the corner of his eye. However, he had brought this upon himself, and it was a welcome distraction. This experience couldn’t be had anywhere else.

Despite having his attention be somewhat torn, the ramen was so delicious that he had soon inhaled all of the noodles. At any normal ramen eatery the meal would be done at this point, but that was not the case at this ramen cafe–there was one more thing to look forward to.

It was time to try the sweets. He reflected that it was his first time ever eating sweets immediately following ramen. With his heart pounding, he lowered the wooden spoon into the yuzu sherbet, bringing it slowly to his mouth.

At that moment, his memory of everything prior to then vanished. The sherbet’s chilled, refreshing taste blew everything else away and he found himself truly, seriously questioning whether he had just finished eating ramen–and he’s not joking, mind you.

The flavor was just that invigorating. He almost couldn’t stand how refreshing to the palate the yuzu flavor was. The gelatinous treat surrounding the sherbet was also out of this world. He tried to surmise why the flavor would be coming across so clearly to him, and he supposed it could only be because he had just eaten something particularly rich. That’s when his memory of eating ramen returned.

As detailed above, the ramen absolutely left a favorable impression on him, but the impact of the dessert was so tremendous that it actually held the power to make him forget the noodles. He tried remembering exactly what kind of flavor the ramen had boasted and ladled a spoonful of broth.

“Delicious. That’s right, it was this richness,” he thought. That burst of flavor made him crave something refreshing, so he looped back to the sherbet.

“Delicious. How refreshing,” he then thought. “But I’m already forgetting the flavor of the ramen.”

“Yup, this is it. So good. But now I want something cooling.”

“That yuzu is really incredible. What did the ramen taste like again…?”

…and so it continued until both the soup and the dessert were completely consumed.

So to sum up, Nishimoto alternated between bouts of losing his memory and being enveloped by a sensory euphoria while finishing his two dishes. You might think he’s just a simple idiot, but the combination of ramen and dessert had a curious, unparalleled charm.

Kugatsu-do certainly lived up to its moniker of being a “ramen cafe,” showcasing its ability for two seemingly unrelated dishes to coexist. By the time he left the restaurant, Nishimoto assures us that the taste of both dishes were solidly engraved in his mind. If you also want to try an “un-unforgettable” dining experience, then by all means stop by Kugatsu-do during your next trip to Tokyo.

Restaurant information
Kugatsu-do / 九月堂
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jinnan 1-15-12
Open: Tuesday-Saturday: 11 A.M.-10 P.M., Sunday: 11 A.M.-9 P.M.
Closed: Monday

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