During the coronavirus pandemic Ru offers takeout ramen, but not takeout containers.

With many people worried about eating in restaurants these days, a lot of eateries have shifted their focus to takeout service. But while that’s a pretty simple transition if you’re selling hamburgers or kushikatsu skewers, it’s a lot trickier if you’re running a ramen joint.

You can’t just pour a bunch of piping hot broth and noodles into a paper takeout bag, but the added expense of sturdy, specialized, disposable takeout containers isn’t something a lot of smaller independent ramen restaurants can easily take on. So instead, Tokyo ramen restaurant Ru has a different idea: if you’re ordering takeout, you bring your own pot.

After hearing about Ru’s new system, we realized we had both an empty stomach and an empty cooking pot, so we decided to go get some takeout ramen for lunch.

As with many ramen restaurants in Japan, the first step is to buy a meal ticket from the vending machine located at the entrance. We decided on the house specialty, the 880-yen (US$8.30) large niboshi ramen (made with dried fish stock), and handed both our ticket and our pot to an employee. Officially, the bring-your-own-pot takeout service is called “nabe ra,” but if you show up with a pot in your hand, they’ll understand what you’re there for.

Ordinarily, once you hand your pot to the staff you’re supposed to wait outside, but Ru let us stick around inside to observe the process. First, your pot is treated with scalding-hot water as a disinfectant.

▼ Our pot (鍋)

None of the actual cooking is done in the customer’s pot. Instead that’s all handled with Ru’s own equipment, and the ingredients are added to your pot after they’ve been seasoned and prepared.

▼ Transferring the broth from Ru’s pot to ours

▼ Time for the noodles!

Last, when your ramen is ready, the staff will wipe down your pot’s handle with an ethanol disinfectant sheet.

The whole process only took about five minutes, and before we left we asked the staff if they had any special advice to maximize our eating pleasure. “Just eat it as soon as you can,” they told us. “Within five minutes is best,” they added, so we followed their advice and immediately headed for home.

We hadn’t felt that self-conscious carrying our pot to the restaurant, but now that we had to hold it upright, with the obvious weight of it signaling that there was food inside, we felt a twinge or two of awkwardness. We also wish we’d brought a towel, oven mitts, or some other kind of hand covering. Even though Ru doesn’t heat your pot directly, adding all those fresh-cooked ingredients and broth makes the pot too warm to comfortably touch directly anywhere other than on the handle, but a kitchen mitt would have allowed us to distribute the weight between both arms.

Still, we persevered, and four minutes later we were back home and ready to dig in!

Lifting the lid, our eyes were met with the site of professional-grade ramen, sitting right there in our familiar pot on our kitchen table. It was kind of like having the Mona Lisa casually hanging in your living room in an Ikea frame, with the important difference that we were going to eat this piece of art.

Ordinarily, we’d have been just fancy enough to pour the pot’s contents into a proper bowl, but then we remembered the staff’s sage words: Eat the ramen as soon as possible (which is, if we’re being honest, a credo we follow in all situations in life), and so grabbed our chopsticks and ate straight from the pot.

Because we were so quick, the noodles weren’t at all soggy, having soaked up enough of the flavorful broth to be palate-pleasing while still maintaining a pleasant firmness and their thicker-than-average dimensions.

Moving on to the chashu pork, once again the flavor and texture were everything we could have hoped for.

As a matter of fact, everything was so good, and our taste receptors and mental pleasure centers firing so strongly, that eating directly from a cooking pot started to feel like the most natural thing in the world.

If the results are this good, we’re fine without a bowl, and one less thing to wash puts us one step closer to going back for another pot of takeout ramen.

Restaurant information
Ru / 流
Address: Tokyo-to, Kita-ku, Kamijujo 1-13-2
Open 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 6 p.m.-11 p.m. (weekdays), 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (weekends, holidays)
Closed Tuesdays

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