Our planning was pretty bad, but was the ramen good?

Japanese restaurant chain Tenka Ippin is always a pretty good choice for a bowl of ramen, but this month it’s an especially good one. That’s because on February 1 Tenka Ippin rolled out a new menu item: the Cho Kotteri, or “Super Thick and Rich,” Ramen.

Actually, the Cho Kotteri Ramen was available even earlier at Tenka Ippin’s branch in Tokyo’s Nakano neighborhood. But when our Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko rolled up 30 minutes before the restaurant opened, there was already a line, and by the time he got to order they’d already sold out their entire supply of Cho Kotteri, which is limited to just five servings per branch per day.

This momentary setback only served to double Ahiru Neko’s resolve to consume this coveted foodstuff, though. So on February 1, he set out to take his ramen revenge and arrived at his local Tenka Ippin branch at roughly 8:50 in the morning…

…despite the fact that they don’t open until 11.

Unlike his first attempt, this time when Ahiru Neko got to the restaurant, there was nobody else there, so as long as he didn’t relinquish his spot as first in line, he was guaranteed to be eating the Cho Kotteri in just about two hours. It being an especially cold winter morning, he’d completed the necessary preparations, such as dressing in a heavy, hooded coat…

…bringing along some kairo hand-warmer packs…

…and, most importantly, making sure to limit his coffee intake at breakfast and going to the bathroom before leaving the house, since standing around in the cold for 120-plus minutes can be a challenging test for the bladder.

Now all he had to do was keep himself mentally occupied while he waited, which wasn’t really a problem, since he had his phone with him, which provided him with access to digital manga, as well as some fine, upstanding websites filled with educational content, to peruse. As a matter of fact, killing time was so easy that it wasn’t until about an hour had passed that it dawned on him that no one else had appeared to line up for the Cho Kotteri Ramen yet.

Eventually, though, Ahiru Neko did gain some line-up buddies, as other customers started coming and formed a queue a little after 10:30. By this time the restaurant’s staff had started showing up and taking orders, and when the four people behind Ahiru Neko also said they wanted the Cho Kotteri, the employees considerately put up a written notice that the super-thick ramen was now sold out for the day, to spare anyone else from wasting their time lining up only to be disappointed.

▼ 完売 = sold out

Like some sort of ramen royalty, Ahiru Neko was the first customer ushered inside when Tenka Ippin opened, and the first to be served.

As promised, the Cho Kotteri Ramen’s broth is incredibly thick. It’s so thick that when just looking at it, it was almost hard to tell if it was a liquid or a solid.

The broth is an extra-rich variant of Tenka Ippin’s torigara, or chicken stock, ramen broth, with onions added to the mix for an even more powerful flavor, as well as some green onions sprinkled on top.

Ahiru Neko lifted up a spoonful to try, and the Cho Kotteri Ramen instantly lived up to its name. “It’s not just thick, it’s thiiiiiick” he says. It’s so thick that it almost seems like it’s going to break through the conceptual bounds of what ramen is.

The broth is so thick that Tenka Ippin says it doesn’t work well with the restaurant’s regular noodles because the consistency of the liquid makes it hard to slurp them. The noodles used for the Cho Kotteri are only half the length of the ones used for other broth types at Tenka Ippin, and even then it felt like a workout for Ahiru Neko’s cheek muscles.

But if he had to pick just one word to describe this bowl of extra thick and rich chicken stock ramen with half-length noodles? “Delicious.” For as deep as the flavor is, it’s not at all overpowering, and in contrast to the extreme texture of the broth, the overall eating experience is remarkably balanced.

One of the biggest surprises came at the end of the meal. While eating, Ahiru Neko had hardly used his spoon at all, and he hadn’t lifted up the bowl to gulp down the broth directly either. But when he finished the noodles, he saw that, without really realizing it, he’d also already consumed about two thirds of the broth, by nature of how its thickness gives it such a strong grip on the noodles themselves.

In the end, Ahiru Neko was completely satisfied, and felt like the Cho Kotteri (which is on sale until the end of the month) was absolutely worth the two hours and 10 minutes he’d spent waiting for it. Of course, in retrospect he realized he could have still been fist in line showing up just 45 minutes before Tenka Ippin opened, but it was hard to feel bad when the ramen tasted this good.

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