Bring on the beef!

When we heard that ramen chain Wada was finally opening a branch in Tokyo we were excited. OK, so that name might not mean that much to a lot of people, but the important thing is that Wada is an offshoot of another ramen chain, one called Setagaya.

Not familiar with that name either? OK, then how about this one: Yoshinoya. Both Wada and Setagaya are part of Yoshinoya Holdings, the restaurant group that includes Yoshinoya, making Wada a sort of extended sister chain to Japan’s favorite gyudon (beef bowl) restaurant, and since Wada’s specialty is ramen with strips of beef, we wasted no time heading to the Tokyo branch on opening day.

The restaurant’s full name is Osaka Gyuniku Ramen Wada, or Osaka Beef Ramen Wada. Like the name says, Wada’s first branch is in Osaka, but on April 4 they opened their second, located in the Metro City Nishi Ikebukuro complex in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood. We weren’t the only ones eager to try the place out, as there was a line of customers waiting to get in.

Ordinarily, we’d have spent our time waiting agonizing over which of the many tempting items we were going to order. For the Ikebukuro restaurant’s first two days in operation, though, they were offering a reduced menu of just the Stamina Beef Ramen and Rich Beef Ramen. Ordinarily, these are priced at 880 yen (US$6.70), but to celebrate the grand opening, on these two days they were each just 500 yen.

You order via a touch screen vending machine, which also lets you add extra noodles for 120 yen or extra meat for 150. Since beefy ambitions were what brought us here, we gladly hit the button for more meat, which added 150 yen to our bill for a total of 650.

Once inside, we handed our meal ticket to an employee, and soon after they brought us our bowl of Stamina Beef Ramen.

The Stamina Beef Ramen is Wada’s most recommended menu item, with a soy-based broth, leeks, and kimchi, plus, most importantly, several strips of beef. It also comes with a free bowl of rice and egg, which can be used in two different ways, a poster with an adorable illustrated cow informed us.

▼ It’s Japan. Of course there’s an adorable illustrated character!

You can either crack the egg over the rice, making a mini tamagokakegohan, or you can crack it over the ramen itself.

We went with the latter, and we were very glad we did. The broth has an enticing sweetness to it, and you can make it even tastier by adding condiments such as grated garlic, miso, or rayu chili oil. That gives the broth a hearty, possibly spicy quality, all of which go great with the leeks, but really it’s the egg that ties everything together, especially when you start eating the beef, which tastes fantastic. All of the flavors of the broth soak into it, and the egg gives it a rich, satisfying finish.

Because of the business family relation, it’s a safe bet that a lot of Wada’s customers are Yoshinoya regulars too, so you can also take some of the beef from your ramen and transfer it to your rice, if you’re in the mood for a mini gyudon on the side.

Really, our only complaint is that right now there’s still only one Wada in Tokyo, which makes for long lines. Hopefully those long lines will encourage them open another branch in the capital soon, but until then, this is definitely ramen worth waiting in line for.

Restaurant information
Wada (Nishi Ikebukuro branch) / わだ(西池袋店)
Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Nishi Ikebukuro 5-1-3, Metro City Nishi Ikebukuro 1st floor
東京都豊島区西池袋5-1-3 メトロシティ西池袋1F
Open 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

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