Ramen Shop’s name sounds generic, but its ramen isn’t.

With such a generic-sounding name, you might expect Japanese ramen chain Ramen Shop to serve up the blandest bowls of noodles imaginable, with nothing to distinguish them. Ironically, though, there’s a lot of variation in flavor from one branch of Ramen Shop to the next. Though the head office supplies each restaurant with a baseline soy/pork stock broth recipe and noodles, the exact actual preparation of the ramen, as well as the toppings, is left up to the judgement of the individual branch chefs.

So before heading to Ramen Shop to eat, our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma decided to do a little research, Online, you can find groups of Ramen Shop fans comparing notes about which branch is the best, and one of them, a truck driver by trade, told Masanuki that the best Ramen Shop ramen in Saitama Prefecture, Tokyo’s neighbor to the north, is in the town of Gaso.

Officially, it’s known as the Ramen Shop Route 122 Masai Branch, since it’s located along National Route 122, the road connecting Tokyo with Nikko.

Wanting to avoid the crowds, Masanuki showed up at around 10:30, figuring that he’d be after the morning meal rush and before the lunchtime one. Walking up to the restaurant’s entrance, though, he noticed that there were a lot of trucks in the parking lot, which seemed like a good sign – if a restaurant can attract customers even in off-hours, and customers who could just keep driving and eat somewhere else instead, then the food must be good, right?

There was exactly one empty seat left in the restaurant as Masanuki stepped inside. The chef, a woman with the friendly and energetic demeanor of a kindhearted school cafeteria lunch lady, was cheerfully chatting with regular customers as she deftly dished up bowls of noodles and topped them with strips of chashu pork.

Even before arriving, Masanuki already knew what he was going to order, thanks to a recommendation from the same truck driver contact who’d recommended this Ramen Shop branch: a bowl of negi chashu ramen (ramen with green onions and pork), with an order of extra green onions and customized with extra oil in the broth and extra-firm noodles.

Not needing time to mull over the menu options meant he got his food that much more quickly, and it was beautiful to behold. More importantly, it was delicious to eat. The chashu was thick but tender, and tremendously flavorful.

The firmness of the noodles gave them a substantial, filling feeling, and Masanuki especially liked when they became entangled with the green onion and seaweed for a complex and endlessly enticing texture.

The ramen left Masanuki completely satisfied, and he could see why so many of the customers were truck drivers who appear to stop in regularly while on their routes. It’s hard not to feel a little jealous of their easy workday access to such great food, and now that Masanuki knows how delicious the results can be for Ramen Shop’s degree of freedom it gives individual branches, he’s hoping to try as many as he can to see what the others have to offer.

Restaurant information
Ramen Shop Route 122 Masai Branch / ラーメンショップ 122号騎西店
Address: Saitama-ken, Gaso-shi, Kogukitateyama 111-1
Open 6 a.m.-8 p.m.
Closed Sundays

Photos © SoraNews24
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