We head to Akiba for one last ramen supper at the Meat Building.

In the latest sign that change is the only constant in Tokyo’s Akihabara, it’s almost time to say goodbye to one of the neighborhood’s oldest, and most delicious landmarks. At the end of the month, the Meat Building is closing.

▼ The Meat Building

Technically it’s the Mansei Building that’s closing, but with the nine-floor skyscraper once being filled with restaurants of carnivorous concepts, “Meat Building” became its fan nickname. Many of those restaurants have now closed, though, and the remaining ones have only a few days left, so we sent our Japanese-language reporter Tasuku Egawa out for one last meal there…which was also, in a way, his first meal there.

That’s because Tasuku was headed to Mansei Menten, the ramen restaurant on the first floor of the building. Though he’d eaten elsewhere in the building, Tasuku had never tried Mansei Menten, and by extension had never tried its signature dish, the hearty, meaty pako ramen, whose signature ingredient is a deep fried pork spare rib cutlet.

Stepping out of Akihabara Station, he had an immediate view of the current anime collaboration event ads. The Mansei building is just a short walk from the station, but far enough away that the cityscape is a little more old-school.

Approaching the building, your eyes will probably be drawn to the cute smiling cow character neon sign up by the roof, and then maybe to the large banner by the front door thanking customers for their 33 years of patronage since the building first opened.

But then Tasuku noticed the line.

Apparently he wasn’t the only one coming for one last bowl of pako ramen. This was a weekday afternoon, and the line to get into the ramen restaurant was so long that it wrapped half-way around the block.

Tasuku asked an employee how long they thought the wait would be, and they told him he should probably brace himself for at least one, and maybe even two, hours. Unfortunately, Tasuku had an appointment later in the day that he couldn’t back out of, so a wait that long wasn’t doable. He resolved to come back soon (which he will, later in this article), but he didn’t have to go home completely Mansei-less.

Also on the first floor of the building is a Lawson convenience store, and this one is special because they sell a couple of Mansei products that you can’t get at other branches of the chain. So Tasuku could at least grab a tasty Mansei katsu (pork cutlet) sandwich to go.

▼ It even comes in a cute Mansei bag.

For attempt #2, Tasuku came back on a weekday at around 4 o’clock, between the usual lunch and dinner rushes, under the theory that he’d encounter the smallest possible crowds, and he patted himself on the back as he walked up. Sure, there was still a long line, but it wasn’t half-way-around-the-block long this time.

Except, maybe he just got lucky? Almost as soon as he took up the spot at the back of the line, more and more people started adding to it behind him, and after he did eventually get in, there was never a time that every seat wasn’t full. As soon as one person would leave and their spot was bused, there was someone else ready to come in.

Mansei Menten’s standard pako ramen is priced at 980 yen (US$6.60), but since this was a special occasion, Tasuku went big with the double pako ramen for 1,250 yen.

▼ The double pako ramen

After ordering from the touchscreen and getting his meal ticket, Tasuku handed it off to the staff and took his seat. Then all that was left to do was wait, until they brought him this.

Just by looking at it, you can tell that this is a ramen that knows exactly what it is, and why you’re here. There’s only a tiny portion of greens, pushed off to one side as if in tacit apology. It’s a bowl of ramen that says “Yeah, we get it – you’re here for meat and noodles, so here ya go!”

And that self-awareness makes for a glorious eating experience, Tasuku discovered. This is a meal of strong flavors, salty and meatily juicy. It makes no pretense about balance or subtlety, and after tasting it, Tasuku wouldn’t have it any other way.

He quickly and unconsciously settled into a rhythm, alternating bac and forth between bites of spare rib and mouthfuls of noodles. When he first saw his food, he thought he might have ordered too much and maybe should have gone with the regular, non-double pako ramen, but in the end he had no trouble finishing everything…

…including every last drop of the broth.

That shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the portions are small, though. But when you’re eating something incredibly good that you know you’re not going to get to eat again, you tend not to worry so much about such silly trifles like stomach capacity, calories, or looking live anything other than the ravenous ramen enthusiast you are.

And so Tasuku’s one, and only, regret is that he hasn’t already been eating Mansei’s pako ramen for years, and is only finding out what he’s been missing right as it’s going away. Once upon a time, there were four other Mansei Menten restaurants in other parts of Tokyo, but sadly they’ve all closed down, so when the Meat Building closes on March 31, the curtain will be falling on Mansei’s pako ramen.

There is, though, a sliver of hope remaining. Even though the meat building is closing down, Mansei isn’t getting out of the restaurant business entirely, and they’re opening up a new hamburger steak place in a different part of Akihabara on March 25. Ramen won’t be on the menu there, but as long as Mansei is still in the business of delivering joy to people’s hearts by delivering meat to their stomachs, there’s a chance that one day they’ll make a comeback with a new Mansei Manten branch, maybe once again in Akihabara.

Because, like we said, the only constant is change.

Restaurant information
Mansei Menten / 万世麺店
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Sudacho 2-21
Opens 11 a.m., last order 9:30 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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