Kako to Kai enthralls our reporter who just might have been a sea otter in his former life.

When foodies hear “Tsukiji,” they think of sushi. Sure, Tokyo’s wholesale fish market may have relocated to the Toyosu district a few years ago, but the Tsukiji neighborhood’s open-to-the-public outer market, with its amazing selection of restaurants, is still operating as usual.

In other words, Tsukiji remains as great a place to go out to eat as ever, and not just for sushi. We recently learned of another seafood-specialty restaurant in the neighborhood, called Kaki to Kai, or “Oyster and Shell,” as it also calls itself. However, this isn’t an oyster bar…

…it’s a ramen restaurant!

When it comes to ramen, no other single ingredient has anywhere near as big an impact on what you taste as the broth does. Tonkotsu (pork stock) ramen tastes very different from miso broth ramen, which tastes very different from ramen where the broth is soy sauce-based.

Kaki to Kai’s specialty is shellfish stock broth, with the star of the menu being, naturally, oyster broth. Since our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun loves shellfish so much we suspect he might have been a sea otter in a previous life, we awarded him taste-testing duties and sent him on his way to Tsukiji, where he promptly ordered a bowl of oyster ramen (kaki ramen in Japanese) for 950 yen (US$5.95).

It’s standard procedure to start a ramen taste test with the broth. P.K. lifted up a spoonful of the shimmering, golden oyster stock, took a sip, and…

…felt a surge of pleasure run through his body, as though the absolutely delicious taste was making his past-otter-life consciousness tingle. The broth is amazing. You don’t get just a hint of oyster, you get a deep, expansive flavor. It was like swimming in an oyster galaxy.

The noodles were excellent as well, with a nice, smooth texture. And the meal only got better when P.K. tacked on a side of oyster rice (200 yen)…

…and an order of cheese risotto (250 yen). P.K. was actually a little worried that he might have gotten a bit carried away, since the cheese risotto seemed very cheesy, but after he poured it into his ramen bowl after finishing the last of his noodles, he found that the oyster broth was strong enough to not get overwhelmed, and that it blended beautifully with the cheese on his taste buds.

Obviously, the more you like shellfish the more you’re going to like Kaki to Kai, but for a hardcore oyster lover like P.K., this is top-class chow.

Kaki to Kai just opened last December, and it tends to get crowded at lunch time and on the weekends. If you want to minimize/avoid time spent waiting in line, your best bet is to try going on a weekday morning, like P.K. did, and if you do you might see him there, because he definitely plans on going back many, many times.

Restaurant information
Kaki to Kai (a.k.a. Oyster and Shell) / 牡蠣と貝
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 3-16-9
住所 東京都中央区築地3-16-9
Open 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

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