Shidome Ramen

The Best Ramen in Japan Comes to NYC

3 JET Alums Try the “Shidome Ramen” at Mechankotei in Manhattan

(Summer 2005 JETAA NY Newsletter)

Shiodome Ramen was born in 2003 when NTV Network sponsored a nationwide competition to find a ramen chef with the most original and best tasting soup. (Kind of like American Idol,  but for ramen.)  After an intense audition process, Konosuke Takewaka was chosen as the winner; a new taste sensation in Japan was revealed. Since opening in August, 2003, the average wait time for Shidome Ramen is 90 minutes or more.

In early July, the Japanese restaurant Menchankotei (on 55th St in Manhattan) hosted a unique two-day tasting opportunity which involved tv taping the first day and a live broadcast the second day for Zoom In!, Japan’s version of The Today Show.

Several JET alums participated in the event.  Below are three perspectives on the tasty yet surreal experience.


Katrina Barnas
After spending a beautiful Saturday morning out in the sunshine, I expected sunshine once again as I stepped out of my apartment on my way to tasting “the best ramen”… Instead, the skies had just opened up, in a way, reminiscent of rainy seasons past, and great preparation for a warm bowl of ramen.

I knew very little of the event, other than that I was going to try free ramen (enough of a reason for me) And, since I was at Saturday’s tasting this was not just any ramen, but lamb ramen. Not being a fan of fish in general (I know, I know, shocking and wasteful for an enjoyer of Japanese food), I definitely enjoyed the new taste sensation. Feeling like food connoisseurs, my friend and I tried to express the flavorful egg, different lamb texture, and surprising garlic twist to the soup, as our comments were immediately translated into Japanese and preserved on film.

The random ramen tasting was made even more peculiar by the stranger to my left at the tasting. Within minutes of coming in, he had offered to cut my hair, claiming to be a hair stylist. He also told someone else that he was a famous writer, and tried to duck under his coat. A strange local added extra flavoring to the New York style ramen by the best ramen chef in Japan on a rainy and clear Saturday afternoon.


Stacy Smith
On July 14th, I had the chance to participate in the filming of a show on the Nippon TV morning lineup called Zoom In. My friend and I went to the midtown noodle restaurant Menchanko-tei where the live shoot was taking place, happy to find that the subject was a new type of ramen that had been developed specifically for a NY audience. The ramen chef, Konosuke Takewaka, proprietor of an incredibly popular ramen shop near NTV headquarters in Tokyo, developed the ingredients of this special soup after much deliberation. The items that made the cut had special relevance to the locale: Lamb instead of the usual pork due to the large amount of Greek establishments in Manhattan, edamame because they have become a favorite of health-conscious New Yorkers, as well as the standard corn, seaweed, and egg found in a typical bowl of ramen.

Basically our role was to eat the new ramen at a table with two out-of-towners and generally look happy doing it, while the announcer in front of us gave off periodic high-pitched “oishiiii—“s as she slurped. There was also a side dish of mentaiko and pork pita (presumably the Greek influence again), but the ramen was so filling we barely had room for it. At the end of the segment, everyone in the restaurant had to extend their index fingers to the camera and simultaneously scream, “Zoom in!” My friend was actually visiting from Japan, and she lamented the fact that she couldn’t call her mom to tell her to watch us.

As for the ramen itself, though I do applaud the chef for his creativity, it was nothing out of this world. However, I must admit that I am biased as I lived for three years in Kumamoto, which is famous for its amazing pork-broth ramen! I am also not much of a lamb fan, though my friend enjoyed its flavoring and pronounced it a viable alternative to pork. The best part of the event was meeting Mr. Takewaka after the shoot and getting to take a picture with him. I look forward to getting a taste of his famous Shiodome ramen the next time I am in Tokyo!


Steven Horowitz
I was sitting at work and I got a JETAA NY weekly email about what was supposed to be the Best Ramen in Japan.  And it was going to be served at Mechankotei, right in midtown Manhattan.  I loves me some ramen, so I wanted to try this “best ramen in Japan.”

The situation at the restaurant was kind of confusing when my girlfriend and I got there.  We had to wait outside for reasons we didn’t fully understand.  Fellow JET alum Janak Bhimani was running around working with some TV crew and kept saying he couldn’t talk because he’d get in trouble.  I saw a few of our JLGC friends were there.  But frankly, I was pretty hungry and therefore a bit cranky.  We did learn while waiting that this ramen cook had won a national competition for the Best Ramen in Japan.  And we were going to get to try it.

Finally they let us in and we got seated at the bar.  A waitress came to take our order (as if we’re going to order some other kind of ramen?) so we ordered the shidome ramen.  It was pretty darn tasty, though I couldn’t figure out what was in it, and I had a lot of trouble eating it because I had just gotten an elbow to my front tooth playing ultimate frisbee the day before and was improvising a new method of eating ramen through the side of my mouth.

But the ramen was only part of the story.  As we’re finishing up, a tv crew from the big morning show in Japan called Zoom In! is getting ready to broadcast this whole thing live.  So the tv woman comes in with all the lights on her and starts oooh-ing and ahh-ing and talking with the chef.

I could see a tv monitor in the front where we could see everything going on.  Then the tv woman stops talking and I realized they were going to a clip.  On the tv monitor we see what apparently took place a few days ago, how the chef cooks up the ramen, and then people tasting it a few days earlier.  And then I see JETAA NY Vice-Pres Kat Barnas in a close-up shot commenting on the ramen and realized that she must have been at the ramen event that had happened the week before.  (I’m still not sure why they had two of these.)

Then they cut to a commercial break and a guy comes in and gets everyone to practice yelling out “Zoom In!” on his command.  The live broadcast starts back up, the tv woman talks a bit, and then at the signal everyone in the restaurant yells “Zooomu Iiin!”

And it just so happens that’s how I like my ramen – tasty with lots of noise and confusion.

Oh wait.  Did I mention the G.I. issues the next day?  Probably better to not zoom in on that.

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