One of the most popular ramen shops in Monzennakacho, Kokaibo’s motto is to offer the type of soup that you will be able to enjoy everyday. Many Ramen shops have great soup. Some are rich in pork fat, others are full of flavors, and yet others have the great flavor of seabura. But you cannot return to those places daily because the flavor is so rich. The dream of Kokaibo’s owner was to create the Ramen soup like miso-soup that is comforting and so easy to stomach that Tokyo’s residents want to have it everyday.
Unlike many ramen shops, the amount of soup in the bowl is barely above the noodle. So it makes the bowl half empty. The overwhelming feeling that you get from encounters of Jiro-type noodle-bowls is so far from the experience at Kokaibo. You almost feel whether this would satisfy your appetite.
Putting your initial worries aside, you will notice a very flavorful aroma as the maitresse of Kokaibo brings your bowl with a charming smile. The soup, according to their philosophy of ramen, is made of pork, tonkotsu, chicken, kelp, dried sardine, bonito flakes, and a lot of vegetables. In spite of multivalent ingredients, they do not fight against one another. Just as a great orchestra with amazing musicians, the soup brings out a wonderful harmony. One of the secrets to the soup is its lack of soy-sauce. The mineral rich natural salt alone ties all aspects of the soup.
As you bring a renge (ramen spoon) full of the Kokaibo soup to your mouth, you experience a wonderfully complex but not too overwhelming taste—it almost makes you pant for spice-filled and garlic rich soup. But after second and third taste, you begin to understand why this soup is something that you want to have everyday.
The noodle is from Marutomi Noodle Company in Saitama. It is a bit thick and does not smell Kansui at all. Its slurping experience is more like Udon noodle. Unfortunately, the type of the noodle does really match the soup; personally I felt the noodle might be the weak-link in the bowl. Since the soup is so multivalent yet tender, the noodle needs a bit more core and sustenance. Of course, it is good, but the match was not as good as it could have been.
The bowl comes with Nori, green onion, Chashu (pork roast), and Menma (bomboo shoot). Both Chasu and memma were worthy of notice. Kokaibo’s Chashu is not too fatty but rich in taste. The owner knows how to bring out all the flavor of good pork. Personally, I prefer this type of pork to all-too-fatty yakibuta that are popular in many contemporary ramen shops. They tend to be too overwhelming and often blur the flavor of soup. In addition to the pork meat, Kokaibo’s Memma is a mix of orthodoxy and innovation. It is much thicker and softer than usual size of Memma. The taste is very orthodox. Both the Chashu and Memma add nice accent to the bowl.
Another plus to the experience at Kokaibo is the friendly and lovely smile of the maitresse. I would assume she is the wife of the noodle master, guessing from her dedication and commitment. Since the shop is relatively small—though it seats about 10 people at one time, she is able to pay careful attention to each customer. When there is a line (which is most of the time), she comes out to take your order and sincerely apologizes for making you wait! Many popular ramen shops tend to have arrogant and unfriendly clerks, but Kokaibo is different. While the ramen master is rather quiet and very focused on his work, the maitresse makes you feel welcomed and appreciated as a customer. The atmosphere definitely encourages you to return to Kokaibo.
I must end by mentioning the price of Kokaibo’s ramen bowls. The regular ramen is 600 yen. This price is very reasonable compared to other popular ramen joints in Tokyo. So if you are hungry, you can add Choshu-rice bowl for 250 yen. This definitely fills you up. Enjoy your experience at Kokaibo!
Tokyo, Koto-ku, Fukagawa 2-13-10
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 11:00-15:00; 17:30~(or as soon as the noodles run out)
Saturday, Holiday 11:00-15:00 (or as soon as the noodles run out)
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