★★ らーめん山頭火 (Santouka) - Tokyo
Santouka is originally from the city of Asahikawa, Hokkaido in the Northern part of Japan. Famous for its cold winters, ramen from this area are famous for having quite a bit of oil in it to prevent the heat from escaping the soup. Today Santouka has expanded to one of the largest ramen chains with stores around the world. During my last trip to Tokyo I gave this place a try and ordered their famous dish しおらーめん (shio or salt ramen).
The Soup - is a combination of seafood and tonkotsu (pork bone) stock, though I couldn't taste that much seafood flavor and it simply tasted like tonkotsu soup to me. The soup is very rich, with a thick layer of oil floating on top of the soup clearly visible.
The Noodles - are thin curly noodels (縮れ麺), cooked firm like most tonkotsu based ramen. From their website it says that their noodles are made with lower water content, which makes the soup wrap around the noodles more when you eat them.
The Toppigs - are pretty good, cha-shu pork, menma bamboo, green onions, a naruto fishcake (the pink swirly thing) and sliced kikurage mushrooms. While the cha-shu pork is tender, flavorful and the menma bamboo is firm and delicious, I must compliment them on the visual presentation of the toppings. The purple kikurage mushrooms, pink naruto fish cake and small red plum in the middle really makes this one of the most enjoyable rames to look at.
Overall - the ramen was delicious, but besides the visual appearance, I found the flavor of the ramen not that memorable. The ramen was somewhat lacking a personlaity that sets itself apart from the numerous tonkotsu ramen places in Tokyo. Santouka might be a good ramen place for you to start if you are new to the ramen scene, but if you are a seasoned veteran then there are ramen places with more interesting flavors for you to challenge. Santouka has store all over Japan and even a few in the US, with stores in L.A. Chicago, and New York (open the link and scroll down for the US locations).