★★ ラーメン 二郎 (Ramen Jiro) - Tokyo
Ramen Jiro is a long time favorite ramen place in Tokyo, you can tell by the constant long lines of people outside the store even during off peak hours. Why this place is so popular has always fascinated me. The store is cramped even for Japanese standards, the interior is dirty and actually quite unsanitary, the stores are not air conditioned which on a hot summer day made this trip to Jiro closer to being torture than a ramen experience. I tried the standard ラーメン (ramen).
The Soup - is a rich tonkotsu (pork bone) based soup flavored with soysauce, it looks really greasy but is flavorful and goes down quite easily. The broth is made from pork bone and a large variety of vegatables.There is a bit of the pork bone smell, but the store is so filled with the smell that you'd be numb by it by the time the ramen arrives.
The Noodles - are special and really good. This extremely thick curly ramen noodles that is a few mm away from being called udon. These are the chewiest, most flavorful ramen that I have had, and they go great with the soup.
The Toppings - are almost unpresentable. I really can't imagine any restaurant serving something like this. Piles of chopped up cha-shu pork and boiled bean sprouts, they don't really look appetizing and actually get in the way of eating the noodles. Some garlic is also standard for Jiro ramen. They also put a bit of pork fat on it so I am putting this ramen in the pork fat cha-cha category.
Overall - hope you find a Jiro chain store with AC because I almost passed out from the heat of the ramen and the store. I ended up only finishing 2/3 of the ramen and quickly jetted out of there since I hear that the owner gets mad if you don't finish it. The ramen is actually quite good, but the overall experience of waiting 30 minutes, the dirty store and crowded seats makes me not recommend this place. However, if you want to experience a little part of Japanese culture and a major player in the ramen scene in Tokyo then give Jiro a try. Just don't bring a date.
Here is an NPR radio piece on Jiro Ramen done in 2004: