★★★★ 亜寿加 (Asuka) - Tokyo
Asuka is a ramen store in Shibuya that is famous for its tan-tan ramen, unusual since tan-tan ramen is more often a side option on the menu, for those who occasionaly want to try something different from the common shoyu or miso ramen. I visited Asuka at around noon during a busy weekday, there was a short line formed on the outside of the store. Once inside, there was another long line that went around the crowded modest sized room. After about 15 minutes I finally sat down and ordered a 四川辛味坦々めん (Szechuan style spicy tan-tan ramen).
The Soup - is a sesame sauce flavored soup that is rich in texture, yet sour and spicy. Usually tan-tan ramen soup in Japan is thick, with an almost like sauce like texture. Asuka's tan-tan soup is thinner, similar to the texture of miso soup. The sesame sauce is what makes Asuka's tan-tan ramen special, the freshly ground roasted sesame has a much stronger aroma than any other Japanese tan-tan ramen I've tried.
The Noodles - are thin, straight ramen noodles cooked firm. These noodles are dense and require a bit more chews when eating. A great match with the rich flavored soup.
The Toppings - lightly seasoned cha-shu is cooked to bring out the natural flavors of the pork, it is tender and holds up on its own against the rich flavors of the soup. There is also a lot of slices spring onions and some boiled vegetables.
Overall - the best tan-tan ramen I have had in Japan. The difference all lies in the freshly grounded sesame sauce, most other places have this pre-made sesame sauce that is rich but lacks the aroma of Asuka's. The soup also balances the salty, sour and spicy flavors just right. The noodles match the soup well, while the toppings are all there with a purpose.
If you are ever in Tokyo in the colder seasons of fall or winter, drop by Shibuya and give Asuka's Tan-tan ramen a try. Asuka is located to the south of Shibuya station just across the pedestrian bridge, under a guitar store.