The first time I tasted a bowl of tsukemen was at Fuunji, a small and unassuming ramen shop hidden on a quiet street near Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, Japan. Fuunji is considered by many, including me, to serve the best bowl of tsukemen in Tokyo. Every time I return to Tokyo, I make sure to stop by Fuunji first.
Even with its hidden location, Fuunji is no secret. You should always expect a line out the door. Even once inside, the line continues. With that said, don’t be intimidated by the line as turnover is high. The line moved fairly fast as people ordered, slurped down their noodles faster than humanly possible, and moved on.
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The interior of Fuunji was cozy, almost claustrophobic with how many people were packed inside. The design was simple with dim lighting, dark brown walls and flooring, low ceilings, and lots of wooden elements.
With everyone eating and not talking, the place was quiet except for Japanese pop music blasting away on speakers in the front and back of the restaurant.
The centerpiece of the restaurant was the large open kitchen manned by a group of chefs in white jackets. All the chefs seemed to calmly flow around the kitchen in a magical, almost choreographed way. Everyone seemed to have a certain job, whether it was taking tickets, directing customers, boiling noodles, cleaning, or tending to the big metal pots of broth on the stoves.
Wrapping around the kitchen was a long wooden bar. This bar was packed with customers, mostly businessmen, sitting elbow to elbow slurping down delicious bowls of tsukemen. It really doesn’t get much better than that. Fuunji is the type of place where I will travel around the world to experience.
When you finally make your way inside the restaurant, you will notice a vending machine tucked into the corner. This vending machine is where you place your order. Ordering from vending machines was a common occurrence at ramen joints in Japan.
There were four options to choose from. There were two types of ramen (ramen and special ramen) and two types of tsukemen (dipping noodle and special dipping noodle). The special options included an egg and pork belly.
Ordering was simple with English descriptions. All you have to do is insert cash or coins into the vending machine, press down on your choice, and take your printed ticket and any change. It’s a good idea to have the correct change with you as the vending machine only accepted 1000 and 2000 yen notes along with 10, 50, 100, and 500 coins.
Since Fuunji is known for their tsukemen, I recommend the tsukemen over the ramen.
With ticket in hand, time to eat right? Not so fast. The line which started outside continued across the back wall of the restaurant. Those waiting in line had to awkwardly stand directly behind those already sitting and eating at the bar. Being hungry and having to stand directly behind other patrons eating their tsukemen can be torture. The line seemed to move slower when I was hungry.
After 20 minutes, I was almost to the front of the line. It was at this point when one of the workers behind the counter took my printed ticket I got from the vending machine and asked what portion size of noodles I would like: medium or large. You pay the same price regardless of the portion size you choose. Just be aware that the large, at 400 grams or 14 ounces of noodles is, well large. Make sure you eat what you order as it’s good manners and the chef will be happy.
Deluxe Tsukemen (Special Dipping Noodle)
Each time I visit Fuunji, I have to order the same thing: Deluxe Tsukemen, also called Special Dipping Noodle (1000 yen).
You might be asking yourself, “what is tsukemen?” Tsukemen is ramen but with a twist. With tsukemen, cold noodles are served separately from the soup. To eat, simply pick up the noodles with your chopsticks and dip them into the hot soup. Once the noodles soak up the delicious flavors of the soup, slurp away. The louder the better.
As mentioned before, you have the option of medium or large at no extra charge. If you are hungry, go for the large but be prepared to be in a food coma for the rest of the day.
As soon as I sat down, my order of tsukemen was sitting in front of me along with a glass of water. On one plate was a huge serving of noodles. Next to the noodles was a beautiful bowl of broth.
To be honest, words cannot describe the complexity, taste, textures, and flavors of the broth. It was like nothing I have tasted before. Umami. Each bite of the thick brown broth was unbelievably rich with just the right amount of salt.
What made the tsukemen broth so special were the multiple layers of flavors and textures which complemented each other and balanced out the dish.
Chicken bones were simmered for hours to create the base of the broth. Adding to the complexity of the broth was salty and smoky dried bonito dashi powder. This powder added a strong yet savory seafood flavor that complemented the chicken broth. Some might find the dashi to be overpowering and salty, but I enjoyed it.
In addition to the dashi powder, inside the broth was nori, pork, a soft boiled egg, and bamboo shoots.
The nori (seaweed) sheets added an additional salty seafood competent to the soup while the thinly sliced bamboo shoots added a great crunchy texture.
Mixed into the soup were thick chunks of fatty, tender, salty, and slightly sweet pieces of pork belly that just melted in my mouth. The pork helped intensify the flavors of the already mouthwatering broth.
While simple, the egg was cooked to perfection. When I cut into the egg, I was rewarded with a slightly runny and rich golden yolk that mixed in with the broth. They sure know how to cook eggs in Japan.
I don’t know why I do it, but I always order the large portion of noodles. It sounds like a great idea initially, but after finishing, I’m in a food coma for hours. But, it’s worth it.
It might sound surprising to first timers, but at Fuunji, the noodles were served cold. These cold noodles were then dipped into the hot broth.
The noodles may have looked simple but they were beautifully created. They were round, wavy, with the perfect thickness. Each strand was firm but chewy with a great bouncy bite. This was just the right texture to soak up all the chicken, pork, and seafood flavors in the soup.
Dip, slurp, repeat. You will notice this is how everyone eats their tsukemen at Fuunji. Some quicker than others as I found out. The louder your slurp, the better.
After you finish your noodles, if you still have room, grab one of the kettles on the counter and pour hot water into your bowl and drink the remaining soup.
Each and every worker at Fuunji had a specific job and knew how to serve the maximum amount of people in the shortest time possible. The lines moved quickly as people ordered, ate, and moved on. Everything ran like clockwork.
Another great thing about visiting Fuunji was the friendliness of the employees. Even though most customers were Japanese, the workers always seemed to have a smile on their face as they greeted and served the few tourists that passed through the doors.
Fuunji is one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo. With confidence, I can say it serves up the best bowl of tsukemen ramen in all of Tokyo.
Fuunji is the type of place that makes traveling to Japan worth it. Everything was great from the flavors of tsukemen, the friendliness of the employees, and the atmosphere of the restaurant.
I can’t wait to return to Tokyo again where my first meal will be at Fuunji.
- The best tsukemen in Tokyo
- The layers, flavors, and textures of the broth were in a league of their own
- Open kitchen
- Friendly staff
- Always a line out the door and inside
- Cash only
- Not good for groups
- People will be standing directly behind you while you eat
Monday-Saturday: 11:00AM-3:00PM and 5:00PM-9:00PM
2-14-3, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
GPS Coordinates: 35.686881,139.696619