You should only usually eat Fast food if you are looking for an equally quick death. Saturated fats, way too many carbs, and high-glucose corn syrup are abound in most varieties. But across the sea the Japanese have a different vision of Fast food. One that incorporates all the ease and convenience of our traditional style in the west but with a fraction of the health costs. I refer of course to ramen: noodles essentially, prepared in a myriad of different styles.
On this particular outing my friend informed me of a tucked away location in the bustling Shinjuku area. I love the bizarre places that you find these restaurants. Far off the beaten path and simply in a location you'd never guess was there. In this case there were no other restaurants around. A baseball field was the restaurants neighbor, and you'd never known it existed if not for the rapidly growing line that appeared around lunch time.
Efficiency is the life-blood of Japan due to its population density. A great place to observe how this impacts everyday life is when you go out to eat. Lines that would make me gag in fear for the wasted time I'd anticipate losing to them are negligible in Japan. They run like a well ordered machine, or hive, if you really want to dig into the metaphor.
While waiting we were invited to the front of the line by one of the staff to place our order. The order is taken by a vending machine. These are very common in Japan.
The time saved by doing things this way is significant. No writing things down. Zero time wasted. Plus there was an awesome figure on top of the machine that the Japanese call a Gatchapon. It's mostly irrelevant to this post but I wanted to include it because, well come on... it looks cool!
Okay, getting my rhythm back again. Once you've placed your order you then return to wait in line where you were standing before you came in. Doing things this way allows the chefs to have the orders well in advance and the rewards are two-fold. They can plan what to make next in rapid succession, and when you come in to be seated they've usually prepared your food as you sit down. Now let's be honest. You don't get food faster than that. That's awesome!
This was another first for me and we ate Ebi (shrimp) ramen. It was also done in a different style than I'm regularly used to. In most cases ramen is already in a broth and you munch away happily. Here, the noodles were separate and chilled. A little extra exercise is required because you dip the noodles in the broth but it's well worth it. The chilled refreshing quality of the noodles was brought to transcendence when you dipped in the warm savoury ebi broth. To put it more eloquently: mouthgasm.
This meal entered my hall of fame in Japan for being one of two occasions where I couldn't actually finish everything. A dreadful sin I know. I was feeling a bit fragile from the nights previous festivities and I simply could not down the whole delicious portion. I laugh to myself as I write this because once again it's not likely that I'll eat here again. There are simply too many options, but damnit, I'd have it no other way. On to the next amazing ramen joint. On to the next flavour that will blow my mind.
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