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Now reading Rakugama Seimenjyo

Rakugama Seimenjyo

Speedy and delicious udon in Tokyo.

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Location

Multiple locations in Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and other areas.
Tokyo, Japan

What to order

Buta no kakuni udon with a lot of ginger and scallions on top and a side car of fried chicken.

Rakugama is unusually fast, even for a city of high-speed trains and standing eateries. You’ll have a hot bowl of fresh udon less than a minute after you tell the cook what you want. As soon as you step in, the cook will ask you what you want. You can get it plain with nothing on top or with a raw egg nested inside. For people needing a bit more meat, there’s buta no kakuni with chunks of sweet stewed pork belly; for tofu lovers, kitsune-udon comes with sheet of fried tofu laid on top. The second you confirm the style and size you want, the cook grabs a fat handful of waiting noodles and plunges them into a perpetually boiling pot. As with any fresh noodle, they cook quickly. By the time you have your tray in hand, the bowl is already impatiently waiting for you.

As you slide down the counter towards the register, you’ll see a banquet of battered and fried treasures: fried vegetables, fried fish cakes, fried shrimps, and big hunks of fried chicken. All of them are exquisitely cheap. Load up on whatever you want, but be careful: a light lunch can turn into a gut buster pretty quick. After you pay comes the best part. On the other side of the cashier are two bins, one of sliced green onions and the other of grated ginger. Don’t hold back. The piquancy and freshness they bring is essential to a well-rounded bowl of udon—especially in contrast to all that fried stuff you got.

The final step: a trip to the dashi dispenser for some soup to go with your noodles. It looks like a soda machine, but it’s really here to give you control of how much or little broth you want. Japan is a country where they have already thought of everything.

This is what Rakugama offers: a simple but hearty meal. Nothing is extravagant; everything is just right. The noodles have all the slurp, chew, and thickness you want in udon. The fried food is perfectly crispy and a great way to soak up any leftover soup you have. It makes for a solid lunch or a light dinner, but you can drop in any time for a quick bowl. It’s a meal that steels against the cold and the rain, and it offers a comforting reprieve from the constant thump of the city outside. A brief reprieve, because you need to eat fast. Someone needs your seat.