I hardly ever eat out, but if I do, chances are good that it’s for ramen.
I friggin’ love the stuff.
But considering that a bowl of good noodles tends to run from 640 to 900+ yen, plus extra for the obligatory beer, what’s a body to do when counting down till payday but still needing to get the old ramen fix on?
Enter Kourakuen ramen.
Kourakuen is a restaurant chain with shops all across Japan. They offer a variety of dishes with equally varying price tags, but their signature draw is a bowl of basic chuka soba (ramen) for just 290 yen.
That, my friends, is some cheap ramen.
The only similarly priced ramen you’re liable to find is the bland, straight-out-of-the-packet stuff served at some train stations (which, if you’ve ever had, you’ll know is not worth having).
So, how does Kourakuen’s budget chuka soba stack up?
The soup is your basic soy sauce, with plenty of chicken flavor coming through as well. The noodles are chijirimen, meaning they’re of the plumper, slightly curly variety rather than the shoestring-thin hosomen type. Toppings are the standard slices of chashiu pork, as well as menma, naruto and a slice of nori (which I’ve actually never cared for).
Something Kourakuen definitely has in its favor is the range of condiments available on the countertop — in particular, the pepper-infused crushed garlic. Several scoops of that, a couple dashes of white pepper and a drizzle of hot sesame oil, and your ramen is good to go.
All told, my chuka soba and a glass of beer came out to 545 yen. Not too shabby if you ask me.
Is a bowl of Kourakuen’s cheapest worth dropping everything and running out for? Well, no. The good stuff is obviously going to cost you more. But it’s a decent set of noodles for the price, and it beats any comparably priced restaurant ramen I’ve yet to encounter.
Bottom line, if you’re craving ramen but only have a couple 100 yen coins in your pocket, you should give Kourakuen a try.
And trust me, add the spicy garlic.