The world of Michelin-starred dining has historically been one of rarified air, where teams of trilingual waiters serve well-heeled guests elaborate dishes that could in some cases be confused with works of art.
It came as some surprise last year, then, when Tsuta—a very affordable ramen joint in Tokyo, the world's Michelin star capital—became the first to earn a coveted star. Now, it has a peer: Nakiryu, another Tokyo ramen restaurant, has slurped its way to success and earned a star in this year's guide.
Nakiryu, which is just a short walk from Tsuta, is known for its tantanmen, which is like a ramen variation of dan dan noodles, the spicy Szechuan noodle dish. Dan dan noodles are already legendary in their own right, but when combined with ramen, a whole new frontier of flavor is unlocked. When Japanese news site Rocket News 24 went to try out a bowl the day after the honor was announced, they were "blown away." Not bad for a bowl of ramen that costs $6.99 and is purchased with a press of a button from a ticket machine.
We were actually after the ramen at Tsuta but with the wait over three hours (and a plane to catch) we decided to take the staff's suggestion and go to Nakiryu instead, a stop away at Otsuka. Best slippery smooth noodles ever with a heady shoyu broth. They're known for their tantan ramen (which we only realised after we'd ordered) so we'll have to go back some day to try it. #nakiryu #ramen #shoyu #otsuka #bibgourmand #michelinguide #tokyo #japan #mellietravels
A photo posted by Melissa Kong (@melissa.kong) on Jan 8, 2016 at 10:18pm PST
Tsuta and Nakiryu are part of a recent democratizing of the Michelin guide that has seen more affordable and casual eateries earn stars. A few years ago, the Hong Kong dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan earned a star—a VICE reporter who "ordered enough to feed two or three people" there spent a total of $9.25. Earlier this year, a Singapore food stall called HK Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle that serves $1.50 noodles won a star.
For now, you'll still have to go to Tokyo and wait in line—maybe for hours, now—with everybody else if you want to try Michelin-starred ramen.
創作麺工房 鳴龍@大塚 麻辣担担麺+パクチー盛り 鳴龍に来る時は今日こそは担担麺を食べようと思って来るんだが、最終的に券売機の前に立つとなぜか醤油のボタンをポチっと押してしまうw。しかしながらこちらの看板メニューはやはり担担麺なので、今日は初志貫徹で初めての担担麺をいただく。 麻辣担担麺はデフォの担担麺に、麻辣の効いた辛玉が乗る。香り高い辣油とクリーミーな芝麻醤。ナッツも入ってるんだろうか、スパイシーな肉味噌。麺は加水率の低いプツっとした歯切れの細いストレート麺。辛さもシビレもそれほどではなく、優しいピリ辛具合で濃厚な旨味の担担麺。卓トピの花山椒をたっぷりと入れると、シビレがビシっと効いて好みのカラシビになる。 鳴龍らしいと言ってしまえばそうなんだけど、流石のセンスある仕上がりの担担麺。欲を言えば(替え玉はメニューにあるんだが)、もう少しデフォの麺量があるとなお嬉しい。ご馳走さまでした。 #ラーメン #らーめん #らぁめん #らぁ麺 #拉麺 #中華そば #支那そば #라면 #ramen #noodles #麻辣 #担々麺 #担担麺 #麻辣担担麺 #創作麺工房鳴龍 #NAKIRYU #大塚
A photo posted by shinchan (@shinzix0225) on Sep 27, 2015 at 9:32pm PDT
But if a plane ticket to Japan isn't in your future, some of these restaurants are planning offshoot locations, such as a New York outpost for Tim Ho Wan and a global empire in the making for HK Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle.
Globalization may be fraught with concerns for some, but the spread of Michelin-starred food that costs less than ten bucks probably isn't one of them.