Thursday, April 17, 2014

めとき Metoki: experience [CLOSED]

Metoki has been around for over 40 years, in the same location, run by the same master. We were the last customers in the shop and got to talking to old man Metoki about his life and work.

He started his ramen career at Eifukucho Taishoken, which were some of the hardest years of his life. Why? "They're so strict. Every procedure was meticulous, from the preparation of the soup to the cleaning of the kitchen."

Having served his time at a verifiable ramen dojo, Metoki branched out and opened up a shop of his own in Okubo, a seven-seat counter with a more relaxed vibe, but with ramen demonstrating the compressed experience he gained from his masters. While Metoki has racked up the years and shortened his hours, virtually nothing else about his shop has changed in its four odd decades of existence, from the sturdy wooden lids used to seal in heat and put immense pressure on the soup... the old toy radio cranking out Showa-era radio programs by the windowsill. Step into Metoki, and you step back through time, when the world surrounding ramen was simpler, but the best bowls (and the hands that made them) were no less complex.

Metoki only serves one bowl, in a "small" or "regular" size. Even those with large appetites will have great difficulty polishing off a regular-sized bowl. Go with the small.

Small chukamen (840yen)

Metoki's bowl is a niboshi shoyu, similar to that which you would get at Eifukucho Taishoken. The noodles have the same softness and chew, the menma is thin and cruncy, and the lean chashu has been marinated for longer. 

But the difference is in the soup. Metoki's broth is no less rich with sardines, but the tare is much thicker than ET, so the overall balance is much more slurpable. This is, perhaps, what ET tasted like many moons ago.

How does one discuss great ramen shops such as these? I'll leave the in-depth flavor profiles to the professionals. For me, in its simplicity and depth, Metoki's bowl might be a damn near perfect expression of what it means to eat great ramen. In this case, you are eating years of labor, what one man has achieved through serving the same item to people everyday, nearly singlehandedly, for over half of his life. Great ramen isn't the sum of it's reviews, where you lose a star for a long line, a smelly bathroom, or the wood splintering your lip from the disposable chopsticks. You experience it. Or you don't.

Do yourself a service and experience it while you can.

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Okubo 2-29-8
Closest stn: Shin-Okubo

Open from 11am-230pm (closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays, and when soup runs out)


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