Address and phone:
2-14-21 Shinyokohama, Kohoku Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture (+81 45-471-0503)
The lion's share of my most memorable meals in 2013 were experienced outside of New York, though that's not supposed to be any sneak-diss on the NYC restaurant scene. The city's been as good to me as ever this year. I had the best sushi of my life
, bar-none, at Sushi Nakazawa, strapped into the high-chairs at the counter with a good friend and a procession of excellent sakes I can't spell. Perla solidified itself as my favorite place to celebrate life's small, Pyrrhic victories. I also had some hilarious Tex-Mex meals at El Cantinero, where any anxiety you harbor instantly evaporates in a puff of fajita steam.
Ultimately, though, nothing compares to eating a great meal far from home—I used to pick up jerseys of local soccer teams wherever I traveled, but now I remember my journeys based on the things I ate. In Oregon, I had oysters shucked fresh off the boat at the Pacific Oyster Company on the Tillamook Bay, as well as an awesome meal in front of the blazing wood-fired oven at Ox in Portland. Solo Farm + Table
, in southern Vermont, was even better this year when I got to enjoy it with loved ones instead of on my own. And digging into a properly British pot pie at the Old Mill in South Egremont, MA was the closest I reckon I'll come to time-warping back to colonial New England.
But since I got to go to Japan this year, nothing else ever really stood a chance. All the cliches are true—eating in Japan is one of those experiences that makes you realize why your notion of "great" might just be considered middling to other people. The convenience stores had better food than most American restaurants, and a chef named Mirakumon Takano, working solo out of a tiny kitchen near Harajuku, cooked and served me the best single bite of the year
(Japanese Wagyu...it's for real).
But the single most memorable meal wasn't at a restaurant, but rather a museum that is devoted entirely to celebrating the history and regional diversity of ramen. The fact that this place
even exists is a testament to what makes Japanese food culture so incredible; all of the mini ramen-ya
inside the theme-park-like food court aren't just there for some marketing gimmick. They bring their A-game, representing the country's most celebrated shops with pride and a strict adherence to quality.
We waited an hour for the tonkotsu
from the Tokyo-based Toride, standing behind a small child playing a handheld videogame that will probably come out here in 2020. The broth was rich and complex without being overly creamy; the noodles impossibly firm for how thin they were; the spring onions on top fresh and crunchy, and grown specially for this particular ramen (there was a section of the menu devoted to explaining the horticulture). It's a meal that I'll think of every time a hyped-up new ramen joint sets up shop in NYC, which these days, is practically every week.
Long story short: Ramen museums rule, as if there was ever any doubt.—Chris Schonberger