I went to Inoya, a ramen restaurant in Sekiya, Chuo-ku, Niigata City. The only prior knowledge I had was that it had a reputation for being delicious, but the day after drinking, when I woke up after sleeping until nearly noon, my empty stomach told me to go to Inoya.
After a 15-minute drive from her home in Nishi Ward, she arrived at Inoya in Sekiya. The time was around 11:20am. There was already a long queue outside the restaurant at this time!
I wondered whether to queue or not, but I had no choice because my empty stomach told me to queue, so I decided to queue. I parked my car in the car park next to the shop and got to the back of the queue.
This was a big mistake. The queue never got going, it was windy and terribly cold. On the way, it also started raining aralés. This was unbearable. I was starting to feel like giving up and going home, but when I looked closely at the customers in front of me, they looked like young students and seemed to know each other, and they started joking around with each other. I was the only outsider in the queue, and I felt like I was losing out to the cold, but for some reason I began to notice their eyes on me, and I felt a strange self-consciousness that I had to keep queuing, even if it meant I had to.
The Offspring's "The Kids Aren't Alright" was leaking out from inside the shop at a fairly high volume. Or rather, it was so loud that it seemed to be being played straight to the outside. While I was sitting in front of the shop with punk rock music playing, enduring the cold and loneliness, an older man with dyed gold hair and all black came out from inside the shop and started puffing on a cigarette while teasing the customers lined up outside (probably students who are regulars). His clothes were stained here and there with what looked like pig's back fat.
Needless to say, my fears that I had come to a ridiculous shop were on my mind.
After 40 minutes of queuing and cold toes, they were finally able to enter the restaurant. The shop was filled with white steam, which blocked my view. The gap between the cold outside and the camera lens fogged up. Finally, I was able to calm down and look around the shop...
One, two, three, ..., there are only eight seats in total. And there are people standing in the aisle right behind the seats, waiting to see the show. It looks somewhat like a standing audience watching the stage from the back, and you can sense a strange excitement.
As I was thinking that, the old, scary waiter (or rather, the owner, judging from his position in the restaurant) suddenly began to sear the meat on a burner.
A veritable pageant of light and flesh. And punk rock echoing inside the restaurant as well as outside. Everything was unusual. The clientele was young and the atmosphere was more like a live concert venue than a ramen shop.
I personally hadn't been to such a high threshold restaurant since Ramen Jiro in Mita, Tokyo.
However, once seated, ordering is quite simple. Simply say the name on the menu list. No one ever asked me difficult questions such as, "Do you want garlic?" or any other difficult questions.
On this day, there was a special today's menu item called 'Kuro Tonking'. According to the description, it was a thicker version of the regular 'Kuro Tonkotsu' soup with thick sliced pork, so I ordered it without hesitation.
The restaurant's policy is to use thin noodles on weekdays and thick noodles on weekends. For thin noodles, it is possible to order a second helping of noodles, but not for thick noodles, so those who want a larger serving need to order a large serving or more in advance. Note that there are several levels of large portions.
Now, when I sit down in my seat, there is a standing customer standing right behind me and I feel uncomfortable as if I am being watched. As I waited calmly, a female waitress brought the 'black tonking' I had ordered down the aisle to my seat. I decided to have it in the fullness of time.
First of all, the visual of the thick-cut chashu pork is not good. This must have been roasted on a burner by the owner earlier.
Now let's start with the soup. This, this. I've never had soup like this before. It is so thick that it has a sticky texture, more like a stew than a soup. The burnt taste of the pitch-black ma-oil is entwined with it, and it whets the appetite.
The noodles are super thick. Udon noodles? The water from the boiling water is released from the slightly soft, thick noodles, slightly neutralising the stickiness of the thick stew soup. However, with this soup, thin noodles would probably be better suited than thick noodles. I wanted to try thin noodles on weekdays.
The thick-cut chashu pork was as impressive as its visual impact, with a strong burst of fat in the belly. This is the perfect ramen for when you want a thick, juicy ramen.
While eating, we observed the situation in the restaurant (or rather, the owner's situation). The owner was surprisingly friendly and talked to his regular customers whenever he found them. When a young couple was reading a book without talking to each other, the owner saw them and said something like this.
'Look, it's probably none of my business what you two do, but if you don't talk, what's the point of being together?
When he found other customers in the shop wearing suits, he said.
'Listen, can I ask you something that's been bothering me for a while? Why are you in a suit?"
All of them say it with a smile and a droll manner, so it's never sarcastic. That said, I'm really glad they didn't talk to me!
Now, for a place that I came to with a casual feeling, the restaurant was thick in many ways (both the soup and the people). I only got the impression during the time I went (Sunday lunchtime), but 90% of the clientele were young students, and the ratio of men to women was about 50-50. I had the feeling that I had come to a place that was really out of place for the first time in a long time, but the ramen is really good, so you should go there next time. (Young people's language was affected.)
- Ramen Inoya
- 8-12, Shinanomachi, Chuo-ku, Niigata City, Niigata
- Weekdays 11:00-15:00 / 17:00 until soup runs out Sat, Sun, holidays 11:00-21:00
- Closed Wednesdays