Matsudo does rather well for ramen. Alongside Tomita to the south, a couple of minutes north-east of Matsudo Station you will come across Tonikaku Ramen. Like its local rival, you'll often be faced with a queue of punters lining up outside and, similarly, a near-perfect score on the Ramen Database may help explain this. Anyway, I came along to find out why.
Tonikaku (兎に角ラーメン) started at this location back in July 2005, making 2015 their 10th anniversary year. They have since grown to 3 stores across northern Chiba, in Kameari and Kashiwa too. They make their own noodles onsite everyday and opt for a tonkotsu gyoukai (pork/fish stock) soup to accompany their noodles.
Making a quick foray into Matsudo myself, the abura-soba—one of three main offerings on their menu alongside ramen and tsukemen—caught my eye the most. It's a relatively unique serving style and also seemed to the most popular choice amongst other customers.
Abura-soba is a dry, soupless noodle dish more akin to tsukemen – the thick, springy and chewy noodles are coated in oil which comprises numerous tonkotsu gyoukai flavours, spices and seasoning.
They recommend mixing everything together and customising with chili oil and vinegar to taste. You can also ask for your 'soup wari', allowing you to top up your bowl with a side serving of soup broth which they recommend adding when you have about ⅓ or ¼ of your noodles remaining. It adds to the experience somewhat, and certainly beats worrying about the dense layer of oil as you approach the finishing line that is your last noodle.
As my first abura-soba I was impressed – both with the concept but also the toppings. Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), slices of char siu, tender shredded pork/ham pieces, spring onions, menma bamboo shoots, nori seaweed and a generous pepper/spice seasoning.
Ordering is done via the ticket machine just inside the entrance – in Japanese but with the headline dishes colour-coded. Ramen (red), tsukemen (blue) and abura-soba (yellow) all range between ¥730 and ¥980, though most will opt for the regular-sized servings at ¥780. I feel duty-bound to notify their zenbu-no-sei — the works —versions come in at ¥1,200 but it is possibly too much for a normal person. If they are busy, the staff may take your order whilst you are queuing to speed things up, but an outside menu on the wall can help if you need to point out what you want or quickly decide.