Ropeway Dori is one of Matsuyama’s liveliest streets and it’s home to all sorts of restaurants, shops and bars. Pushed for time one evening, I decided to drop into Honebuto Mikaku ramen in the expectation of getting a quick bite to eat. This restaurant is to be found at the bottom end of the street near the Okaido tram station. It specializes in tonkotsu ramen and gyoza.
The restaurant is quite small, although there are plenty of tables and stools. I chose a seat at a single table and cast an eye over the menu. It was rather complicated, with numerous offerings and combinations. I was intrigued by the 'black' ramen, until the serving lad told me it contained lots of garlic. Since I was heading into an evening meeting, I passed on that and chose the chashu ramen, noodles topped with slices of seasoned pork. Tonkotsu is a soup made from boiled pork bones and it typically has chunks of white pork fat suspended in it, which is either hearty or disgusting, depending on your viewpoint and state of hunger. And so chashu on tonkotsu ramen can be expected to be a thoroughly porky meal. This particular dish costs 850 yen and comes with a choice of extra toppings. I chose ‘vegetables’.
As I had hoped, the ramen arrived promptly. Sticking up above the rim of the bowl was a small cairn of sliced pork, supported from within by a great mound of fried bean sprouts. It was impossible to see any noodles underneath this structure, but the soup around it looked good, and there were some nice pieces of crispy seaweed stuck on the side. After poking around with the chopsticks, I found the noodles and they were a squarish shape with good body. There were also lots of them. The meat had a good flavor, but there was a lot of very soft fat on it, with a melt-in-the-mouth texture which I didn’t particularly like. Chashu is typically quite fatty, and although I’ve become used to it after many years, this was a bit much. Also the topping of vegetables seemed to be mostly bean sprouts with a total of two fragments of cabbage, which I found disappointing. The tonkotsu soup however was very good. It had chips of fried garlic chips in it, which rounded out its flavor and added to its richness. I left feeling very full, although I would avoid the chashu another time.
The restaurant is non-smoking until 5:30 in the evening.