By Kim B
Why on earth is the awning of that ramen restaurant upside-down?
“For impact,” my waitress tells me. “It gets people to come inside.” The awning is what got my attention, but it was word of mouth from three friends that brought me inside. One bite of my tsukemen rocketed Shagara into my top 3 favorite ramen restaurants (the other 2 being Daruma on the second floor of Hakata Station in Fukuoka, and Shokudo Hayashiya in Haruno-Cho Hamamatsu City). A tasty ramen broth that isn’t too thin or too oily, or too salty or weak in flavor along with good tasting, properly cooked noodles isn’t achieved by every noodle shop in Japan, but Shagara, with its noodles and broth made fresh in house everyday achieves this balance perfectly. The noodles, which seem to me to be a bit thicker than regular ramen noodles, do taste fresh and have always been the perfect texture. The portions of meat, noodles and vegetables (in three sizes 180g regular, 270g omori/large [+¥10], and the oh-my-god-do-you-honestly-believe-you-can-finish-all-that? 360g tokumori/special large [+¥20]) are also large enough to make me wonder whether or not I’ll be able to finish the whole thing. I’ve managed, despite an uncomfortably full stomach, to clean my bowl on every visit so far. It’s that good.
Inside Shagara is fairly small with only 3 Japanese style tables on a tatami mat platform under the front window, and the usual counter which seats about 10 people. It’s also cleaner than most other ramen stores I’ve visited. I usually find my feet slipping on a layer of I don’t know what on the floors of most ramen establishments. This did not happen at Shagara. A carpet where people walk, and more diligent cleaning of the floors elsewhere are probably to credit for this. Either way, a clean, non-slip floor improved my dining experience.
Shagara’s menu is small, lacking shio/salt flavored ramen, and cold/hiyashimen (something I enjoy eating during Japan’s hot and humid summers), but the taste and very reasonable prices more than make up for that. A bowl of soy ramen will cost you a meager¥630. Miso ramen is just ¥50 more at ¥680. Want more meat? Go for the chashumen, soy and miso chashumen are ¥830 and ¥880 respectively. My favorite dish (for the summer anyway), tsukemen, with its noodles served cold on the side, is ¥730. Gyoza dumplings are ¥290 for a serving of 6. I won’t recommend Shagara’s gyoza, though because I’ve tasted much better. Come for the ramen. It’s best enjoyed on a rainy, or cold day.
Menya Shagara has three locations in Niigata. The main store can be found at Higashi-ku, Toyo 2-2-48 (025-250-7634). The Aoyama Store, the one with the upside down awning that I visited, is at Nishi-ku Hirajima 1309-1 (025-211-4634). The last location, Nikubaka, is in Kita-ku Mokuzaki Onoyama 737-4 (025-387-0634). Omeshi agari kudasai!
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Seven years of exploring and playing in the wilds of Japan! Now I'm JapanTravel's Tourism and PR Ambassador in Nara Prefecture and the Regional Partner for Nara Prefecture. It's been my experience that there's little if any awareness of Nara and its importance outside of Japan. My goal: remedy that