Over in north Tokyo, Matador (牛骨らぁ麺マタドール) serves up delectable bowls of beef bone ramen.
Matador oozes style from the moment you step inside. Just seven chrome-backed seats alongside a matte black counter flank a tiny kitchen with owner Iwadate-san's staff working their magic in full view of curious onlookers in quiet anticipation. As they ply their artisanal trade in near silence, soft jazz music plays in the background creating a refined ambience and feeling of exclusivity in the air.
As ramen goes, 'exclusivity' is definitely on the menu at Matador, who pride themselves on their beef bone ramen – something of a rarity in the ramen world when done this well. With a beef broth and roast beef topping, expect a unique experience when ordering the Zeitaku Yakigyu Ramen (¥1,050).
Think a rich shoyu soup, combining flavours of beef bones and tendons—as well as numerous herbs, seafood and spices (over 30 ingredients apparently)— which is slightly creamy yet sweet. It holds the whole grain noodles really well, cradling bountiful toppings including aged shredded beef, green onion, menma and an ajitama egg – delightfully hidden beneath 2 giant slices of roast beef.
But it doesn't stop there – peruse the menu to find many more varieties including several shoyu and shio (salt), as well as their famed tsukemen dishes – all popular dishes with the locals.
Matador is a favourite among Japanese – since opening in July 2011, they quickly took top prize in Tokyo Ramen of the Year's originality category (an industry annual publication) alongside runners-up for shoyu newcomers and tsukemen. This explains the occasional queue which sometimes forms, despite the relatively (for Tokyo) remote location. They have partner shops nearby too – one specialising in miso ramen and the other in soupless maze-soba.
Kita-senju is not a well-traveled area for most tourists, but is well-connected for commuters, providing access to the rest of Tokyo, Chiba and Ibaraki by JR, Tokyo Metro and Tsukuba Express lines. Exit 1 on the Chiyoda Line is closest, from where it's a short walk. Closed Mondays.