Setting itself apart from the ramen crowd, 'Taiyou no Tomato men' (太陽のトマト麺) serves up visually distinct bowls of tomato-based ramen at its many locations around Japan – as many as 21 stores, since launching in Kinshicho back in 2006.
The signature offering here is the Tomato Cheese Ramen (¥830 ex. tax) – which serves up their tomato soup-based ramen bowl topped with masses of powdered cheese and some basil. It comes recommended as part of a set including crispy cheese gyoza and 'Chibi-riso' – the latter a small serving of rice that serves as a way to finish any remaining soup, but creating a mini risotto ('Ra-riso') at the end. Neat!
The main tomato soup combines a rich, tomato sauce with a low-fat chicken (paitan) soup – which also explains the numerous chicken ramen options dotted around the menu e.g. Cheese Chicken Ramen and Camembert Cheese Paitan Noodles. The latter is an exclusive bowl to the Shinjuku Toho branch visited, along with Gorgonzola cheese fondue-style tomato noodles and Camembert Neapolitan style cheese tomato noodles.
The Camembert bowl I felt compelled to try too – the tomato soup also using a cheese blended in and the dish topped with lightly grilled slices of Camembert that slowly melt into the soup once served.
At first sight, you may be forgiven for thinking Taiyou no Tomato's menu comes very close to pasta and the Italian influences here are obvious to see. But this is still very much ramen and intended to be relatively healthy at that: the fine noodles themselves use soy milk, the soup use a variety of carefully selected ripe tomatoes from around the world, and toppings can include low-fat chicken, spinach and the 'Edona' variety of Japanese mustard leaf.
For those opting to try out the ramen risotto side dish, 'Ra-riso', you can expect to a healthy, nutritious bowl of multigrain rice, including Genmai, Mannan Hikari, and regular Hakumai white rice – topped with fried onion, pepper, cheese and basil.
Taiyou Tomato originally caught my eye with talk of a Pakchi / Coriander Ramen, which seems to be an autumn special that puts the spotlight on an increasingly popular herb across Japan – definitely one to try on a follow-up visit.