For anyone familiar with ramen in Japan, Afuri offers something a little different. It remixes everything that makes ramen great and presents something new and trendy, arguably geared towards a younger, chic, health-conscious generation.
Forget your typical cramped, greasy, inebriated-salaryman-counter setting, Afuri is spacious, clean and cool. Youthful staff in black quickly seat and serve customers along 2 long counters at the Naka-Meguro branch, seating about 15 people. The monochrome decor with exposed concrete walls and pipes reveal a post-industrial cafe style complete with contemporary music and a buzz of energy from the chefs at work.
Afuri's trademark signature is its yuzu shio ramen. Think light, thin noodles in a chicken-based broth augmented with yuzu peel, alongside a serving of delicately charcoal-grilled char siu pork, a perfectly soft-boiled ajitama egg, chopped mizuna greens and sliced bamboo shoots, finished off with a crisp sheet of nori seaweed. If that sounds healthy and not very oily, you'd be correct. It's also fairly tasty.
Exploring the menu
Regular shio/shōyu ramen options are available (¥880) alongside their yuzu counterparts (¥980), with several customisations to your noodles available (temomi and konjac noodles). The chilled tsukemen is also a standout item from the menu and no doubt a favourite in the summer months. Extra toppings and several donburi side bowls are also available to accompany your selection.
You'll guess from the logo the 'Afuri' name is a mountain reference. Located towards the eastern part of Tanzawa, in Kanagawa prefecture, this mountain is where they source their spring water for the soup (and, I guess, cooking the noodles). It helps draw out the flavours of the chicken, fish, seaweed and yuzu ingredients that go into the golden-hued broth.
Once seated, you'll be prompted to choose between 2 styles of soup. Tanrei is a well-balanced chicken-based broth infused with various seafood, seaweed and vegetables. Maroaji is similar to Tanrei with extra chicken broth making for a thicker, richer soup.
Afuri can be proud of a lot of things, not just how well their yuzu shio ramen comes together. Everything is served in their distinctive, signature blue and white porcelain bowls – I can't really recall the ramen bowl of any other place to be honest, so it is certainly novel. They even serve a unique Asahi limited edition amber-coloured dunkel brew. Again, another first for me which beats the standard lagers usually provided.