HAJIME: beat the meat  

Ahh, summertime. No better time to board multiple trains for this year’s top-ranked bowls of ramen.

Wait, I forgot my scare-quotes. “Top-ranked” ramen (much better) should always be taken with several grains of salt (preferably delicious sea salt from Masu). With so many ramen magazines, websites, critics, and even pathetic variety TV shows giving out yearly ramen awards, “#1″ bowls tend to lose significance.

But the best shops still end up somewhere in the rankings of every list. HAJIME, debuting last year as the second branch of Hasune’s Hajime Ramen and winner of “Best New Bowl” in Ramen Taisho is one of those shops. The all-upper case lettering means that the new shop is powered up and ready to punch you in the face with flavor.

We had to strap on our jetpacks to head out to Jujo. Expecting a long line of fellow ramen lovers, we arrived shortly after they opened and were startled to find that there was nary a soul in the place. With a big counter and tables, they can fit in a sizable crowd.

HAJIME won awards for both its shio and its creamy tori-paitan, an all-chicken broth concoction. Lots of stuff going on in this shop. We ordered both.

Gyu-shio ramen with steak (1000yen)
Zembu-nose (everything) tori-paitain ramen (900yen)

A lot of shops this year have debuted gyukotsu, or “beef bone” soup, but HAJIME takes it a step further by using quality beef meat to make the soup richer. Unlike a soup like Nakiryu, which prides itself on its clarity, this broth looked muddy. With rice noodles, the result is like a ramen pho.

Possibly the bigger draw is the the luxurious option of topping your shio with even more beef – an entire sliced skirt steak…

…which was overcooked, but you can dip the meat in a special shoyu sauce.

With fried chunks of onions, it was almost like an Outback Steakhouse meal on top of a bowl of ramen pho. Again, lot of stuff going on in this bowl, but maybe too much?

The tori-paitan, on the other hand, was pretty soaked with chicken flavor. I only had a few bites, but the rich flavor was like an excellent dashi that you would drink in a fancy (and much more expensive) restaurant.

The flavored egg was also especially gooey.

Number one new shop? You can be the judge of that. Upon leaving, we stopped by a trinket shop that was selling a giant second-hand plasma TV for only 26,000 yen. I was tempted to buy it before realizing that is at least 30 bowls of ramen (with deluxe toppings) and slapped myself. Everything must be measured in ramen.

HAJIME likes its meat

Tokyo, Kita-ku, Kamijujo 2-30-9
Closest stn: Jujo

Open from 1130am-3pm and 6-1030pm Monday-Friday (closes at 8pm on weekends)