JAPAN – While savoring what he described as the “best Ramen he had ever eaten,” British diner David McElhinney expressed his reluctance to return due to the excessively long wait.
David McElhinney, a long-time resident of Japan, shared his experience at Chukasoba Ginza Hachigou, one of the three Michelin-starred ramen restaurants in Tokyo in 2022, on Insider on March 28. This eatery is renowned as one of the city’s most popular lunch spots.
David arrived at the bustling Ginza district on a weekday in February. He arrived 15 minutes after the restaurant opened at 11:15 AM and was greeted by a long line of approximately 30-40 people. Such queues are not uncommon in Tokyo.
He patiently stood in line, gazing into space, waiting for time to pass. The restaurant staff diligently monitored the queue to ensure everyone stood in line properly and adhered to the rules, which were posted in both Japanese and English on the restaurant’s entrance.
After 30 minutes, David inquired with a staff member about his turn. The response was, “Approximately 2-3 hours.” After over 2.5 hours, David was finally ushered inside and guided using translation software on his phone.
Customers had three types of noodles to choose from. The ramen broth was prepared with a unique blend of ingredients, including seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, dried tomatoes, clams, chicken, and duck. The difference between the noodle options lay in the toppings, which included traditional noodles, noodles with a soft-boiled egg, and noodles with thinly sliced pork and a boiled egg. David opted for the third option at a cost of $11. Initially, he hadn’t eaten breakfast, saying, “I was starving when I walked in.”
According to David’s assessment, the restaurant, though small, exuded a sense of sophistication not often found in the ramen establishments he had previously visited. When the door closed, silence enveloped the space. The only sounds David could hear were the slurping of noodles, the clinking of chopsticks, and the pouring of broth. Chukasoba Ginza Hachigou was small, with only six seats, which explained the lengthy wait. However, the ramen was delicious, with tender pork that required careful handling to prevent it from falling apart. The soft-boiled egg was rich and flavorful, providing a creamy contrast to the dish. The taste of the meal was described as “exquisitely explosive” in his mouth.
Drawing from his extensive ramen-eating experience, David regarded it as one of the “best ramen dishes he had ever tasted” but stated that he “would not return.”
“It’s not worth waiting 2-3 hours for a bowl of ramen unless you’re eager to sample Michelin-starred ramen,” David remarked. He noted that those at the back of the line were turned away as they had arrived too late and the restaurant had run out of ramen.
David also found the atmosphere inside the restaurant to be “somewhat lacking in vibrancy” and lacking the “enticement” he was seeking, prompting him to finish his meal as quickly as possible. He advised travelers visiting Tokyo to explore other options before queuing up at Chukasoba Ginza Hachigou.