Italian Ramen?

In my last post, I talked about the world of Japanese pasta and how Japan has reimagined one of the pillars of Italian cuisine. It got me thinking: what would the Italian take on ramen look like? Or rather, what would be the Japanese take on an Italian interpretation of ramen? I found one answer at a place called Nagi Butao (凪 豚王), located not too far from Shibuya station.

Nagi Butao is part of a chain of ramen restaurants in the Tokyo area, the most celebrated of which is Nagi Golden Gai in Shinjuku that is on the “best of” shortlist of many ramen bloggers. The various Nagi restaurants specialize in different things and Nagi Butao is devoted to tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen with special twists. The centerpieces of their menu are eight colorful tonkotsu ramen options.


One of these options is the Midorio. The basic components are a tonkotsu soup base, covered with a layer of basil oil and topped with grated parmesan cheese. However, as with the other ramen options on the menu, you are asked to customize other aspects of the bowl of noodles such as the thickness and chewiness of the ramen, the type of pork used, the type of vegetables, and the spiciness level.

So, I ordered one with the thick chewy noodles (rather than the thin stuff found in traditional tonkotsu ramen), fattier pork, fresh vegetables (mostly cabbage), and above average spiciness.

The result was actually quite delicious! I thought the tonkotsu stock, basil oil, and cheese went surprisingly well together, and had flavor similar to pesto. They put a big dollop of spicy chili paste under the vegetables and cheese, which tasted really good when mixed together with the other ingredients. The thicker noodles did a good job of soaking up all of this tastiness together in each slurp.

My fellow food adventurers TC and DT were with me on this trip as usual, and they gave glowing reviews of their ramen. For example, DT ordered the intriguing Kuro (black) ramen option which consisted of the standard tonkotsu soup base, a layer of black garlic oil, and what we speculated was a ball of dark fermented bean paste mixed with ground meat and some other ingredients.

All eight of Nagi Butao’s ramen choices looked intriguing, which means that we will have to do future trips to try them all. So much ramen, so little time.

Nagi Butao
Location: 1-3-1 Higashi,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo; Kaminito Bldg 1F,
Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-4:00pm (Last Order: 3:30pm) / 5pm-3:00am (Last Order: 2:30am)
Sun and Holidays 11:30am-4:00pm (Last Order: 3:30pm) / 5:00pm-9:00pm (Last Order:8:30pm)
Getting There: If you take Metro or JR, the closest station is Shibuya. Walk west on Roppongi Dori about 7-10 minutes. You can also get there by bus using one of the lines that travel along Roppongi Dori.

3 thoughts on “Italian Ramen?

  1. I have a friend who always sprinkled parmesan cheese on his ramen and I always thought he was crazy. But now I realize he was on to something all along! I’ll tell him to add basil oil to it too.


  2. What a surprise! Asia gave noodles to Italy and Italy gives parmesan to Asia. Never woulda thunk …


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