The Japanese sure love the Chinese-style spicy noodles known as tantanmen (or dandan mian in Mandarin Chinese). Previously, I wrote about two tantanmen joints in Tokyo, Rashohan in Kanda and Kisurin in Akasaka. Yesterday, I went to another well-regarded place called Yokarou (よかろう).
Yokarou is located in the shadow of the newest Mori skyscraper in Toranomon, just a 10 minute walk down the road from the government district of Kasumigaseki. It’s fairly large for a noodle joint in Tokyo, with two U-shaped counters that seat somewhere between 10-12 people each. There’s also a lot of floor space behind the counters, which means that people can line up inside the air conditioned restaurant for a seat, rather than stand outside in the elements. In fact, there’s so much space that you have to wonder whether they would be well advised to add more seats and tables.
There are a number of noodle soups to choose from, but you’re going to want to focus on the tantanmen options which includes basic tantanmen, with zasai (Chinese pickled vegetables), with large pieces of pork (darou tantanmen), pork rib (paiko tantanmen) and a couple of choices featuring different types of chicken. I went with the darou tantanmen, while my friend got the noodles with zasai. We also ordered a side of rice, which we topped with complementary pickles.
My bowl of noodles was quite delicious. I didn’t find the soup to be particularly spicy, but it did have a rich, nutty flavor that tasted more complex than the sesame-heavy soup that you find at a place like Kisurin. It also had a red-brown color that reminded me more of red miso than the bright, fiery red that you usually see in spicy ramen and soup-based tantanmen. The thin noodles looked like the ones you get in Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen. They tasted a bit soft, certainly not as firm as I like in tonkotsu ramen, but it probably soaked up the soup better that way. There were three thick, round pieces of juicy pork on top and a solitary piece of leafy green curled up in a loop (perhaps to make you feel like it’s a healthier, more balanced meal that it actually is). Overall, Yokarou’s tantanmen was quite good and definitely worth a trip. It may not have the authentic Chinese taste of Rashohan’s premium tantanmen, nor the sheer quantity of calories of Kisurin’s tonkatsu-topped noodles, but it’s a quality bowl of Japanese-style tantanmen. I certainly felt full and satisfied when I walked out of there. As always, try to go on the early or late side for lunch, as there’s usually a wait for places as popular as this.Yokarou Location: 3-8-2 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo Business Hours: Monday-Saturday 11:00am-9:00pm. Closed Sundays. Getting There: Take the Tokyo Metro (Ginza line) to Toranomon station, take Exit 2, walk south on Sakurada Dori (Route 1) for about 5 minutes, and turn left at the corner where you see the Japan Sword Shop/Samurai House. Alternatively, take the Tokyo Metro’s Hibiya line to Kamiyacho station, take Exit 3, and walk north 5 minutes on Sakurada Dori.