Brian from Ramen Adventures just moved into a rad (and cheap!) new apartment in Sengoku, near the Yamanote Line Sugamo station in northern Tokyo, so to mark the occasion we tucked into bowls at the nearby Sengoku Jiman (Sengoku Pride). A lot was riding on this bowl - if there's a ramen shop in your hood called "Your Hood Pride" it would be pretty embarrassing for it to suck.
Sengoku Jiman is a very local chain, with four shops all clustered in the older neighborhoods of north-central Tokyo, which is known as a haven for puttering old folks. But Sengoku has something to be proud of besides their impressive population of nonagenarians - namely, the ramen at Sengoku Jiman! After spying the place, we joined the already substantial line, comprised almost entirely of construction workers, plumbers, and salarymen on their lunch break. Verily, Sengoku Jiman is a main place of dudes.
Inside, the place was jammed with similar clientele, plus two goofy white guys brandishing cameras. Sengoku Jiman doesn't have any of the rough around the edges charm of of your average neighborhood ramen shop, but is clean and strictly business - everyone in the shop has to get their slurp on and get back to work.
The counter at Sengoku Jiman is low, which I always enjoy. One of the pleasures of eating at a ramen shop is feeling your hunger grow as you watch the staff prepare your bowl - boiling the noodles, loading up the bowl with tare (flavor essence), soup, and toppings, then sliding it over piping hot and ready to eat.
The logic behind the 19 to 1 man-lady ratio became quickly apparent when our bowls came up - big, thick, creamy looking bowls of tonkotsu shôyû (pork bone and soy sauce) soup loaded with thick noodles and plenty of suspended fat floating in the bowl. Needless to say, such food does not tend to be the first choice of office ladies looking for a light lunch. Brian got the special limited "Nikujan" (Meat and Sauce) ramen, with a miniature mountain of what looked like Chinese-style brisket piled atop. The only other option on offer is a milder shio (salt) broth, with a higher chicken-to-pork ratio and thinner soup, as well as either of the above with extra (LOTS extra) bean sprouts or meat.
The egg was straight up hardboiled, rather than nice and soft, but the overall package was salty and solid. Sengoku Jiman's ramen reminded me a lot of Ramen Shop - a very well rounded and not too greasy (but still pretty greasy) blend of pork and soy. Despite the soup being cloudy with lots of suspended fat, the taste was mild, and my stomach felt no ill effects afterwards, which is always an important consideration.
The soup may even be a wee bit too mild, as I like my tonkotsu shôyû with a bit more punch in the face, like at Ramen Jirô. But that's what the tableside chili paste and fresh garlic are for - dabbing in a few drops doesn't so much make the soup garlicky and spicy so much as it seems to open up the broth and let the flavor out. I regretted not going up a size in noodle portion, but that is a problem easily solved with...
...rice! I try to resist my urge to dump rice in my ramen too often, but this was just the right kind of bowl for it - for an extra hundred yen you can assure satiation with a nice thick porky porridge. I guess I must have liked it...
...because my bowl ended up as empty as it gets, which rarely happens. I don't foresee the good people of Sengoku flashing any gang signs anytime soon, but they can feel confident in holding mad pride in their local ramen!