This bowl had been a long time coming. Kururi had been hovering near the top of my hit list for almost a year, and a few weeks back, it finally got ated. An old friend had told me he saw a TV program christening it "the best ramen in Japan", Brian told me it was the bomb, and every time I saw a feature in a glossy magazine I could feel the saliva congregate in my mouth.
It's a similar warm feeling to the one my buddy A probably gets when he belts out some karaoke tracks by the identically pronounced band Qururi, who are sort of like the Japanese Weezer.
Located on Sotobori-dôri, the ring road along the outer moat of the Imperial Palace, Kururi has no sign, only a simple board of black wood.
But don't worry, something tells me you'll be able to spot it by the line dozens long running down the block, even in the pouring rain. After much anticipation, grumbling of stomach, and soaked shoes, I made it in after about 25 minutes. This better be worth it...
Inside, the sharp dressed young men sit bathed in the glow of soft orange light, as the cooks meticulously prepare the bowls in batches. Kururi is the kind of shop that does miso proper, heating the vegetables and the soup in a wok before pouring it into each customer's bowl. I don't really know the back story on Kururi, but I think it's been open for about five years and basking in praise for the duration. When it first started serving, it was only open for three hours a day, since business was so good that everything ran out by 2.30 PM. I guess limiting numbers is one way to build a buzz.
But you know what? Every word, every breath of that buzz is richly deserved. This is miso ramen bar none, the kind of bowl that all other miso ramen should aspire to be. And in fact, have aspired to be, since one sip of Kururi instantly revealed all other new jack bowls of miso to be nothing short of pale imitations. I don't know what goes in this blend, but it is rich, and sweet, and thick, and salty, and everything that a good bowl of miso should be. Packed with onions, leeks, and bean sprouts, drizzled with smokey chili oil. Junren may be the king of Sapporo-style traditional miso ramen, but I have a hard time imagining how any post-Sapporo bowl could top Kururi's.
The noodles are big, thick, toothsome, and chewy, soaking up the soup and making for pleasing mouthful after pleasing mouthful. The soup is so thick as to be almost gooey (though not as gooey as Ringo-ya), so it really clings to the noodles.
But then, when on the way back from the toilet, I spied the telltale boxes - noodles sourced from Mikawaya Seimen. This factory has a stranglehold on high-end ramen in Tokyo! They make really top quality stuff, and seem to be able to create noodles to any number of specifications, but it never ceases to amaze me how many shops use them for noodles. Also note the large pot full of unrefined lard on the floor. Awwwww yeahhh.
I drank every last sip of soup. A clean bowl is always the sign of a good bowl, but I was scraping each edge desperately trying to get a last drop. And yet, I was not the person most enjoying Kururi's ramen. In this den of dudes, I looked across the counter and saw a chubby girl in a business suit slurping. I have never witnessed a human being enjoy eating a food item as much as this girl did. With each bite the look of utter bliss grew bigger. She was giving herself over to this bowl of ramen and reveling in it. Umm, go to Kururi. It's worth a half-hour wait in the rain. At least.