Authentic Kyushu ramen in Shibuya
Ramen noodle dishes come in a variety of forms, depending on which part of Japan you're in. The westerly island of Kyushu is known for Hakata Ramen, with thin noodles in a rich, milky pork-bone broth, but you don't have to go all the way there to try it. On the seventh floor of the Hikarie building next to Shibuya station, Hakata Uma Uma allows you to enjoy the taste of Kyushu without leaving Tokyo.
Given the upmarket vibe of Hikarie, Uma Uma looks as much like a back-street Fukuoka noodle joint as it's possible to do; there's the nori curtain over the entrance, then inside there's wood panelling, muted colors and bright lighting, though there's a more mellow atmosphere in some of the private rooms off to the side of the main dining area. Here there are a handful of tables and a counter in front of the kitchen, where I sat and chatted with a friendly regular, exchanging quips with the staff all the while.
For my dinner I chose the standard Hakata Ramen, with a boiled egg and extra menma bamboo thrown in; the noodles were a nice al dente texture, firm and chewy, the pork slices succulently tasty, and the soup broth hearty and warming, a good choice for a chilly winter evening. On the side I had some gyoza, pan-friend Chinese pork dumplings, slightly spicy and salty in a way that matched the ramen nicely.
Of course the main feature of the menu is Hakata Ramen, which comes in its basic form for ¥750, and to which you can add toppings as varied as charshu (thin slices of roast pork), boiled eggs, mushrooms or menma (sliced bamboo). Other dishes include a range of hot-pots from ¥1,100 to ¥1,400 per person (for a minimum of two people), side dishes from ¥400 to ¥600 such as salads, pickles and blocks of mentaiko (spicy fish roe) or, for the more adventurous, basashi (raw horse meat) for either ¥700 or ¥2,000 depending on the cut. If you're drinking then beer, wine, sours, shochus and cocktails like Cubra Libre and Cassis Orange are around ¥500 each, highballs ¥550 and soft drinks ¥350.
It's not haute cuisine, but ramen is a Japanese classic which every visitor should try at least once; and for the location and convenience, Hakaya Uma Uma represents very good value for your tasty, filling food.