Men Dojo Ramen Restaurant
This is a recommendation for those who can't get enough of the top-quality but off-the-map locations that you'll never find in a guide book.
Men Dojo is a ramen restaurant that serves the best noodles going. That's a bold claim in a noodle-happy country, but it's one that stands up to the challenge. It also comes with the bonus of being a hidden gem, off the beaten path, a place so local that it doesn't even have a website. However, the wide variety in the menu and the rich flavors have kept me returning to this shop again and again, even after moving away from the area.
As you might expect, the specialty here is ramen, and there are plenty of ways to get it. Miso ramen tends to be the most dominant, although you can find any other variety you like. My personal favorite is the ookara ramen, the one with three chili peppers listed on the menu. As its name suggests, this is one hot dish of noodles that is sure to make you sweat. Perhaps the most novel menu item is the kuro (black) ramen, with heavy, black broth that looks like squid ink, and has an excellent flavor. The gyoza (dumplings) and chahan (Chinese-style fried rice) are both outstanding. There is a long list of toppings to add onto your ramen for a cheap price, as well.
The downside of this restaurant is its location. Set quite far from any train station in an area without many points of interest for travelers, Men Dojo requires either a car, a long walk, or a bicycle rented from near Tsuruse Station. While it takes a serious commitment of time and effort to get there, the results are undoubtedly worth it. A ramen-snob friend of mine complained incessantly during out long walk there in the heat of summer, frequently demanding why I dragged him all the way out to Saitama for this. After we ate, though, he couldn't stop raving about it, and we've since gone again several times.
Men Dojo is open from 11am to 3am. Bring the family and sit at a booth, or come solo and grab a seat at the counter. It's a cozy place, either way. Its menu is all in Japanese, and while it has some pictures, a basic knowledge of hiragana is useful for navigating it. Expect about a 1,000 yen bill. Alcohol available.
Men Dojo is located in Fujimi City, Saitama Prefecture. It is about a 17 minute walk from Tsuruse Station or a 20 minute walk from Fujimino Station, both of the Tobu Tojo Line. There is a free on-site parking lot with spaces for about 10 cars.
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