Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu (new location 2018) – a Michelin Restaurant near Shinjuku Gyoen Park

What is the number one ranked ramen restaurant in the Shinjuku area? There are several ranking sites for ramen but recently the “ramen database” (in Japanese only) has started appearing frequently in my search results. Their number 1 ramen restaurant in the Shinjuku area, Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu (Konjiki for short) is a place I never heard of before. In addition, it’s labeled as a Bib Gourmand Michelin restaurant, meaning that it offers gourmet food at a reasonable price. Without further ado, I decided to check it out for myself.


Finding Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu

 A little research showed that Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu used to be located near Hatagaya station station in neighbouring Shibuya city (they are still mistakenly listed there on the gurunavi bib Michelin page). However, in May of this year, they closed the Hatagaya store and moved to their current location opposite Shinjuku Gyoen park, between Shinjuku-gyoenmae and Shinjuku-sanchome stations, to the joy off all Shinjuku ramen lovers. Since it was the middle of Obon holiday, I decided to make my way there, hoping that the line would be somewhat reduced.

Interior photography isn’t allowed so this glimpse from the outside is all I could get.

The first challenge was finding the restaurant. It’s hidden in a small side street, running parallel to the park. There are no signs helping customers find their way, so I had to rely on Google Maps. I was starting to falter when I saw another person confidently heading towards the general direction of the restaurant. So I marched on, and sure enough, soon I saw a short line on the left side – only 5 people! However, once in line, I was able to glance inside through a small window, covered with Michelin Guide stickers from the four past years, and I saw another 6 people sitting and waiting inside. Would I be able to order and eat my food before the end of my lunch break?

The discrete wooden exterior of Konjiki

Everything is in English!

The line moved at a brisk pace, as they tend to do at ramen restaurants. Before I had time to fully appreciate Konjiki’s beautiful wooden exterior, more reminiscent of a summer cottage than a ramen restaurant, I was inside and standing in front of the ticket vending machine. Fortunately there were English descriptions of the dishes, as well as a handy guide to all the buttons, on laminated sheets hanging next to the machine.

 I chose their recommended bowl of “shio soba” (salt-based ramen) with an “ajitama” (marinated egg) for 1000 yen (“ajitama shio soba”). You can also just get the “shio Soba” by itself for 900 yen. The provided English description is well-written, detailed and mouth-watering. I don’t think I ever eaten a bowl of ramen while knowing so much about its contents. The broth is based on the red sea bream fish (like the ramen at Tai Shio Soba Toka) and the “hamaguri” clam, a species of clam found in Tokyo bay (also used for sushi). It also contains truffle oil, which is surprising, considering its very reasonable price.

Details of Konjiki’s recommended and signature bowls

In addition to the recommended dish, they have a “shoyu soba” (soy sauce-based ramen) which is their signature dish, a dish that is supposed to be unique to the restaurant. According to the description it’s a blend of 3 different kinds of soup, based on pork and “hamaguri” clam dashi. I had it on my second visit (950 yen with a marinated egg, 850 yen without). When tasting the soup, you can immediately tell that it’s pork based. As that fades, you can also taste the clam. Both my neighbours finished the soup to the last drop, a sure sign of its tastiness. Finally, they offer a “shoyu tsuke soba” (soy-sauce-based dipping noodles) with a soup also based on “hamaguri” clams, and porcini mushrooms.

The Shoyu Soba offering with marinated egg – I can’t wait to eat it again!

Not your typical ramen restaurant

After buying my ticket I was able to sit down for more waiting. I appreciated being able to wait inside, especially during the hot and humid weather of the Japanese summer. Opposite was an English sign telling customers that although it was OK to take photos of the food, it was not allowed to take pictures of the shop interior and other customers. I initially thought that the presence of so much information in English was because they were featured in the Michelin guide. However they have a second restaurant in Vancouver called Konjiki ramen, and according to this website they are #29 of the 32 Seriously Important Toronto Restaurants You Need To Visit This Summer. 

 Very soon one of the restaurant staff came by to collect my ticket and those of my neighbours. While waiting I was able to observe the shop interior. Numerous “shugi-bukuro” (special envelopes used in celebrations) lined the upper reaches of the walls, giving the place the feel of a newly opened restaurant. There were six counter seats and two tables with a couple of seats each, so sitting a total of ten people at a time. The new and wooden interior was really giving off that fancy Michelin restaurant vibe, which is very different from what I expected from a ramen restaurant. The longish wait only increased my feeling of anticipation of a culinary treat.

Another fleeting glimpse of the inside of Konjiki

A well-deserved top spot

Eventually my turn came and I was seated in the middle of the counter. Despite having 3 chefs working behind the counter, I still had to wait another 10 minutes for my ramen to be served, the proof that they prioritise care in preparation of the dish over speed. The counter comprises an elevated partition, so that you can’t see what the chefs are doing with their hands, which is a shame, but it’s probably more hygenic. When, finally, my bowl of steaming hot ramen was placed on top of the counter, I carefully lifted it down and placed it in front of myself.

The first thing I did was to give it a good, long sniff, and indeed, the smell of truffle is quite evident. Next, I used the provided spoon to taste the soup, and again, because of the truffle oil, the taste is quite distinctive – sharp but not too rich. Then, at last, I was ready to start slurping the noodles, which, according to the description, are homemade and contain six different kinds of flour. They were thinner than average making it easy to pick up and devour many at the same time – I was stunned by the speed at which my neighbours managed to polish off their bowls!

Since my lunch break was coming to an end, I couldn’t linger much longer after finishing all the noodles and most of the soup, so I quietly placed my bowl back on top of the counter, said “gochisosama deshita” (meaning thank you for the treat) and exited Konjiki, allowing another expectant and hungry customer to enjoy their lunch. I would recommend this place for serious ramen lovers, who want to take their noodle experience to the next level. Although I had to wait for about 45 minutes on my first visit, the second time I was in and out in less than 30 minutes, so if you avoid the peak lunch and dinner times, you should be able to thoroughly enjoy a gourmet ramen Michelin experience in Tokyo.

For smartphone users, please click the link below to go to the Tadaima Japan website which includes additional location details:

 Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu, a Michelin Restaurant near Shinjuku Gyoen Park

 If you want to read more about ramen, check out these articles:

10 things you should know before eating ramen in Japan

 Enjoy ramen and “chazuke” in one meal at Tai Shio Soba Toka

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AUTHOR

David

David

Writer / Translator

I’ve been in Japan for over 10 years although it feels shorter because I am constantly discovering new things and new places. Sometimes it can be hard to get the full Japanese experience because of cultural differences and linguistic barriers. For that reason, I want to share what I have learned in order to enhance your experience in Japan. Having said that, figuring out stuff on your own can also be fun. In any case, I hope you can find here whatever you need in order to make your stay a success.

Information

Address 〒160-0022 Tokyo,
Shinjuku city,
2-4-1 Shinjuku
Hours 11:30 - 15:00
18:30 - 21:30
Sundays 11:30-15:00
Price 850 - 1200 yen
Close Mondays
Access 5-minute walk from
Shinjuku-gyoenmae Station
or Shinjuku-sanchome station
via the Marunouchi Line
Phone Not listed
Language Japanese
Website https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1304/A130402/13222172/