Afuri is a popular ramen chain in Tokyo, known for their yuzu ramen. Yuzu is a citrus fruit often used in Japanese cuisine, similar to grapefruit in appearance and taste, but it is smaller in size with a very aromatic rind.
For our trip to Japan, I was very much looking forward to eating a lot of ramen and seeing how it compared to the ramen offered here in the US. I was also looking forward to the vending machine method of ordering which is quite common at ramen shops in Japan. Afuri was one of the top-rated ramen shops and was also where we experienced our first bowl of ramen in Japan.
Because of its popularity, the restaurant almost always has a line out the door. The inside is quite small, with about a 16 bar seats available. The restaurant was probably the easiest to find of all the places we ate at during our trip because the name of the restaurant is actually written out in English.
While waiting in line, you first place your order through a vending machine. Many of the vending machines have no English, so you may need to do some research ahead of time. Luckily for us, this location had all the items written out in English. However, there were no instructions on how to use the vending machine and we actually struggled with it for several minutes before figuring out that you have to insert your money first before choosing the menu items. If you have any leftover money, the machine will spit out the change along with your order receipt.
When it’s finally your turn to be seated, they’ll collect your order ticket and also ask you whether your prefer Tenrei or Maroaji style, which refers to the amount of chicken oil you want in your soup. Tenrei is their classic, balanced version and Maroaji is a richer flavored broth. Even though this place had English written everywhere, none of the staff spoke a single word of English when we visited, which made communicating quite difficult. When we were first asked what style we preferred, we were given this paper, but only in written out in Japanese. After several attempts at communicating, the server finally gave us the English version.
Once seated, we enjoyed watching the kitchen staff cooking. The pork was being grilled right there and the noodle cook had a whole routine for dishing out and draining the noodles.
Soon our bowls arrived, along with a giant ladle.
Yuzu Shio Ramen
I ordered the yuzu shio (salt) ramen and Mr. K ordered the yuzu shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. The two look fairly similar, so I only took a photo of mine.
The seasoned egg was perfectly cooked. The orange of the yolk was so bright, it looked like a picture in a magazine. My bowl also came with bamboo, seaweed, and grilled pork.
I really enjoyed the chicken based broth and the yuzu scent is a nice and refreshing twist. It made the broth taste a lot lighter and maybe a bit healthier than the typical ramen broth.
I also tasted Mr. K’s version. His tasted fairly similar to mine, just a little saltier.
Overall, we had a good meal here. The yuzu flavor is a nice twist that I haven’t seen before. Interestingly though, I felt like the ramen we had in Japan was comparable to the better ramen shops we have here in San Diego. The ones in Japan seem to be more consistent with their cooking skills, but a good bowl at some of my favorites in San Diego and Los Angeles were on par with the bowls I had in Japan. One thing I did notice though, was that in Japan, there were far less noodles. I usually have a hard time finishing my bowl of noodles, but I always finished in Japan and sometimes even ordered extra noodles.
This restaurant is open from 11am-4am. Like many places in Japan, it is cash only.
1-1-7 Ebisu, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0013