I made a nice little discovery the other day. Browsing the Michelin Guide website, I realised there was a handy map feature that allows you to view all the Michelin rated restaurants within a certain area. You can even narrow it down to what type of food you want. And so a few weekends back I searched the Meguro area, typed in ramen, and got a hit. Without reading anything about the place, I just decided to go and see what would happen.
As it turns out, the shop was called Bigiya in Gakugei-daigaku – a busy student area five stops from Shibuya on the Toyoko line. With the shop listed as opening at 11:30am, I went 30 minutes early, unsure whether there would be a line or not. Michelin places are often popular. When I arrived, however, I was greeted with the image above: a nondescript mom-and-pop looking shop with the shutters half down. No one was about, and I was the first to enter. At 11:35am, however, the place was full.
I opted for the shoyu, mainly because the machine said it came recommended – but after a bit of further reading, I now see that it’s what the shop is most famous for. The guys behind the counter got to work, building the bowl from the bottom up with various stocks; noodles; three different types of chashu; a soft-boiled egg; and, finally, bamboo shoots.
It was good!
But, well, so are so many shops in Tokyo.
Did anything make this place stand out? I didn’t think so, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because shoyu isn’t usually my style (I usually go for shio, salt-based broth). Saying that, there are other shoyu bowls in Tokyo that I’ve found to have been much better – notably Konjiki Hototogisu in Hatagaya.
The Michelin Guide was essentially established as a way for Michelin to sell more tires – a book with the best restaurants in the country, that people had to drive to in order to visit. With 254 Bib Gourmand restaurants now in Tokyo (21 for ramen), it makes you wonder if the Michelin name is somewhat being diluted. Was the bowl I had at Bigiya really that good?
And I guess that maybe is what it’s all about. After all, it gives solid motivation for every ramen chef in Tokyo to be the best they can be – dreaming of the day they too will get a visit from a Michelin inspector.
Bigiya. 2-4-9, Takaban, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, 152-0004