In Japan, it is a very popular custom to go slurp some noodles late at night after a drinking/clubbing session. I am not sure why people do that, as you are usually 1) very drunk or 2) already too full to appreciate the dish, not to say that it sure does not help your hangover the next day either, but I do follow the tradition myself as well time to time.
That is exactly what I did yesterday after a whole day of total gastronomic debauchery at a good friend's house. As I suddenly felt like downing a bowl of noodles, I walked towards the Tsukemen shop "Yasube" which I had promised to cover in a previous post about "Mitsuyado Seimen".
The tiny place was full (as always) when I got there and had to queue for about 10mn, during which I bought my ticket from the vending machine. I opted for the regular 220g Namimori Tsukemen which was served to me few minutes after I sat at the 7 seats counter.
The first impression I had is that the shoyu-based broth you dip the noodles in is surprisingly fishy. They are probably simmering a lot of Ni-Boshi (dry baby sardines) and Katsuo-Boshi (dry bonito) to bring that much flavor. I got worried that it might be too fishy for me, but repeatedly dipping the wet noodles in the soup quickly waters and smoothes the broth to a very nice balanced flavor. The broth is also quite hot, as they add a decent amount of chili powder in it, but it is just enough to stimulate your appetite. For those of you who like it pretty hot, you can order their Karami-Tsukemen, which features a rayu (chili infused vegetable oil) added soup.
The bouillon comes with bits of nice and soft Chashu (Chinese-style bbq pork), some very good Menma (Japanese style Sungan) that adds a pleasant saltiness to the whole, a lot of leek and a big sheet of dry seaweed Nori.
Though I haven't tried them, they also offer some Katsuo-Bushi powder for added fishiness and some fresh onion for those who want extra freshness.
Now, let's get onto the belly filler. I am not sure what it means, but a notice on the menu says that they add water to the dough so that the noodles keep a nice firmness until the end. What I did feel on the other hand is that they seem quite fluid in your mouth, and that definitely made them easier to chew and swallow. Whether that was due to the extra H2O, I don't know, but despite the enormous amount of food I had ingested during the day, I had NO problem whatsoever in devouring them. If you are hungry, the middle size Chu-Mori (320g) and big size Oo-Mori (420g) are all priced the same as the regular one I ordered, at ¥720. I would assume that the Chu-Mori is within the reach of anyone's stomach so don't be scared and go crazy.
In retrospective, I found the tsukemen at Yasube easier to eat, and the broth more delicate or less salty than at Mitsuyado Seimen. Of course, this is a more classic Tsukemen, whereas Mitsuyado is focused on the original Yuzu flavor of its soup. You could actually try and compare both restaurants should you spend your whole day wandering the streets of Shimokitazawa...
Yasube is open everyday from 11am to 02am, though they will close as soon as they're out of noodles. They also offer Ramen in case you're more into having your noodles in the broth from the start.
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-12-15
Click here for a MAP