Mintei (Chinese), Shimokitazawa

"Mintei", the epitome of a cheap eatery in rocking Shimokitazawa, is one of the, if not the most famous joint in the neighborhood. It is not the oldest establishment (if you're looking for an old one, check out the Japanese-Chinese "Rairaiken"), but it has been open for more than 40 years, which is quite old for Japanese standards.

the worn-down old menu plates on the wall

I first went to "Mintei" when I was a teenager, which is a LONG time ago, and the place has not changed at all since. The only thing that has changed is probably the color of the several celebrity autographs on the walls, that have yellowed over the decades. One autograph that is worth mentioning is the one on top of the counter by the entrance, signed in 1989 by the vocalist from legendary punk rock band "The Blue Hearts", Hiroto Komoto.
Shimokitazawa being the THE indie/rock town of Japan, a lot of kids aspiring to be future stars, work part-time in some of the restaurants in the area before or after rehearsing at studios. Hiroto Komoto, one of them, used to work in Mintei in the 80s. The tradition is still holding strong, and if you ever visit this joint, you will probably see musician-looking-kids in the kitchen.
The customers are a mix of young couples, students, musicians, and middle-aged people from the neighborhood looking for a cheap meal.

the old autographs above the counter

Another thing worth noting is the rather "punk" catch-phrase outside the restaurant amusingly citing the joint as "serving the 3rd best food in the world". The reason why it's not the best or second best is, according to Mintei, because:
1. the best food in the world is the "Ofukuro No Aji", that is your mum's cooking (check out 2nd paragraph of this post for a little explanation)
2. the second best is your dad's shin taste when you bite on it (a Japanese expression saying "bite on your parent's shin" means to sponge off one's parents)
3, the third best food in the world is their Ramen

As you can see, one thing they do not lack is a good sense of humor. Now, is the food as good as the humor?

Well, I'd have to say it's not as great as what the joint's reputation would make you believe. I have never tried anything other than the "Edokko Ramen" (Edokko, literally kid from Edo, relates to a person born in Edo, the old Tokyo; such person is often perceived as being cheerful, in your face and straightforward), which consists of a big bowl of Shoyu Ramen with homemade Kimchi (Korean-style fermented cabbage with chili) on top and the "Wantan Men" (ramen with Chinese dumplings Won Ton), making it difficult to give you a constructive review of the place, but the house specialty "Edokko Ramen" is rather mediocre.

Edokko Ramen

The soup tastes like a lightly salted Torigara (chicken bones) and shoyu-based broth. It is relatively clear and not too oily. The soup tastes actually much better than the rest of the ingredients: the boiled Aona greens are very plain in taste and a bit too flabby, the large pieces of Chashu (Chinese style bbq pork) are fibrous and too low in salt.
The Kimchi is a little too strong in garlic for me, when I would have loved it slightly more sour and chilihot. It seems by the way quite unusual to name a Ramen "Edokko" when its particularity is the topped Korean item.
Last but not the least: the noodles, though ok in taste, are way lacking in Koshi, or firmness. I usually don't put much emphasis on the Koshi, but when the rest is average, you want at least your noodles to have some sort of character.

The Wantan Men's broth is on the other hand quite salty (even too salty I think), so only order it if you're ready for it.

As you can see, I'm not a big fan of their food. Once again, I've only tried a couple of Ramen dish, so that's not enough to give you a fair review, but so far, it's been mediocre. It will definitely give you an idea of what a lot of Ramen used to taste like all over Japan back in the good ol' days...

What's more interesting is definitely the Showa-era feel that the place resonates.

"Mintei" is closed on Mondays, and open the rest of the week from 11:30am to 23:20pm.
Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-8-8
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