Gyokusentei (中国料理 玉泉亭) in Yokohama is one of Japan's oldest ramen restaurants. Its history can be impressively traced back to 1918!
Gyokusentei - The OG Ramen Shop
Think of Gyokusentei as more of a Chinese restaurant than a modern Japanese ramen shop. Ordering is done from a big menu and not a ticket machine. Furthermore, there's table seating - not counter seating.
All these and its dark red interior are strong reminders that Gyokusentei and ramen have Chinese roots.
This Yokohama (Kannai) area restaurant has a history of over 100 years. While 100 years is just the blink of an eye in Japan's long history, it's a long time in the relatively young world of ramen.
In other words, Gyokusentei is a landmark. Let's see what landmark ramen looks like.
Sanma-men - What Locals Eat
Gyokusentei is one of several Yokohama restaurants said to have invented "Sanma-men", a local ramen style. There's always going to be debate as to who exactly invented Sanma-men. But among the restaurants serving it, the version here is my favorite.
Sanma-men features a thick and starchy layer of piping hot and sweetly flavored "ankake" atop the soup. This top layer is swimming with vegetables like bean sprouts, Chinese cabbage, carrots, garlic chives, wood ear mushrooms, and pork.
The sanma-men pictured includes pork dumplings (at six o'clock). Gyokusentei serves other variations of the dish, like the "Niku Soba" pictured below. The same tasty top layer is there. But there are extra pieces of pork inside it to replace the bean spourts.
They employ thinner noodles that are distinctly classic. This means they have a good amount of egg flavor. All in all, these bowls scream classic Yokohama. They very well should; again, Gyokusentei supposedly invented Sanma-men.
Mapo Tofu Ramen, Other Menu Items
There are plenty of other noodle dishes to choose from. Pictured below is the "Mabomen" (Mapomen in Chinese). This time, the top layer is full of spicy tofu. However, it's not as spicy as it would normally be in Sichuan (where the dish is originally from).
Like all their menu items, it's filling and satisfying. However, the Sanma-men is the heavyweight champ. It was actually the second generation owner at Gokusentei who started making it. We're thankful that he did.
If you're not feeling like noodles, they have fried rice, numerous stir-fried dishes, fried dumplings, and much more.