Near Shinjuku is Taishio Soba Touka (鯛塩そば 灯花), a ramen shop that’s mastered sea bream ramen. Sea bream, or "tai" in Japanese, is the main ingredient in their refreshing salt (shio) based ramen.
Touka's Tai Shio Soba
Sea bream (tai) is a relatively lean, highly regarded fish in Japan. There's even a sea bream proverb: “Throw in a shrimp and pull out a sea bream” (海老で鯛を釣る)!
Sea bream is elegant in flavor and appearance. This is understood at Touka. They decided to use the word "soba" instead of "ramen". "Soba" has a more elegant ring to it.
The clear soup in the "soba" wholly harnesses the sea bream flavors. But it never feels overdone. The same could be said about the salt (shio) seasoning holding up the soup.
They use red pacific sea bream (madai) delivered directly from Ehime Prefecture.
There's a colorful tapestry of toppings above the thin noodles. They use green spring onions (negi), bright yellow yuzu citrus, pink gluten (fu), and bamboo shoots (menma). Protein-wise, there's a tender slice of pork. The egg is excellent too, if you add it.
Summertime – Cold Ramen
Keep an eye out for seasonal specials. In the summer, they'll add a cold ramen to the menu. There's a good chance that cold ramen will include sea bream.
In the painfully hot Tokyo summer months, they have you covered. I was happy to find sliced sea bream as a topping (not found in the hot ramen).
Touka's main branch is in Akebonobashi (near Shinjuku). But in recent years they've expanded to other parts of Tokyo, including Ueno and Ikebukuro.
But the main branch is most magical. It's a quaint setting with only counter top seating.
While other branches (especially at shopping malls) have a more fast food vibe, they all still have the official Taishio Soba Touka stamp of approval.