極楽鳥 Gokurakucho

Summer is in full swing here in Japan, and the heat has kept me from eating ramen for a couple of months. But I’ve been craving it recently, so I decided to stop into Gokurakucho. The shop is located in Tarumachi about a 20-minute walk from Tsunashima Station along the Tsunashima-Kawasaki and Tsunashima-Tsurumi bus routes (conveniently only a 2-minute walk from my apartment).
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Gokurakucho, which specializes in chicken-based ramen, opened about a year ago and is run by the former chef of nearby Seishin. He enthusiastically greets and thanks customers as they come and go, and there is always good music — usually Japanese rock playing over the shop’s sound system. I went at 12:15 on a Monday afternoon. I didn’t have to wait for a seat, but it was busy.

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I ordered the kotteri shio ramen (rich salt ramen). I don’t usually order shio ramen, but I wanted to give it a try here. It came topped with two thick slices of chashu (braised pork), two slices of roasted chicken, chopped leeks, shungiku (garland chrysanthemum), and a hard-boiled egg (served separately). Shungiku and leeks are always good in ramen. The portions of chicken and chashu were generous, I thought. The chicken was soft and juicy, and the pork was thick and fairly soft. But there were a few rubbery bits of fat in it that brought down the quality a bit.

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On to the soup. I had been here twice before and had the shio ramen once. I remember it being good, but I think the chef has tweaked his recipe a bit since then as it was absolutely beautiful this time! Only once before have I taken a sip of soup and said out loud to myself “Oh my god, that’s good”, and that was at the shop where the same chef used to work. My reaction to this soup was the same. I’ve never had soup that was so thick and white, and I’ve never had such flavourful shio ramen. Shio ramen is usually yellow and a bit clear, and often a bit too bland for my liking. But this soup had a milky white appearance and so much flavour.

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The noodles were Yokohama-style — thick, wavy and firm. They almost looked like udon. (Some of the photos I took weren’t great; there was a part-time staff standing at a counter next to me and I didn’t want to make it obvious that I was “reviewing” the ramen.)

Overall, Gokurakucho is awesome, and the guy who runs the place is a ramen artist. The soup was a 10 out of 10, and the noodles were excellent. The only negative was the chashu, which had just a bit too much tough fat that I had to eat around. On another day, the chashu would probably be fine. I’ll definitely go back in the near future, most likely when the weather cools down a bit!

Score: 9/10

Location: Along the Tsunashima-Kawasaki and Tsunashima-Tsurumi bus routes, about a 20-minute walk from Tsunashima Station.

Address: 神奈川県横浜市港北区樽町3丁目4-12

Price: From 720 yen

Seating: Two tables for four, five counter seats

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