Sometimes eating like a local means queuing like a local. Thankfully, at Mugi to Olive in Ginza, the lines don’t last long – which is a boon when you want some good shoyu ramen.
Chicken soba with a marinated egg. - image © Florentyna Leow
I don’t love queuing on the best of days, but it’s an occupational hazard when eating out in Tokyo. The key is picking your battles – when to stand in line, what for, and how long. Mugi to Olive is a ramen shop which I think is worth waiting in line for. Not too long. About 10 - 15 minutes is just right.
The line just before noon. - image © Florentyna Leow
Thankfully, the turnover at ramen shops is usually quick. This small ramen shop just behind the swanky GINZA SIX shopping complex has been featured multiple times in Michelin’s Bib Gourmand Guide. The lines are still shorter than what you’d expect from a noodle shop of this calibre, and that's just fine by me.
The line at half past twelve – if you can call it a line. - image © Florentyna Leow
Like the best ramen shops, Mugi to Olive has a small handful of options – most of which are variations on one style or broth – and they do it well. They have three variations on their shoyu broth: one with chicken, one with niboshi (dried sardines), and one with hamaguri clams. At this point, I can only speak for the chicken - which was pretty great - but I have it on good authority that the version with clams is sublime.
Decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse… - image © Florentyna Leow
Sipping the shoyu-chicken broth is a real pleasure. There’s many layers of flavour to tease out here – the soy sauce (from an old brewery in Kagawa) with its almost malty notes, the chicken fat in the broth, the mitsuba (trefoil) and fried scallions adding a vegetal, herbal complexity reminiscent of bak kut teh. (The latter is a pork bone-based herbal soup common to Malaysia and Singapore.)
Close-up of noodles and a twist of fried fishcake. - image © Florentyna Leow
The noodles? Almost reminiscent of buckwheat noodles, and most importantly, they held their texture throughout my meal. I’m a slow eater, and noodles that go soggy too fast do not have my vote. It was good. I found out later that 20 types of wheat go into making these noodles. It’s an impressive number, but what it says is that Mugi to Olive really cares about each component in their ramen.
With toppings: the sous-vide chicken and pork slices are okay, but not much to write home about. The sheet of nori was surprisingly memorable, especially soaked in broth. And the nagaimo (mountain yam) batons and fishcake twist, both fried in olive oil, are unorthodox ramen toppings that just work very well here.
No ramen bowl is complete without an egg. - image © Florentyna Leow
But most importantly, don’t forget to make sure you have the ajitsuke tamago, or marinated egg. It has a golden, half-liquid yolk that’s close to perfect in my book.
You should also try splashing in some olive oil from the bottle on the counter halfway through your meal, which will give your ramen another flavor dimension. It will be, at the very least, quite interesting. (There’s also Tabasco sauce!)
Everything you need for a TKG. - image © Florentyna Leow
Mugi to Olive is also not a bad place to initiate yourself into the art of TKG. That’s tamagokake gohan, or raw egg on rice, usually drizzled with soy sauce. TKG at its most basic has so very few ingredients that it’s easy to distinguish the good from the great. Mugi to Olive’s TKG is not the absolute best, but it’s pretty good, mostly because of the quality of the egg. I like the strips of salted kelp throughout, and it’s especially good when you pour leftover ramen broth into the remainder of your rice.
Cracked. - image © Florentyna Leow
The DIY component of TKG is quite fun. First, you gotta crack your egg into the hot rice. If you want it pretty, make a little hollow indent in the rice. But who has time for that?
Broken. - image © Florentyna Leow
Pour on a little soy sauce. The TKG sauce is a small step up from regular soy sauce - it’s been blended specifically for pouring on TKG. It’s a little bit sweeter, has a little more bonito flavour. It's not bad.
Creamy, golden, eggy rice. - image © Florentyna Leow
Then, stir with your chopsticks. Make sure each grain of rice is coated with egg. Let it get a little foamy. Adjust to taste. Alternate with sips of ramen broth, or just pour it in.
The great thing about ramen is its cost-performance, i.e. just how much care and thought goes into a noodle bowl that costs less than $10. I could go on and on about the attention to detail at Mugi to Olive, but at the end of the day, it’s a $10 bowl of ramen that happens to be really good.
If you’re here during summer, hot, soupy ramen isn’t a great idea. Instead, try the mazemen, which is basically a dry ramen (no broth). Mix your noodles with the egg yolk and slurp. Add an extra slug of olive oil like you’re saucing your pasta. Your body will (probably) thank you for it.
Mugi to Olive
Name in Japanese:
6-12-12, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061
〒104-0061 東京都中央区銀座6-12-12 銀座テラスビル1F
Monday - Friday 11:30am - 10:00pm (L.O 9:45pm)
Saturday & Holiday 11:30am - 9:00pm (L.O. 8:45pm)
Subway: 5-minute walk from Exit A5 of Ginza Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza, Marunouchi, or Hibiya line.
:: Read customer reviews of Mugi to Olive on TripAdvisor
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