Located in the bright and garish Kabukichō district, 2-chome Tsukemen Gachi has made a name for itself as a fresh and dynamic ramen joint, well worthy of its lively surroundings. Their name comes from tsukemen (a type of ramen dish where the soup is kept separate for the other ingredients to be dipped into) and Gachi (ガチ) which originally referred to a well-played sumo match, but has since become a casual Japanese expression for anything serious, extreme, or diligent. While the friendly and playful staff don’t seem too serious, once you taste the food you realise otherwise.
2-chome Tsukemen Gachi specialises in chicken, whether you want it as tsukemen, in regular ramen, or as their own ‘Gachi Fried Chicken’ on a bed of rice. Since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast when I arrived just past 9pm, I opted for the dish that looked the biggest – “superb chicken soup ramen with egg”, as well as a portion of GFC on the side. You order your food on entry by inserting money into a vending machine, which gives you tickets for each item you select. You then give these to one of the kitchen staff, in my case a cool young guy called Kaz. Kaz-san’s conversational English was excellent, due to his having spent 10 months “hanging out” in Brighton. For me the service was pretty quick, but I understand at peak times you can expect to wait a while for a seat to become available in the popular but tight space.
When the ramen arrived it was about as big as I’d expected, but I hadn’t expected the flavour to pack such a punch. There are some strong ingredients competing in Gachi’s ramen. Bonito flakes, spring onions, seaweed and the chicken soup itself are all ordinary ramen components, but here they all seemed to pop out with an unusual fierceness. The rich, thick soup in particular stands out as a cut above the usual. Despite this taste sensation front and center, the GFC steals the show. For only ¥250, you get a bowl of the best fried chicken you’re ever likely to taste. That’s cheaper than the equivalent amount at KFC back in the UK. The batter is thick, crisp, and seasoned to perfection; the chicken is tender and fresh. I’d happily return and eat three bowls of it as my meal. After devouring the GFC, I was eventually defeated by the ramen, a rare experience for me and a testament to the clout of the dish.
All in all, I couldn’t recommend Gachi enough. It’s open from 11am to 11pm, so whatever your plan is for the day there’s really no excuse to miss it. You pay average ramen prices for some great ramen, and a very low price for some heavenly fried chicken.