Muschamp Rd

Ramen in Shanghai

August 28th, 2018
Ramen and Beer

It has been a hard couple weeks, months, years, decades, but in the interest of staying positive and being useful. I’ve travelled all over Shanghai sampling ramen. I was traveling all over Asia eating ramen before it was cool. I’ve been to Ramen Alley twice. So if this is not the definitive ramen in Shanghai post it will have to do until something better comes along.

There is quite a lot of Japanese food in Shanghai, there is probably more American food, so if you’re more of a burger guy or gal, I already wrote and photographed many of the burgers I ate in Shanghai. I also did a good job documenting Shanghai’s coffee scene, I of course did the most exhaustive research into craft beer, but it was ramen that upset me. I guess I’m better able to tolerate a lousy burger, but I don’t see why I should have to eat a bad bowl of ramen, especially when articles and apps recommend the restaurant.

I swear one of Shanghai’s publications targeting expats put out a Top 5 Ramen restaurant list and then a while later the same or similar publication put out another Top 5 Ramen restaurant list. You’d think there would be some overlap between the lists, if you suspect some websites will take money, or free food, or cross promote, or flat out recommend a restaurant if they buy advertising on their website or in their magazine, you’d be correct. I’m not accusing any one person or publication, I’m just saying I paid for all my ramen, I took all my photos and these are my honest opinions.

Tonkotsu Ramen Nagi at K11 Shanghai

I heard the Ramen Shop has closed. And the blog I linked to is no more in 2024. I walked by it once on my way back from another ramen restaurant I read about in an app. Apps are often slow to update when a venue ceases operation. I’m actually going to Butao tonight to complete my research so I’ve officially tried all the top ramen restaurant’s in Shanghai. Let’s just say I disagree with some of the other articles out there, the one I linked to above is a decent Top 5 Ramen restaurant list, but I will reveal mine below.

As I mentioned before Shanghai has food bloggers. My taste in ramen tends to run towards pork bone and garlic, others may have a more delicate palate. I also appreciate a nice cold beer with my ramen and the atmosphere of the shop. My biggest complaint about the ramen experience in Shanghai is the prevalence of chains in malls. There are little ramen shops down side streets which is the way god intended ramen to be consumed, not in a mall, but these small shops are not what is featured in the expat magazines. My Korean friend and I hunted down a shop favoured by Shanghai’s Japanese expats, which may not have survived COVID. I dusted off my katakana and hiragana and voila Google “上海 一番 ラーメン” to see what the Japanese blogosphere has to say.

Nowadays people are less concerned about taste in food and more concerned about whether it is photogenic, so the presentation of the bowl and the atmosphere of the restaurant perhaps should have even greater weight with those who want to be Instafamous. I previously recommend several Shanghai food bloggers, they tried some ramen in Shanghai.

Sugared & Spiced has sampled many Japanese restaurants but not one ramen shop as far as I can tell, this seems a strange omission. I’m a big fan of meat on a stick, but I’m not sure it is more photogenic than a bowl of ramen. The Shanghai Kid, who was born in Singapore, has at least gone to Ippudo. The third food blogger I previously recommended was Shanghai Girl Eats, apparently she has eaten at Universal Noodle Nagi and apparently Ippudo in New York. I have been informed by my old Japanese conversation partner that there is an Ippudo in Paris, Ippudo won’t be making my Top 5 list I’m afraid.

Generally I don’t rank or rate things, I’ve checked in many beers to Untappd but rated few. I do rate songs so I can make smart playlists in iTunes. But given my dissatisfaction with ramen restaurant rankings in Shanghai I had to come up with a Top 5 and a few honourable mentions. I also had to sort through years of photos to find obscure bowls of broth and then upload them to the Internet as not everyone Instagrams everything they eat.

In 2024, while updating my blog’s taxonomy I converted old posts to use blocks, this combined with the passage of time seems to have broken all my Instagram includes. There are still plenty of photos below and this just proves the superiority of Flickr over Instagram. I actually moved most of the images to the bottom because it will probably help this webpage load quicker. WordPress does not like it when you embed so many photos from multiple websites.

Top 5 Ramen Shops

  1. Ramen Nagi: Pros: good broth, customizable bowls, special crazy limited edition ramen. Cons: not on ground floor, poor selection of beer, lacks atmosphere.
  2. Menya Musashi: Pros: tonkotsu broth, good gyoza, can get beer other than Asahi. Cons: in the basement of a mall, big, lacks atmosphere.
  3. Ramen Samurai Ryu: Pros: small, good chashu, not in a mall. Cons: lacks unique atmosphere.
  4. Ramen David: Pros: not in a mall, unique beer option, quirky, solid ramen, and gyoza. Cons: better bowls of ramen can be had in Shanghai.
  5. Butao Ramen: Pros: classy, customizable, special limited edition ramen. Cons: popular, expensive trendy neighbourhood.

My rankings of course were influenced by taste, the shops atmosphere and the fact that I’ve lived in Japan. They were also influenced by WeChat. I do think Ramen Nagi has the craziest more flavourful ramen, but Menya Musashi is solid with good gyoza and you can get an IPA now, but the restaurant itself is big and inside a big food court in Raffles City. Butao looks fancy from the outside and is in Jing’an I don’t know if their is such a thing as a “date ramen” and if you’re trying to really impress someone there are much more expensive restaurants in Shanghai, but Butao may be the most upscale ramen in Shanghai. Ramen Nagi and Ramen Butao have some sort of sinister business relationship or licensing kerfuffle, hence how similar the menus actually are. If you’re looking for a more authentic Japanese ramen shop experience you should check out Ramen Samurai Ryu or Ramen David or some of the lesser known shops I stumbled upon and documented below.

Honorable Mention

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen was solid and seems to be sought out by ramen aficionados who visit Shanghai, but if you want to impress someone this is probably not the shop I would recommend, Chinese and Western expats seem to like bigger flashier establishments, which are usually chains and near major metro stations.

Sumo Cat Ramen Club was possibly the most popular place I posted about on WeChat. Alas in 2024 the article I linked to is no more and the venue has closed. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the ramen, but they have a certain decor and marketing, even their music is a particular genre. They were popular with both Chinese and Western people I know on WeChat so if you’re all about the ‘likes’ this might be the ramen restaurant for you.

Ramen Shop in Jing'an Metro Station

Ramen Arena is or was seven ramen restaurants from Japan in one section of one floor in yet another shopping centre. I strategically went at an unpopular time, but I can imagine this place is pretty chaotic at times at least when it first opened. I am not sure if it is still open, but I was not the only person to blog about it. With seven different ramen restaurants plus assorted non-ramen Japanese food and snacks it is worth a try. I had the Menya Masamune king bowl during my visit.

There once was a ramen stand in upscale grocery store attached to Jing’an Temple metro station. This is actually in the same neighbourhood as Butao but I’ve actually been here more. It is tiny, maybe 20 stools. You definitely might have to wait at busy times. This is a more authentic ramen experience even though it is still basically in a shopping mall. They have an extremely spicy ramen if that is your thing. I thought enough of this place to go multiple times and recommend it to another guy, plus take a picture so I and potentially others could find it again.

There was also a random izakaya near Raffles City. I went back there just now, got another bowl of ramen, some meat and vegetables on a stick even some tempura. There are plenty of izakaya in Shanghai but most of them are not terribly authentic. This one I stumbled upon one night, it had a red ラーメン lanterns hanging outside and is at 245 Guanxi Road North and is called Heiseiya. I am not sure it is still open, but you can learn about it online. I’ve gone several times I even took someone who also lived and now lives again in Japan. It is authentic enough and popular. You can definitely find good Japanese food in Shanghai but you can also find bad Japanese food in China.

Yakitori Fukuchan was a solid place for Japanese food and they have ramen too. Alas I don’t know if they are still open, the blog I linked to does not seem to be up anymore in 2024.

The reason I like Heiseiya is I stumbled upon it myself, sometimes a staff member understands some Japanese, the menu used to not be in English but I would just say the Japanese and point at the Chinese characters and it worked. It is quite popular now with a claustrophobic fire hazard vibe, you don’t hear much Japanese being spoken, but it is aggressively Japanese in decoration. Anywhere they can paste or hang something they seem to have pasted or hung something.

Heiseiya Shanghai

Even more bowls of ramen

I lived without Instagram for many years. I’m also capable of eating food without taking a picture first. However in China WeChat is massively popular and people legitimately expect you to post updates especially if you try a new and even moderately famous restaurant. So I took many pictures of the food I ate while living in China, some few eventually ended up on Instagram and some few more will get added to Flickr or my website so you can view them. It is not always easy to do the perfect social media checkin inside the Great Firewall especially if your Chinese is not the strongest.

Eagled eyed ramen aficionados may be able to identify some of these bowls, like the stand in Jing’an Metro Station. If a place was really good, best believe I went back more than once so I tried my best to cross reference photos and sometimes I have photos of the menu or the outside, but that doesn’t mean there is any English, or an address, or that the restaurant is still open. Ditto for appearing in this blog post. When I left Shanghai all of these establishments may have been open, now it is over five years later and COVID-19 was not kind to China or the expat community that used to write about these places in English.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen
Jing'an Metro Station Ramen
JIng'an Ramen Stand Ramen
Seiheiya Ramen
Mystery Ramen in Shanghai
Slight Mystery Bowl
Ajisan Ramen
Nanjing Lu Ramen
Lujiazui Ramen
Pudong Ramen
More Ajisan Ramen
Menya Musashi Ramen
Yakitori Fukuchan Ramen
West Nanjing Lu Ramen
More Menya Musashi Ramen
West Nanjing Ippudo Ramen
Spicy King at Ramen Nagi
Ramen David
Ramen Samurai Ryu
Hibiya Ramen

I’m sure there are good bowls of ramen I’ve missed in Shanghai. Once I found Ramen Nagi that became my go to. I still go to Menya Musashi because I like their beer and gyoza better, but last time I went they were back to just serving Asahi. I of course still travelled all over the city trying places so if you have a recommendation or a comment you can leave it below.

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