Located past Akiba’s KFC and next to a Denny’s lies Keisuke Black–a noodle joint that serves as a go-to spot for otaku in need of power in the form of ramen. And Kiesuke Black is all about power.
As I saunter into the shop’s funky interior with its black walls and constantly running Michael Jackson soundtrack, I’m treated to a spirited “Irasshai!” by the hyped-at-all-times staff. The menu in the form of a ticket vending machine–standard for most ramen joints–offers one three ways to eat their nooldes, and in a variety of sizes. Those who are for real go for the option at the very top–the tsukemen–and the truly badass get the biggest size, but I’m a weak man, so I go for the smallest option–even a normal is too much for me. The vending machine also offers typical side stuff along with drinks, including Sprite–the store’s recommended drink. Why Sprite? Because it, apparently, balances out the soup’s spicy flavor.
Yes, Keisuke Black is all about the spice. As I plop down in front of the counter with my order ticket, I am suddenly tasked with answering two questions–1: How spicy? and 2: Fish or meat? There is a spice scale ranging from zero to five. I’ve managed to work my way up to three, but zero or one are probably good options for beginners. When I went with Konstantin of Tsunami Channel, he got a five. It was unable to make him cry, so it could have stood to be spicier, apparently. But by my standards, a two or three packs just the right amount of punch.
The counter has the typical stuff: chopsticks, spoons, and baskets of boiled eggs. Water spouts sit at eye-level, while tissues curiously protrude out from openings above me. As I’m waiting for my a soup, the counter offers humorous things to read to pass time. A series of illustrations featuring a dashing pony-tailed man explains how have a full and complete experience at Keisuke Black: Rice is free, customers are only allowed one egg (but they’ll look away if one takes a second), and people can mix the remaining soup with Jasmine tea to finish it all off cleanly. There’s also an amusing illustrated guide to the different levels of spice.
The men behind the counter move dynamically, the noodles making beautiful shapes as they’re flung through the air with precision. As I sip on my Sprite with my companion some jerk busts in and neglects to close the door, letting in a winter chill that pisses everyone off.
Then, two bowls emerge from behind the counter–one with the soup, and one with the noodles. As this is tsukemen, the noodles are dry and meant to be dipped. And the soup they are meant to be dipped in is quite the soup–onions, menma, and two lovingly fried pieces of either fish or meat, topped off with a pleasantly spicy broth. I crack myself a boiled egg, and am ready to go.
The smooth noodles coated in spicy broth, the crispy pieces of fish, and the bits of vegetables mixed in makes for an amazing combination of textures and tastes in my mouth. I try my best to not finish all the fried stuff before the noddles are gone, but it’s just too damn tasty that I always finish it off too early.
The Sprite does an okay job of balancing out and complementing the spicy flavors, but I prefer plain water with my noodles. The Jasmine tea mixed with the soup at the end makes for a perfect elixir with which to wash the meal down.
After roughly twenty minutes of eating and talking to friends, I’m finished and stuffed. It’s an extremely satisfying meal. I leave my bowls on the upper counter to indicate that I’m done. As I don my coat, I let out a loud “Gochisousama deshita!!“, to which a spirited “Arigatou gozaimashita!!” is returned. I step out into the cold just slightly warmer than I was when I came in.
Sounds awesome, right? You want to eat this, right? Well, the catch to this is article is that… Keisuke Black just closed its doors recently, to be reborn as a new Keisuke. That said, I doubt the new store will have that same unique flavor, but I hope–at the very least–for an ever-constant Michael Jackson soundtrack.