Before leaving Kumamoto for Hakata, there’s just one final pilgrimage I had to make – and that was to Kokutei (黒亭). If Hakata has its Holy Trinity of Ippudo, Ichiran and Ikkousha, then Kumamoto’s Kokutei is its undisputed King (of ramen).
Tucked away in a nondescript neighbourhood across from Nihongi-guchi Tram Stop (二本木口電停), Kokutei doesn’t strike one as the Holy Grail of Ramen in Kumamoto. But wait till you check out the lunchtime crowd that snakes around the restaurant. Even at night, there’s no glitzy neon sign that points the way to this ramen shrine. In fact, don’t even bother dropping in after dark (as I found out the hard way). Kokutei’s ramen sells out everyday by 4 p.m. The good news is that you can find Kokutei’s signature tonkotsu (とんこつ) broth in almost every Japanese supermarket worth its salt. As for me, nothing tastes better than the real McCoy. LS