Sliding open that door, you enter a sauna of delicious aromas. It's a tight space after all, just like a real sauna. The smells, as if growing hands, waft directly to your nose and pulls you in to sit on the counter right next to the stoves where the chef makes his magic. You'll want to be there to see it all, take it all in, to see your bowl of thick, soupy loveliness emerge from genesis to a fully formed meal on its own. Yes, when in Japan, I find I don't need anything else for food. This is a complete and satiating meal in its own right.
An alarm rings. That signals that my noodles are now cooked. The chef goes on to drain the noodles and start plating up the bowl. I'm almost dying of anticipation. Even in ramen, there's an obsessive care in arranging the ingredients well. Noodle balled up in the centre, egg near the centre, seaweed slotted in by the rim like a triumphant flag, signalling it's victorious arrival before you. The chef then swoops down the bowl in a flourish, sending a tempest wind of aromatic steam attacking your nose and taste buds with a hundred different flavours. I snap the chopsticks, silently thanks the gods for this good fortune and dig in. Smooth, wheaty noodles that's just right - not too soggy, not too uncooked - slide down my throat in a bath of warm, chicken and pork broth. The flavours are intense - salty, oily, savoury. My glasses fog up and I can't see but I don't care, because my tongue 'sees' it alright. Somehow, the local custom of slurping your noodles loudly adds to the taste. Is it the aeration of the noodles that help with the flavour? Or was it meant to cool it down so that it doesn't burn my tongue? No matter. It's magic enough to experience it without knowing.
One steaming hot bowl of ramen, while it's cold outside. Heaven.