I was posted to Misawa Air Base as my last duty assignment in the Air Force. It was simultaneously the worst and the best assignment I had in my 21 years of service. On the very first day, for instance, I was on a charter flight with my wife and kids over the Arctic Circle on September 11th, 2001, when the captain announced that he’d been ordered to return to Fairbanks, but he didn’t tell us why until we were on the ground. When we finally got to Misawa three days later, the whole base turned out to meet us.
What’s this got to do with my favorite restaurant? When we arrived, one of the first people to meet us was my sponsor, a person in my unit who was given the responsibility of making sure I went to all the right places and spoke to the right people to complete my change of station, a sequence of events we called “inprocessing.” After a long day of inprocessing, he took us to a restaurant just outside the front gate called Noodle House Marumiya but known to practically all the Americans as Cheese Roll Noodle.
It was a tiny shop, just a counter with maybe half a dozen chairs, and five or six small tables along the wall. Everyone in the kitchen called out “Irasshaimase!” as we walked in. We followed my sponsor to the biggest table in the back of the room.
“Order whatever you like,” he told us as we sat down. “Dinner’s on me.”
“What’s good here?” I asked.
He smiled. “Everything’s good here.”
He wasn’t kidding. I don’t recall what I had that first night, but I do remember that in the five years I was stationed at Misawa, we went back to Marumiya over and over again. Not only did they serve delicious food, it was also a cozy, familiar place to visit. It quickly became our favorite place to go for every special occasion, or for when we craved comfort food, or when we couldn’t think of another place for dinner.
In all that time I can confidently say I ate everything on their menu. Nothing they served ever disappointed me. I relished every meal, but I had a special fondness for their ramen bowl with shrimp. It was a big bellyful of warmth and tasty goodness. I nearly always ordered a side of pork gyoza to go with it, crispy on the outside, savory on the inside. It was honestly the most satisfying food I have every enjoyed.