When The Girl got to know I was going to Tokyo for a business trip, one of the first thing she told me to do was to check out Ichiran ramen. Apparently, Ichiran ramen is a chain of restaurants born in Fukuoka(Hakata) with branches across all Japan, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagoya, and a lot in Kyushu region and Tokyo area. In Tokyo, Ichiran can be found in 12 locations (as at June 2014) such as Roppongi, Ueno, Tokyo Dome / LaQua, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Shimokitazawa.
So I was tasked to check out this famous ramen and report back to her to tell her if it is as good as her favourite Ippudo ramen or better!
Since my hotel is located near Shinjuku, naturally I chose to visit the Shinjuku branch. The store is located at the basement of a non-descrip building but keep a look out for the huge sign board. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a long queue that stretches all the way to the ground level.
To be honest, it wasn’t a long wait and at designated point of the queue, there is a sign telling me the expected waiting time, so typical Japanese efficiency! Once you get to the front of this queue, there will be a server asking how many person dinning and direct you to the two ticketing machines located at the entrance.
The machine is very easy to read and use as there were pictures and the choices were simple. They were mainly basic ramen and extra toppings. Place your order and the pay the money, the ticket machine will disperse the necessary tickets.
I was feeling a tad hungry, so I ordered the basic ramen plus egg plus an additional serving of noodle. After getting my tickets, i was directed to the second queue inside the restaurant. It was a sitting area facing the famous seat management board. This system is use to inform the server manning outside which table is ready to be sit. How clever and efficient!
While waiting in the seated waiting area, the server will give you a small form to be filled according to your preference. Oh,please ask for the English-language form if you are given a Japanese-language form. They have three different language available, Japanese, English and Mandarin (I do see a lot of tourist in the queue).
After further waiting, I was directed to my cubicle-like space, only me and my ramen – no other distraction or chit chatting is encouraged. The philosophy of this restaurant is that everyone should enjoy and taste ramen by himself and without anyone’s disturbance. For this reason, every seat is separated from adjacent seats with dividers that can be removed if you aren’t alone and want to eat with someone.
There is a small window with bind that a server will come, roll up the bind and collect your preference form and tickets to prepare your meal. Once your meal is served, the bind will be rolled down to let you enjoy your ramen. In the meantime, just sit back, grab a drink and wait.
After a short while, the famous Hakata style ramen with with pork bones-based broth is served. Apparently, the noodles are hand made and the broth is customized with a special spicy chili sauce which gives the broth an unique taste.
The noodle is cooked to perfection-al-dente and the broth is really good without the “porky” aftertaste”. But what really made this ramen restaurant so good is that almost every aspect of the ramen can be customised to your taste.
In fact, it was so good that I ordered a second serving of noodles and promptly finished them all.
So what is my verdict? Can’t say it is the best in the land of ramen but considering its price point and quality, I will say it is good enough to plan for a trip to Ichiran if visiting Tokyo. Highly recommend for ramen lover for a cheap and good version!
In fact it was so good that I feel obligated to buy some back for The Girl!