Friday, September 11, 2015

Best Ramen in Tokyo? Ichiran Ramen

       One Sunday night,  approximately 11 in the evening, I was walking in the backstreets of Shinjuku when I saw a line of people going to this ramen place called Ichiran Ramen. The place had a red green circle as a sign but was very conspicuous because it's underground. You wouldn't notice the place not for the long line outside it.  It is at this moment that curiosity got the best of me. 

             The sign of the ramen shop. To go there, ride the JR line going to Shinjuku and exit the Central                                 East Exit then go straight. If there's a long line, you know you are in the right place

The way towards the basement

  Living in Tokyo for about 4 months now, eating ramen now isn't a novelty for me anymore. All my time here, I never saw a ramen with this long a line and to top it off, to see a line at the dead hour of the night. While people should be mostly sleeping in their homes, these people were out in the streets waiting in line for this ramen?! I wondered, could this be the best ramen in Japan?

      My curiosity got the best of me and tried to wait in line myself to see what the fuss was about. Once I was near the entrance, a menu was given to me which explains the process. Yes, there is a process on getting your ramen. 

      First, you have to decide what ramen you want. They have only one type of ramen but you have the option of  adding more noodles, more egg, more meat etc. Once your in, you are greeted with a vendo machine were you have to press in your desired ramen. The prices would be a little less than a thousand yen. (which is not bad since you might be eating the best ramen in Tokyo) and would add up depending on the additonal ingredients you desire. Next, you again wait in line and a piece of paper will handed to you. Don't worry, there's a paper in English and Chinese so you wouldn't get confused. You put your desired specifications of the ramen you want, This would include, the thickness of the sauce, the firmness of the noodles, if you want meat with your ramen, extra onions etc. If you can't decide then you can check the chef's recommendation. While waiting in line a server will ask how many people? You just raise your fingers on how many you are. Then, the waiter will cue you on entering the booth where you will be seated. The booths definitely adds to the wow factor of the place since this is rarely found in ramen across Japan. Once your seated, a tiny wooden curtain will raise in front of you and you give your  ticket stub (you got from the vending machine) to the server. The curtain will close and you wait for your ramen. After 5 mins, the curtain will raise and your ramen is served!

Before you go in, they will show you a guide on how to order

Upon entering, you see a menu vendo machine. You choose the ramen you want,
put the money in the slot, and grab the ticket

After the vending machine, you wait at another line

Check for your preference or just check the chef's recommendation

Upon entering, you these little booths

The "confession box" while you wait for your ramen

 In front is a button were you call for assistance

Ramen is served!!!

The  Verdict

     The ramen is a tonkotsu based, with two small pieces of pork meat, no bamboo shoots, some green onions, egg and noodles. That's it. I tasted the ingredients individually and it is nothing above the ordinary. The soup was great though,  it is not the thick creamy type of tonkotsu broth that you get to have in other ramen shops. The soup is thick enough not to make you have that overbearing feeling after you eat ramen. 
Overall, it was great! It definitely hits the spot. But don't expect some ramen that will totally blow your mind. 

In conclusion

     I think that the ambiance has a lot to do why the the place is always packed. The individualized booths makes you feel that your in confession and the atomenent was eating the bowl of ramen in front of you. The booths also make you focused on your ramen and not with the people around you which I must say makes it tastier and the experience better.

     Overall, I did like the place. It's an experience that I can tell to people. Will I be coming back? It's not something you can come back every week, maybe once a month. The ramen is a little special compared to other ramen but it's not life changing.  

If you're in Japan, and you have only one chance to eat ramen, then you should try this. 

Damage: 800 - 1300 yen
Food: 4/5
English friendly: 4.5/5