Everyone knows ramen, whether it’s in cups or served at a sit-down restaurant. In Japan, the varieties are almost endless, and it is not uncommon to hear people arguing which regional style is best. For example, tonkotsu, or broth made from pork bones, is associated with southern prefectures. Way up north in Hokkaido, miso ramen is the norm.
Ichiran: A Special Kind of Dining
Mention the name “Ichiran” in Fukuoka and everyone will know what you are talking about. In fact, mention that name anywhere in Japan and you will be met with instant recognition, a testament to the ramen chain’s immense popularity.
Established in 1960, Ichiran specializes in tonkotsu ramen—specifically Hakata ramen, and great care and skill goes into each bowl. The noodles are handmade to perfection, and they make their own original spices. Packages of their noodle sets are displayed at select stores, in case you just have to take some with you.
What sets Hakata ramen apart from other tonkotsu ramen are the firm, thin noodles. Some also say the tonkotsu broth is richer. Common toppings for this style of ramen are sliced pork, red ginger, scallions, and sesame seeds.
Now Located in New York
If you have been lamenting being outside Japan, and therefore away from an Ichiran, fear not! As of October 2016, the chain opened its Brooklyn location to great fanfare. Hundreds of excited customers lined the block, eager to taste the famous pork broth and experience the unique dining experience.
Location: 374 Johnson Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11206
Hours: 11am – 11pm, 7 days a week (until 2am Fridays & Saturday)
Eat in Peace and Solitude
Why is it a unique experience? Dining at Ichiran differs significantly from eating at other restaurants. For starters, you order at a vending machine and receive a ticket. Customers then sit in little booths at the counter, separated from others by panels of wood. In front is a thin curtain that can be rolled up, as well as forms to fill out. Customization is one of this chain’s perks, and you can choose everything from noodle firmness to amount of garlic. Finally, simply press a button, hand your form to the staff, and wait to enjoy your bowl of deliciousness. Thanks to the curtain and side panels, you can eat without ever once having to make eye contact or speak to another person.
Ichiran has become especially popular with those who just want to eat and go, or dislike interacting with others. Of course, half the reason is also because of the great food. Those that want to enjoy perfect Hakata ramen with friends are also welcome. The side panels are easily folded away, and some stores also offer regular table seating.
Next time you find yourself in the Brooklyn area, make sure to stop by Ichiran. You won’t be disappointed.
You can access Ichiran’s English website here for more information.