Ichiran Ramen – Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan
I went to the land of octopus fetishes, school girl fantasies and sushi and emerged in one piece. Yay! Jokes aside, I probably ate non-stop in Japan and brought a haul of multi-flavoured Kit Kat chocolate home. Matcha, Sakura, Blueberry Cheesecake, Strawberry, Black Sugar and Wasabi. I love the food in Japan.
On a cold and windy night, I ventured to Shinjuku for a hot bowl of ramen, and I found chain restaurant, Ichiran Ramen. It’s a very bizarre chain which I found anti-social, but the noodles were good.
First you order your food through a machine, indicating what noodles and add ons you want. Feed the machine money and get the meal tickets. I must warn you that Japan is pretty tourist unfriendly as there is almost no Romanji/English anywhere. I can read the kanji so it’s not so bad for me. And then while waiting, the waiter will hand you a piece of paper (you can request for an English one) to customise your ramen. It’s no college meal in Japan. Ramen is an art.
Then you are ushered into individual booths where you don’t even see your friends or server. Incredibly anti-social in my opinion. There’s even a sign that says that if you’ve purchased the add noodle option, leave the broth and place the silver saucer given in the red box and wait for service. The noodles will be brought to you without even having to say a word.
But I must say the ramen is omnomnom. Flavourful broth, not too milky or thick (because I could choose how I like it), quality noodles and large pieces of chashu (because I upgraded, if not it’s belly pork). The spoon even has ridges on it to hook on to the edge of the bowl to prevent the spoon from slipping in.
While you are eating, you’ll hear chime bells that indicate that someone has left the cubicle and is open for service. Look at the efficient panel outside.
Incredible. The efficiency is amazing. Only, with this system, you are not encouraged to linger over a meal. It’s really just eat and go. Nonetheless, great for a taste of modern, slightly off-centre Japan.
Visit www.ichiran.co.jp/english/index.html for more info.