First founded in the 1960s in Fukuoka, Ichiran Ramen grew from a humble ramen stall to a ramen giant, with more than 65 locations in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. When a new store opens, enormous crowds queue up and wait for up to three hours to dine there. It’s won many accolades, and Forbes calls it “The Best Ramen in the World.” I disagree completely.
The dining experience is quite unique. Ichiran restaurants were designed to serve the busy city crowd – the salary-man demographic – who wants their ramen fast, and who usually dines by themselves. To that end, the little one-seater stalls with privacy curtains are perfect for it. Once you’re seated, you customize your ramen order on the order slip (or via a vending machine, if you’re in Japan). The waiters takes your order, delivers it quickly, and closes the curtain in front of you to let you dine in peace.
The ramen itself is quite a humble. It doesn’t come with an egg. Disappointingly, the soft-boiled egg I ordered was not marinated, and was not served together with the ramen. The chashu slices were thin, but not tender. The broth was more of a shio flavor, rather than a tonkotsu flavor. As I finished my bowl, I can’t help but feel that the ramen is over salted and under-flavored (I ordered regular saltiness, and extra heavy in flavor). Also disappointingly, Ichiran only serves one style of ramen. The scallions and garlic I added also felt weak, and I wasn’t able to taste their flavor with the ramen. The reason for this lack of flavor may be due to Ichiran’s special red powder (recommended with your order) – a uniquely flavored spice powder that delivered a spicy zing. This strong flavor may have been overpowering the rest of the bowl, and whatever subtle flavors might be lingering. Had the broth, or other elements of the bowl had a much stronger flavor profile, then the red powder may have been a more welcome addition, to give the bowl a twist in flavor, rather than something to mask the bowl’s weakness.
The hype behind Ichiran may have done it a disservice by raising my expectation too much. Even so, the one item on its menu is simply subpar. Additionally, the lack of variety makes it hard for me to want to return. I simply cannot recommend Ichiran to any ramen lover.