23 March 2014

Tokyo | Ichiran Ramen

I went for a Tokyo work trip and managed to extend for half a day. 

A very precious half day it was. It was the only day which I can explore Japan on my own and eat at my wish. Not that my work-related meals were not good. They were in fact impressive and interesting, ranging from a suspicious Italian-style blowfish to a simple pork chop drizzled with delicious special brown sweet sauce. 

Japanese is my favourite cuisine, along with Singaporean. And nothing beats a savoury umami-rich piping hot ramen. I decided to drop by this highly raved Ichiran ramen, which is a popular ramen chain in Japan. The last time I checked, it had a 4.5/5 Tripadvisor rating. I visited the outlet which was less than 5 minutes away from my hotel in Shimbashi. 

The concept is gimmicky. Basically you eat in cubicles that are separated so that you only focus on the ramen instead of talking to your friend. It is also a loners' haven. You could bring a frenemy here in case you need to eat with him. But it would definitely be unwise to bring a hot date here.

They make sure ordering a bowl of Ichiran ramen is idiot-proof. 

First : Select your ramen at the vending machine outside the restaurant. Egg is sold separately. Collect the ticket.

Second : Look at this electronic board which will show you the empty (空) seats that are available.

Third :  Settled down at my seat which I swore was just a comfortable size for XS me and might be claustrophobic for larger sizes. Ask the waiter for an English order sheet. Tick your preferences. 

Fourth : Press the button below to call for waiter (hidden behind the screen in front) to take your order sheet as well as the meal tickets you paid for at the vending machine

My mother would probably frown at this anti-social restaurant that promotes non-cohesion culture and communication breakdown. Nevertheless, I am fine with it. Sometimes you just want to eat ramen in peace right?

The waiters move around behind the half-lifted bamboo shield in front of my cubicle, chanting lines of Japanese which I assume are courtesy greetings. I can't see their faces. About 5 minutes later, the hands of the waiter served the bowl of tonkotsu ramen. And the shield is drawn down fully. That was the last time I saw of my waiter.

The broth was flavorful and specks of red pepper made it spicy. But it was certainly not the most flavorful one that I had before. The pork was tasty but slightly overcooked. I would have loved the pork to have a melt-in-the-mouth texture. The perfection was in the runny egg and the noodles which were springy and had the right thickness.

I noticed the spoon had a design which allows it to be hooked against the bowl, thus prevent it from sinking into the soup. Hmmm innovative.

To conclude, I had better ramen. The best one is still Keisuke Tonkotsu Ramen Four Seasons followed by Totto Ramen in NYC. Both were amazing.

Address: Various outlets -  http://www.ichiran.co.jp/english/html/map.html

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