An empty bowl of ramen only means one thing.

POSTED BY JENNIE

I’ve eaten at Ichiran Ramen in Tokyo a total of 3 times, and each time I’ve had to queue from anywhere between 10 to 45 minutes. The first time I tried Ichiran was purely by chance. We saw a queue, we thought whatever it was it must be good, so we joined the line. It was only when we got to the machine at the end of the line did we discover we were having ramen.

Outside
This is Ichiran in Shibuya. You walk down to the basement. Surprisingly no line.

I do believe it’s a good thing that we just chanced upon it because we had no expectations. The ramen was served and I was completely blown away by how delicious it was! The layers of flavour, the firmness of the noodles, the tenderness of the pork, really it was amazing. I thought we discovered the next big thing!

Ramen
I can’t look at this photo without craving for Ichiran.

Of course it deserved to be Googled and only then did I find out that Ichiran Ramen was already a big thing and had been for some time. Ichiran is a famous Japanese ramen chain that serves only Tonkotsu or pork broth ramen. It may be a chain, with over 60 branches all over Japan, but it feels like home cooked, artisanal ramen.

Lights
There’s an Ichiran here in busy Shibuya, very close to the train station.

What makes Ichiran Ramen so delicious? I guess it would be the whole experience, including the queuing. From the moment you order by punching the items you want on the vending machine, to customizing how you want your bowl of ramen, to finally being seated in a bar facing a closed bamboo curtain.

Vendo Big
This is the vendo machine where you punch in your order. There’s basically only ramen available, but you can order and egg, mushrooms, extra scallions, extra pork and even a bowl of rice.

When a restaurant only has 1 item on the menu, you expect them to have perfected it. Ichiran has served only Classic Tonkotsu Ramen since 1960, and they are the masters of their craft.

Tickets
These are the tickets that come out of the machine. I ordered 1 bowl of ramen for Y890, 1 tamago for Y120 and 1 order of mushrooms for Y120. Total in PHP 520.00

In their website ichiran.com, they actually reveal their “secrets of deliciousness”. Their pork broth is constantly monitored, simmered and skimmed. There is no odor usually associated with pork broth because the water used is the purest filtered water and the same exact filtration levels are used in every Ichiran shop. I don’t understand how this could have a huge impact on the broth but the proof is in the pudding!

Customize
This is how you customize your bowl of ramen. There is an English version but since we were with a Japanese friend this is what they gave us to fill out. Basically it asks how thick you want your broth, if you want scallions and garlic, how firm you want your noodles and how much Hiden no Tare you want or the level of spiciness.

The noodles are thin and delicate and are made fresh daily with humidity being careful calibrated which account for the superior texture of the noodles.

Egg
Perfectly boiled tamago or egg is marinated in tonkotsu broth

The real secret, which is really top secret since according to their website only 4 people know how to make it is Ichiran’s Spicy Red Sauce or Hiden no Tare. It combines 30 spices and there is an ageing process involved. For me, it is this sauce that makes Ichiran Ramen so memorable.

Seat
There is no interaction once you’ve been seated. A hand comes out of a bamboo curtain in front of you and serves you your bowl of ramen.
Divider 1
For more privacy, there is a divider that can be opened so you can slurp your ramen in peace.
Divider 2
This is what it looks like when the divider if fully closed. Not advisable if you are claustrophobic.
empty bowl
It’s very likely that your bowl will look like this after a couple of minutes in ramen heaven.

Forbes.com made a bold claim and named Ichiran the best ramen in the world. Until I try a better bowl of ramne, I’ll have to agree with Forbes.com.

Take home
You can take home a box of Ichiran Ramen but I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the one I had in the booth so I resisted. Now I’m back home, I wish I bought a box or two.

Ichiran Ramen, Shibuya Open 24 Hours                                                                                                                         1 Chome-22-7 Jinnan, 渋谷区 Tokyo 150-0041, Japan