Ichiran Ramen (一蘭) is one of the most well known ramen chain in Japan among tourists. Originating from the kingdom of tonkotsu Fukuoka, Ichiran Ramen has branches all over Japan. In recent years, we can even see them overseas in cities like Hong Kong, Taipei, and New York.
Our first experience with Ichiran was many years back at the famous Shinjuku branch. We didn’t know about this restaurant and were just looking for some ramen for dinner. Seeing a short queue down the stairs to the basement, we decided to give it a try. And we never look back.
Nowadays, there are always long queue to any Ichiran branch in Tokyo, sometimes as long as one hour. So we were pleasantly surprised to discover the Ikebukuro branch in our last trip, located just a 2 minutes walk from the hotel we stayed in.
Ichiran uses vending machine for the ordering and menus are displayed in English and Chinese too. After paying the machine, you will be presented with a choice form, where you can select how you want your noodles cooked, the spiciness level, etc.
The tonkotsu soup base is thick and flavourful, and the unique chilli paste makes this ramen one of the best we had tried. We will always order some side dish to go along, usually the extra sliced pork, half boiled egg, and almond matcha. Ichiran ramen noodles are thin and springy. We like it cooked soft that goes well with the thick soup.
What makes Ichiran ramen so unique and a must-go-try restaurant for tourists, is the arrangement of interior. Diners are seated individually in small booth like the above, and your ramen are served by the staffs inside (in front of you). The divider can be removed if you would like to share food or have a chit chat with your companion. As with any restaurants in Japan, there will be free flow of ice water.
Ichiran ramen is definitely one of the best ramen chain in Japan that is worth to just try out the experience.