I’ll not be so quick to declare this the most amazing ramen I’ve ever eaten, but it sure was one of the most unique ramen dining experiences and one that I found suited my naturally shy and introverted nature.
You may think I’m exaggerating, because I don’t look like an introvert, but I’ve dealt with social anxiety all of my life. I force myself to get used to social situations; Even simple everyday “normal” behaviours like answering phone calls and maintaining eye contact are conscious decisions that I spend way too much time deliberating. My ability to function and perform in my job that relies so much on interpersonal communication comes from willing myself to do things I’m afraid or hesitant to do. Over the years, I’ve really learnt to cope in social situations well enough that no one knows how much thought I put into everyday interactions. Anyhow, I’ve digressed!
The F Man waiting for his ramen at his counter in the 24-hour Shibuya outlet while I sneak a shot.
Here’s why Ichiran Ramen is the specialty ramen shop introverts have always wanted and one that I totally appreciate.
This is completely a social anxiety free experience thanks to the ingenious individual booth seating set up. Designed to reduce interaction with the staff and other diners, the tiny counter booth provides you with your own private dining space in which you can enjoy your meal entirely distraction-free. You don’t even need to speak to the chef who is preparing your ramen. Your ramen order will be served to you through a tiny window in front of your booth and a bamboo curtain will be lowered to provide you with your privacy again as you chomp, slurp and gobble your bowl of Hakata-style tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen.
There’s no need to grapple with feeling shy about how you look ravenously eating your ramen or saying thank you to your server when you have your mouth full (and subsequently swallowing your food, pronto, so you can do just that and have some manners) because they were so nice to bring you a water refill.
Got an extra serving of cha shu to accompany my bowl of ramen
At Ichiran Ramen, the process of ordering your ramen and getting a seat is pretty simple.
- Insert yen into the ramen vending machine and choose your preferred food items
- Collect your order tickets and wait for your seat
- Receive an order chit to customise your ramen closer to when your seat is becoming available
- Locate and sit at your booth counter seat alone (YAAASS!)
- Fill up the chit, place your order chit and pencil on the table near the window and press a button
- A hand pops out and collects it
- Your ramen is served and you may now eat without talking to anyone
The Best Ramen?
Here comes the taste test!
So it’s a 10/10 for experience, but how does the ramen fare taste-wise?
Ichiran boasts a creamy, slightly sweet, tonkotsu broth which is well-balanced with the mild spiciness from a secret sauce – an original aged “Spicy Red Sauce” made of a chili powder based blend of over 30 ingredients – doled out onto the bowl of piping hot ramen. The flavourful tonkotsu broth is not let down by the ramen noodles’ smooth texture and springiness (regardless of the firmness you’ve chosen).
Peel your own soft-boiled egg at Ichiran Ramen
The ajitsuke tamago (marinated soft-boiled egg) for your inviting bowl of ramen is served separately in a tiny saucer. You’ll need to peel your own egg here at Ichiran. Most people like their soft-boiled ramen eggs with a beautiful molten yolk, but I prefer mine cooked a little more and that is exactly the sort of doneness served at Ichiran! This was a surprise, because most places serve it perfectly the way the majority enjoys the eggs – really runny in the centre.
The cha shu at Ichiran Ramen is thinly sliced, flavourful and really lean. While some diners have commented that they would love it to be a little more fatty, I feel Ichiran’s cha shu is completely to my taste! While I love my fatty pork belly, I feel that with a broth this delicious, I don’t want the fattiness to overwhelm it and so the thin, lean cha shu slices are perfect in my book!
Aromatic tonkatsu broth made from boiling 100% pig bones enjoyed in complete privacy
What’s really impressive is that this amazing bowl of ramen is available around the clock for 24-hours at most of their outlets. It’s late, but the food is still great.
To beat the queue, we decided to visit in the middle of the night for supper and managed to wait a relatively short duration of 10 – 15 minutes before we walked into a quiet and empty Ichiran outlet at Shibuya. Of course, it wasn’t long before it saw more diners streaming in after their late night at the office or after having drinks. After all, Ichiran Ramen is popular with both locals and tourists and for good reason too.
I’d give it 10/10 on the taste test as well. I’d still shy away from saying this is the best ramen I’ve ever eaten, but I’ll attest that it is for sure one of the best (and most unique experiences). So calling all introverts and shy folks, here’s the ramen chain that’s made for you!
〒150-0041 东京都涩谷区神南1-22-7. 東京都 渋谷区 神南 1-22-7 岩本ビルB1F
Ichiran Ramen – Shibuya
Iwamoto Building, B1F 1-22-7, Jinnan, Shibuya-ku Tokyo-to 150-0041
Open daily for 24-hours