Ichiran’s CEO Manabu Yoshitomi started his restaurant business in 1960 as a simple ramen stall in Fukuoka now has seventy-five restaurants throughout Asia. Ichiran Times Square is the newest of three branches located in New York City.
Ichiran specializes in tonkotsu ramen which involves preparing homemade thin noodles in accordance with the day’s humidity and temperature. Tonkotsu broth is made with filtered water and pork bones. Ichiran is the first ramen company in the United States to use transfat-free natural oil. Only four people know the secret spicy red sauce recipe involving slowly cooking more than thirty different spices. To achieve seamless ramen quality, each bowl is delivered in fifteen seconds from kitchen to table.
Ordering this ramen matches the production involved with preparing it. Each guest sits on a stool located in front of a numbered enclosed booth facing a serving slot. This setup, which reminded me of a library carrel, is intended to remove the necessity of interacting with the server. The point is that one’s full attention should be directed toward concentrating on the ramen. Guests fill out a ramen customization checklist in which it is possible to designate saltiness level, oil richness, minced garlic and scallion amount, sliced pork presence, original spicy red sauce intensity, and noodle texture.
This made to order approach is the antithesis of “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun” mass production conformity. After I placed the checklist through the slot, two hands appeared to present the designated ramen. I received three plates: a platter filled with scallion, pork slices, and dried seaweed; a cup holding a soft boiled egg; and a ramen soup filled bowl with a bull’s eye red sauce dollop located in the middle. Food delivery accomplished, the hands placed a mat over the slot. A call button is present in case further service is needed.
The fifteen second delivery requirement was wasted on me because, due to no fault of Ichiran, the ramen soup arrived for its close up and I had to take the soup’s picture. By the time I fumbled with the camera in order to capture the noodles’ best side, the soup was cold. Nevertheless, the combined ingredients yielded a melt in your mouth uniquely delicious result.
Hands presented the rich and creamy desert called Matcha Pudding. And so ended this meal which consisted of delicious ramen and serving procedure adventure. Ichiran’s set up is as unique as its tonkotsu ramen.
– Marleen Barr
Times Square location
152 W. 49th Street
New York, NY 10019
374 Johnson Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11206
132 W. 31st Street
New York, NY 10001
Photos by Greg Rhein Photography via Ichiran NY and by Socially Superlative