Big ramen chain Ichiran is famous for its customizable tonkotsu ramen and overall unique experience. But does Ichiran ramen live up to the hype? Here’s my personal take on Ichiran.
Open Late – THE 5 AM Ramen
To be transparent, I love Ichiran, for a number of reasons. First of all, they’re open super late. This very website’s name, 5 AM Ramen, takes heavy inspiration from Ichiran and its late operating hours. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve had Ichiran in the wee hours of the morning. Of Ichiran’s 15 shops in Tokyo, 12 of them are open either 24 hours or until 6 am.
Taste and Customization
Now if it’s about taste, I believe Ichiran ramen is up there with the best. Their Hakata style, zesty tonokotsu broth is not too creamy or thick. It’s is topped off with a dash of their signature spicy red sauce.
Another huge selling point at Ichiran is that you can customize your ramen. After purchasing the ticket stubs, you’ll be given a little sheet to decide the strength of your ramen’s flavor, broth richness, spiciness, how much garlic you want, etc.
I customize my bowl like below:
- Flavor Strength: Strong
- Richness (Oil Content): Rich
- Garlic: 1 clove
- Onions: White & Green (Pro Tip – circle both)
- Sliced Pork: With
- Red Sauce Level: 2 / Double (Spicy)
- Noodle’s Texture: Firm
Ramen with half-boiled egg is ¥910. Without the egg, Ramen with the above customizable choices is ¥790. After you’ve finished the first bunch of noodles, extra noodles (kaedama) cost ¥190 for a full portion and ¥130 for a half portion. Kaedama are popular with tonkotsu ramen. The noodles are often thin and can get they get soggier more quickly. For this reasons, it’s better to have 2 rounds of noodles.
Fun Interior, Unique Experience
Ichiran is also a lot of fun inside. First and foremost, you’re treated to your own little food stall. A staff member will dramatically present your bowl of ramen to you, after raising a bamboo-woven curtain. This, along with the rustic wooden interior, lends an atmosphere of older Tokyo.
For the above reasons, I give Ichiran two thumbs up.
Any Drawbacks to Ichiran?
However, I rarely go to Ichiran now. It’s impossible to get in without waiting a while in line. Outside of most Ichiran shops in Tokyo you’ll find a long, twisting line of tourists. I completely understand the appeal. But it’s come to the point where Ichiran has almost become a Disneyland like tourist trap.
Also, on the Japanese equivalent of Yelp, Ichiran ramen shops have an average rating at best. Some local Japanese might not be an interested in the big chain, theme park like experience.
But despite this, Ichiran serves up amazing bowls of tonkotsu ramen. There’s a reason why they’re so popular and have seen so much success. Ichiran has 70 shops in Japan and 4 overseas. All in all, Ichiran is fantastic. I just personally wouldn’t want to wait more than 15 minutes in line for a bowl of Ichiran ramen.
Shinjuku (Central East Exit Branch) – Open 24 Hours
Shibuya – Open 24 Hours