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Posts tagged ‘ichiran’

Chains of Love: Ichiran

I used to get excited about foreign chains in NYC but lately I’m more indifferent. Case in point, Ichiran opened right around the time I went to Japan last year for Thanksgiving and I still haven’t checked it out and it’s almost the end of 2017. I don’t want to go to Bushwick to eat overpriced ramen, as in $19, even in a so-called flavor concentration booth. (I’d liken them more to library carrels, which I just spelled “carols” even though I’ve worked in a zillion libraries.)

Bowls of ramen are practically all under $10, even with tip, in Tokyo where novelty comes cheap and with the territory. Ichiran in Tokyo is 24 hours, you buy a ticket from a vending machine with large photo buttons kind of like a cigarette machine (you do remember those?), look for an open seat on the big electronic wall display, then proceed into a hushed room flanked by two rows of stools. You can fill out a card with preferences like degree of noodle doneness, richness of broth, garlic or no garlic, spice level, and extras and add-ins. And of course there is a red button if you want service. 

Each seating space has an individual water dispenser which is amazing. If you order a ramen that comes with a tea egg, it will be presented first in a little dish. At least I don’t think this is an appetizer as much as it looks like one. You will only see hands and lower bodies beneath the screen and once the hands place your order in front of you, they will drop the screen altogether.

As to the ramen, I never have the wherewithal to go nuts with flavor descriptions. I don’t think I’ve yet to encounter a meh bowl of ramen in Japan, and Ichiran’s was better than average. What makes it so? The tonkotsu-style broth is rich and assertive as a pork broth should be, but it’s not overpowering.  There is a balance to the amount of noodles and sliced not-that-fatty pork with just a pop of salt and heat. 

I hate to say that ramen isn’t my first choice unless I’m starving, but it tends to make me feel too stuffed and tired afterwards. I’m sensitive to carbs, though. I’m also not usually a food-sharer–in fact, I’ve been called a “food hoarder,” disparagingly– but I ended up giving some chashu and noodles to my travel companion (you can also fold the wooden walls to make a shared space). I can’t even imagine ordering extra noodles, which you can. I was the only one at group meals (even with super fitness-y women) to order a small rice instead of the standard and was the only one who didn’t finish it.

More to the point/less about my adorable eating habits: I would recommend Ichiran for the full immersive experience if you happen to be in Japan. There are 60+ locations around the country so it’s likely you’ll pass by one.

Ichiran * 3-34-11 B1F Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan 

The Week in International Intrigue: Chicken & Noodles

Photo: Jollibee

Photo: Jollibee

NYC may finally be getting the Ichiran, the Hakata-style ramen chain with partitions for solo diners, it was promised in 2007. Just in time to ride the pork bone broth wave.

Jollibee, the Filipino fast food restaurant that serves spaghetti with wieners, American cheese, and ketchup, is reportedly looking to buy a US chain. Speculation includes a range of brands including Popeyes, Sonic and Krispy Kreme. Now knowing that the Philippines is responsible for KFC turning fried chicken into hot dog buns, the acquisition may produce surprising results.

South African chicken chain Nando’s is a big deal in the UK. (We only have them in the D.C. area.) Here’s why (sort of) Also, anyone who watches Looking–didn’t you think that Dom’s peri-peri pop-up was really just an artisanal Nando’s?

Hooters didn’t just go big and bi-level in midtown, the wingery has serious international ambitions. Already in some of the touristy parts of Thailand, Southeast Asia, including Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, will be the target of 30 new locations in the next six years.

Punch has an interesting account of a Guinness “Stout Evaluative Engineer” in Dubai. This is technically from more than a week ago, but I’m kind of a sucker for tales of drinking where it’s weird to be drinking.

By the way, Vice Munchies has been publishing a lot of interesting cool-to-me things lately, not subjects I see elsewhere, not big names, definitely not the big guy Action Bronson/Fat Prince stuff (which may or may not be good–I don’t like watching videos) but lots of posts with a strong international bent like an account of hospital food in Thailand, covert moonshine-making in Egypt, and what female members of ISIS cook for their husbands,