Semi Private Noodle Slurping at Ichiran Ramen

Every time I go to New York City, I try to visit as many restaurants as I can, with my recent trip being no exception. This time, the luck of the food gods was in my favor, as I ended up in front of a restaurant that I’ve had my eye on for years. Originally, I was going to find a taco place around the area to eat, but fate had different plans for me that day.

While walking around 31st street at perhaps the perfect timing, I somehow found myself directly in front of Ichiran Ramen at 31st Penn Plaza, precisely 7 minutes before they opened at 12:00PM. I was able to secure an early spot in the line outside the restaurant before other people flocked toward it and extended the line so long that it had to be separated into two different lines to not block a driveway.

Ichiran Ramen is a popular Japanese based ramen shop, with only three locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as being their only locations in the U.S. The ramen shop often has long lines waiting daily outside to get a chance to eat their ramen. Filled with a limited number of individuals and isolated booths inside, people don’t mind waiting a while to get a chance to slurp ramen in dimly lit, semi-private booths.

Ramen booth with instructions on how to eat your ramen. A thin veil separates you from the staff in the back.

Outside before you enter the restaurant, you are greeted with a menu and a pen where you can customize your desired ramen bowl, choosing from options such as firm or chewy noodles, spice level, and extra toppings like chashu pork and scallions. I opted for the standard Tonkotsu Ramen, with all the standard options; noodles, chashu pork, one egg, and a light level of spice.

Upon entering, you are given a number to go to a certain booth, and head to sit down in your own “ramen focus booth,” where instructions and recommendations on how to enjoy your meal are directly in front of you. Below these suggestions, a window opens, where you are greeted with the torso of a person on the other side, who explains to you how to eat your ramen, and how to order anything extra using their “kae-dama” ordering system. After a short time, a waiter will slide your ramen in front of you, in a ceramic, square bowl.

Firm, yet chewy noodles combined with a rich, cloudy, and savory pork broth will pick up anyone having a good or bad day. Thin pieces of chashu pork start to melt in your mouth upon first contact, making chewing them easy and painful as you try to savor the two to three pieces you get per bowl. Bright green scallions decorate one side of your bowl and provide a bright onion flavor and aroma to the ramen. The broth also leaves a thin coating of sheen and oil in the inside of your mouth and around your lips that will have you slurping it even more.

Tonkotsu ramen with pork broth, light spice, and chashu pork.

The total cost for the standard bowl was around $20, but if you find yourself wanting more such as a noodle refill, more pork, or any toppings, you can always press the call button in your booth to request anything, for an extra price of course.

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