Thursday, February 24, 2011
一蘭 - Ichiran, Ueno
豚骨ラーメン - Tonkotsu Ramen ￥690
The first thing that should be said about Ichiran is that it is as much entertainment as it is a meal. You are given your own self-contained space on the counter, understandably not for everyone- particularly the claustrophobic, and you don't notice the other customers in the store much... Beyond the slurping of their noodles. You even get your own personal water dispenser.
There is also barely any interaction with the staff - an electronic board notifies you when there is a vacant seat (空）and then you decide how you would like your ramen prepared by filling out a small slip of paper, then pressing a button to alert the restaurant staff. Due to the large amount of tourists in the area, the Ueno store has a staff member handing them out in English if need be, however in other stores the slip is waiting for you once you have taken your seat. The Ikebukuro store, while a little further from the station, doesn't get the same lunchtime queues as the Ueno store. This could also be due to the abundance of good ramen in Ikebukuro.
Your egg (which you must order separately) adds a little to the entertainment as it comes before your ramen and you must peel it yourself. Don't worry though... It comes with a sheet of instructions! Apparently it's actual purpose is to be eaten before the ramen and to cleanse your mouth so you get an untainted taste of your ramen. I usually just dunk it in though!
As for the ramen itself, it is of the spicy tonkotsu hakata variety from Kyushu. I had obviously eaten ramen before eating here, but it was the first time here that I could really understand the concept and popularity of ramen in Japan beyond a greasy, after-drinking meal.
The standard size does not give you a great deal of noodles so if you are particularly hungry you might need something a little more substantial, although there are many options available at the ticket machine. There are 2 thin slices of chashu that is a little on the greasy side in my opinion. The soup is delicious and a little oily, however I've never had any problems finishing, although there is a chance that the spiciness will make you a little sweaty.
I've taken a few friends who have been visiting Tokyo there and they have been impressed by not only the ramen, but the complete package. Ichiran is a must visit ramen store.
Google Maps (Ueno Store)