Who can resist the slippery noodle-y goodness?? And so, we hunted down a ramen place. Or rather, Mum did 😛 She asked around and someone divulged this niche little ramen shop called Ichiran Ramen. For people that don’t know about it, you’d wonder why there was a long queue of people, standing patiently outside to go into a tiny nondescript basement. ALL FOR THE RAMEN, BABY!!!
We would’ve walked straight past it if we didn’t know about it. It’s a teeny tiny steep staircase (so small you have to grip the walls on either side whilst you carefully make your way down) that goes down into the depths of a basement. It is so small, it’s like a mini cellar. After queueing (I think it took about 30 mins), you’re greeted by a brightly lit vending machine at the bottom of the stairs, and a closed door. You jab at the buttons indicating the stuff you want to order (no English whatsoever, but fortunately there are small photos), and it spits out the appropriate tickets.
Then, it’s another wait patiently outside the closed door, until the door bitc.. I mean.. waitress, opens it and beckons you in, admist a flurry of apologies for the wait (the Japanese, always so polite!). There’s a small, dark standing area that you wait in (again!). During this time, she hands you a slip of paper with boxes and options, fortunately with English on it. You choose from stuff like the texture of your noodles, the richness of the broth, the ingredients etc. It’s like DIY ramen – awesome for picky eaters 😛
There are about 15-20 seats total, in a space so cramped that you can barely sit properly. It’s jail-style, with 1 person per cubicle. You perch on your tiny little seat, with your legs squashed in under the counter, and push your slip of paper through the hole where the chefs are. Mere moments later, a steaming hot bowl of ramen is pushed back through the hole and onto your counter.
And then you tuck in.
And oh boy, do we slurp away!!!
They do a mean ramen. Their specially aged noodles have a smooth texture and are thin and tender. The broth is creamy and so tasty, but not too salty – I must note that it isn’t as flat-out fatty/rich as Tenjin Hakata Ramen’s version though, which I prefer. The sliced pork is 3 small pieces, and I whole-heartedly wish for more because the pork is DIVINE, better than Tenjin Hakata Ramen’s version. The pork slices are buttery soft and tender, perfectly flavoured and melts in the mouth. I’m fascinated with a curious red sauce in the middle of the bowl, which I stir into my broth, giving it a kick of spice and the fragrance that steams up makes me dizzy with pleasure. I learn it’s red chili mixed with more than 30 ingredients (!) which are cooked slowly over several days and nights.
I’m a big fan of the half-boiled egg that we buy separately. After peeling off the (snow white) shell, you slice it open and enjoy the hard-boiled egg white and the runny egg yolk. It’s a killer combination. The cool and bland egg offsets the flavour explosion of the ramen beautifully.
Easily one of the top meals I’ve had in Japan. Not only a gastronomical delight, but the sheer fun and adventure of going into a tiny basement and huddling in a cubicle makes the experience memorable 🙂
At Shibuya’s crossing, one of the busiest in the world!
Yet, NOBODY shoved me like they do in Shanghai, in far less busy streets..
Ichiran Ramen, like a dirty little secret hidden in the basement.
Getting into the queue…
…which extended into the depths of Ichiran Ramen
Ordering from their vending machine. A ticket pops out which you then give straight to the chef!
The TINY cramped eating area
Each person has their own eating space, separated by dividers.
The chefs are on the other side, cooking and serving through the holes
My ‘lil eating space. Not good for claustrophobics!
Their own specially brewed tea, and a semi-boiled egg with instructions
A steaming hot bowl of heavenly ramen
Thank you and goodbye!