Ichiran Ramen (一蘭) is world-famous. But does the big ramen chain, known for its unique ramen booths, live up to the hype? As a professional ramen eater, here’s my take on Ichiran.
Ichiran Ramen – THE 5 AM Bowl
To be transparent, I love Ichiran, albeit for a number of emotional 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 18+ shops in Tokyo, several 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. Their pork bone creamy, soy sauce seasoned broth understandably has wide appeal. Their signature spicy red sauce (which includes 30+ ingredients) gets me every time too.
As they’ve grown to having over 80 branches worldwide, you can expect their ramen to be consistently good. But this does also means they’re more like a ramen factory, which I’ll talk about later, under “Any Drawbacks to Ichiran?”
Besides flavor consistency, another selling point is that you can customize your ramen at Ichiran. Fill out your oder sheet to decide the strength of your ramen’s flavor, broth richness, spiciness, how much garlic you want, etc.
I like my bowl as below:
Flavor Strength: Medium (After drinking, I go with Strong 😅)
Richness (Oil Content): Rich
Green Onion: White & Green (Pro Tip – circle both)
Sliced Pork: With (Of course)
Red Sauce Level: 2 / Double (Spicy)
Noodle’s Texture: Firm
After you’ve finished your first batch of noodles, extra noodles (kaedama) cost ¥210. Kaedama are popular with tonkotsu ramen. From a business perspective, they also make sense. They’re so thin that it doesn’t take much time to boil and dish them out.
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Food Stall Experience
Ichiran is 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 a food stall atmosphere. Food stalls are an important part of ramen history in Fukuoka.
Any Drawbacks to Ichiran?
I rarely go to Ichiran now. This is mainly because I’m always seeking out new ramen bowls. But there’s another reason. Outside many major Tokyo Ichiran shops you’ll find a long, twisting line of tourists. Again, I completely understand the appeal. But it’s come to the point where Ichiran has almost become a Disneyland-like attraction.
Also, on the Japanese equivalent of Yelp, Ichiran ramen shops have an average rating at best. Some local Japanese might not be as interested in the big chain, theme park experience.
Furthermore, their ramen is on the pricier side (it starts at ¥980). While Ichiran gets the job done, there are quality, much cheaper ramen bowls that aren’t mass produced.
Video of me visiting Ichiran HQ in Fukuoka:
But it’s this mass produced ramen that is again, consistent. Like a big fast food chain, you know what you’re getting. There’s a reason why they’ve seen so much success. Again, Ichiran has 80+ shops in Japan and there’s even Ichiran New York now.
All in all, Ichiran holds a special place in my heart. This is due to the many memories I have there. I just personally wouldn’t want to wait more than 15 minutes for a bowl there.
Shinjuku (Central East Exit Branch):
For Shibuya’s 10 Best Ramen Shops, CLICK HERE. I’ll help you navigate them all!