~By Maddy (UK)~
Ichiran Ramen sits by the river in Osaka’s famous Dotonbori. It’s easily identifiable by the queue which snakes from its door and down the promenade. Don’t let this put you off, though – the ramen is totally worth the wait, and so is the experience. The wait can be considerable, though, so it’s worth arriving about half an hour before you’re really starving.
While you queue, one of the friendly employees will hand you a slip of paper – it lists the options for your ramen and what additional toppings you can indulge yourself in. This is the real treat of Ichiran! There are important choices to be made – how spicy would you like your broth? How firm, or soft, would you like your noodles? Would you like to add mushrooms? Egg, maybe? Nori? The permutations are seemingly endless, and it’s a real (and rare) treat to be able to customise restaurant food like this. I haven’t encountered any other restaurant which lets you ponder the minutae of your meal to this extent – down, even, to whether you want the green or the white part of the spring onion.
Inside, you’ll punch your selection into a vending machine, which spits out tickets to inform the chefs what you’d like. Once you’ve sat down in a cubicle along one of the benches – in the middle of which is the kitchen – the hatch in front of you will open, you’ll hear a hearty “irrrrrrashaimase!” and you’ll hand your tickets over.
A few minutes later, a hot bowl of ramen will emerge through the hatch, along with your chosen extras on small dishes. The ramen will, predictably, be pretty perfect – after all, you practically made it yourself! The pork is perfectly soft and flavourful, and the broth pleasingly milky and thick. The noodles are unctuous and satisfying – I chose to have mine firm, which gave the soup some body.
My only, minor complaint was that the broth was a little too spicy to drink on its own – but, since I chose the spice level, I really only have myself to blame! I
Ichiran is really an experience worth having if you’re in Osaka. A whole queue of people can’t be wrong! And with a price which hovers at around ¥800 yen (depending on which extras you pick), it’s not one you can afford to miss. Itadakimasu!