Our first day in Osaka was spent exploring the city, not for culture or amusement, but just to check out shopping stuff and what not. We made our way around a Don Quijote department store (known locally as Donki) and some random arcade filled with restaurants and shops that we decided it was time. Time for us try out what the world has been screaming and clamoring for the longest time: Ichiran Ramen.
When I went to Hong Kong back in 2016, one of my food goals was to try out Ichiran Ramen in Central. However I couldn’t find the store and ended up eating ramen in the food court of a shopping mall near Times Square. It was a sad and disappointing meal that I have no intention of ever repeating. Flash forward to a year later, we’re a bit lost, there are so many shops and restaurants around us, I have no idea what Ichiran looks like but I only know it has red accents on its logo. We’re walking and walking all around this arcade and finally we decide to ask someone for help. This woman, who seemed like she was in a hurry, gladly went out of her way and brought us to a spot that we had passed by only minutes ago.
Ichiran, with its red and green logo, was there all along, waiting for us and to experience for ourselves what people and blogs have been raving about. We enter the restaurant where we’re greeted by an attendant who asks us how many seats we need and directs us to a machine. For the most part of our trip, we’ve always come face-to-face with an attendant, in Ichiran, there was a vendo machine where you put in some bills and choose the ramen you want, then the machine prints out a stub for you to give once you are seated.
My sister who had visited Japan earlier said Ichiran ramen was a unique dining experience. I had to agree when I saw the dining area: diners were seated in small cubicles with a wooden partition separating them from other diners. These partitions could be opened up to allow a whole group to talk to one another without the awkward partition in the way. In front of me was a tap with cold water, a small partition where I laid down the stubs that I got from the machine, and one of the attendants behind the partition handed me a pad to specify my ramen order.
When my order came out, a huge bowl of shio ramen and three slices of pork on the side, I gave my usual “Itadakimas!” and began eating my ramen. The broth was light, creamy, and not as salty as I expected, especially coming from a shio ramen and considering that I have eaten about 3 bowls already of the real stuff over the past few days. Like the broth, the noodles were light and firm, it had that snap and crunchiness to it as I slurped and chewed on it. Just like everything else, the pork was thinly sliced and once dipped into the broth, tasted really delicious. It wasn’t tough, it actually had that melt-in-your-mouth quality.
Whereas my ramen was light, Tricia’s was on the savory side. Her ramen had all the works, plus mushrooms, a side of egg and pork. She added some spice oil into the mix and that got her dish really going. It was spicy, it was chewy, it was alive! For once I regretted going for the most basic and not taking advantage of the full blown ramen experience.
With our bowls empty and picked clean, our cubicles now open to one another, it was time to bade Ichiran a sad good bye. Eating here was certainly interesting and unique, the whole vending machine to the cubicle action made it worthwhile and alluring at the same time. I would have to admit though that the ramen, mine’s and Tricia’s, were on the ok-but-not-great side. Looking at it now, I enjoyed our first ramen in Japan in Kyoto, that restaurant near our Airbnb that cost even less than Ichiran’s.
P.S. Go to Ichiran early, preferably before lunch and dinner hours, because lines can get really long.