This past weekend I ate at a restaurant called Ichiran Ramen, and it was so unique, I had to photograph and share my experience. I went with some Japanese friends, thank goodness, because I would have otherwise been extremely confused!
When you enter the restaurant, there are two machines in which you put money in and click pictures of what you want. You then receive a ticket that you will give to the waiter. You can also purchase tickets to get extra toppings, and sides.
Next, you are taken to your seat… now here’s the strange part….
The seats are all closed off so you sit individually! I sat on a bar stool in a closed off booth essentially. Also, I never saw the waiter’s face!! I just heard their voice and saw their arms as they passed me my ramen bowl.
Now there is an opening in which you give the waiter your tickets and fill out a small sheet explaining how you want your noodles cooked. For example, how hard or soft you want the noodles, how much garlic and richness you would like in the broth, and so on. You can also request extra toppings here too!
Then, while you wait, they pull a curtain down in front of the little window. I kind of felt like I was waiting to pick up a to-go order at a drive through! It was so different from my other restaurant experiences.
Then, the waiter opens the little blinds and gives you your food!! After you receive it they then close the blind again so you are all alone with your food.
The white paper on the right side of my ramen is the sheet you fill out explaining what kind of ramen you want!
There is also a little spout and cups for you to get your own water.
And then there’s the taste of this ramen. It is by far the best ramen I’ve ever had while being in Japan. I can’t even explain properly how perfectly spicy, garlicky, and all over flavorful this ramen is. I personally am a huge fan of garlic and spice and ramen so this was the perfect dish for me! Of course, you can request a less garlicky or spicy or creamy ramen.
So why exactly is this restaurant set up this way? I had to ask my friends. We decided that the reasoning for this sitting arrangement is because in Japan, savoring and enjoying your food is a common custom. You are not supposed to merely gobble everything up quickly (Although I know we’ve all been guilty of this, especially when in a hurry). However, the point is to truly enjoy your bowl of ramen and savor its taste. The best way to do this is to be sitting by yourself, and focusing on your food. A little unusual for me, but the ramen was so delicious I couldn’t even be bothered with sitting alone! Ichiran is a place I will definitely return to. This style of eating is very interesting to me. It’d be cool to see a few more restaurants like this in the United States!