A UNIQUE DINING EXPERIENCE IN BUSHWICK FEATURES PRIVATE RAMEN “FOCUS BOOTHS” AND A NOVEL ORDERING SYSTEM
BY TIA KIM
A dish originating in Fukuoka in the southwest of Japan more than two centuries ago, tonkotsu ramen, its soup broth based on pork bones and traditionally topped with sliced pork belly (tonkotsu meaning “pork bones” in Japanese) was originally conceived as a quickly prepared and affordable fast food for fish market laborers there, but quickly spread to just about all areas of the nation.
Specializing in this remarkably flavorful and versatile food, Ichiran Ramen was launched in Fukuoka in 1960, and in 1993 developed a unique concept based on “dining booths,” which has become a blueprint for a franchise that has now expanded to more than 65 locations. In 2016, Ichiran USA opened a noodle factory and restaurant in Bushwick, in the process importing key concepts, including its signature broth and spicy red sauce, along with a unique ordering system. Its city presence now includes that Johnson Avenue restaurant, as well as two more in Manhattan (152 West 49th Street and 132 West 31st Street).
First, diners wait in line for a vacant seat, its status seen on a lighted panel. An order sheet can be found at each place, on which customized ramen with ingredients can be selected, along with flavor level, noodle texture, and a Kae Dama (noodle refill) option. Once filled out, the form is given to a staff member using a call button, and the kitchen crew prepares dishes (many served in an original Jubako ramen bowl) and presents them either in the regular seating area or what’s known as individual Ramen Focus Booths the latter “to allow you to focus on the flavors with minimal distractions,” explains the restaurant’s web site. A 15 second standard rules; once prepared, each dish is delivered from kitchen to table in that time expanse.
Inspired by traditional Japanese jubako lunch boxes, Ichiran’s bowls are hand made in Arita, Japan, and feature a crafted lid that emphasizes aromas. Along with the new bowls, it has also improved its broth to more closely Inspired by traditional Japanese jubako lunch boxes, Ichiran’s bowls are hand made in Arita, Japan, and feature a crafted lid that emphasizes aromas. Along with the new bowls, it has also improved its broth to more closely
The Original Spicy Red Sauce is perhaps Ichiran’s greatest secret, and only four people have access to the recipe. This togarashi pepper based sauce is aged and cooked slowly, using more than 30 different types of spices to create a complex of hot and rich flavors. Each bowl can be tailored with the diner’s choice of dashi flavoring, along with levels of richness, garlic, scallion, chashu (sliced pork), Original Spicy Red Sauce, and noodle textures.
Additional toppings and sides can also be ordered, with selections including Premium Yakibuta sauce (only available in the U.S.), Kikurage mushrooms, soft boiled egg, dried seaweed, white rice, and Osukaran vinegar. For dessert, there’s a light and airy Matcha pudding with kuromitsu (brown sugar).
The drink list is a tightly knit affair, but covers the essentials. On tap is Asahi Super Dry, with a refreshing barley flavor and crisp aftertaste, along with a Matcha Draft (beer with added matcha powder, which makes for a terrifically novel experience), as well as soda and tea.
374 Johnson Avenue / 718.381.0491