NYC
Updated April 2, 2022, Posted September 16, 2018

This is an updated review for the Midtown / Times Square (Theater District) location for Ichiran. I had been to the original Bushwick location years ago, and I didn’t take pictures nor remembered much about it. The only thing I wrote down was it was a much better version of Shinsengumi. Shinsengumi was a popular Torrance (California) restaurant that served hakata style ramen. They also allowed you to select your flavor profiles, and it was far less busy than Ichiran.

When I arrived here, there was a pretty large line in front of the restaurant. As a solo diner, it took roughly about 20 minutes to get seated. Solo dining in NYC is by far one of the best advantages for dining at restaurants with lines. I was pulled from the line with about 15 people ahead of me and seated in one of the pods inside. On average if you’re at the back of the line, it’s about a 40 minute wait. The outside sign of the restaurant says that the ramen is worth the wait because all locations of Ichiran have lines out the door.

Ambiance

The interior is pretty interesting. I’ve never been to Japan before, but there are little lights on the wall that indicate which seats are vacant for staff to escort diners too. As a solo diner when you sit down, you’re in a little booth to yourself. The walls to the left and right can tear down if you’re with a larger party. The intention behind this is to allow people to focus on the dinner without distractions. At your front right, there’s a button that you can press to call for service. There is also water station in the middle of the row of diners that you can freely walk up to.

While you’re waiting in line, they hand you a piece of paper that you can circle your desired options. You then press the service button, and they quickly go make it for you. If you ordered dessert, there’s a dessert tray that you can place on top of the button after you press it. This informs the wait staff that you are ready for dessert.

When all is said and done, you grab your front left numbered laminate and bring it to the front of the store. This is a no tip establishment, so it’s great you don’t really have to think about that. The service here was very fast, so depending how quickly you eat, you could be out in less than 20 minutes easily.

This is a sign that is above the sliding window where the staff passes you the food.

Food

I ordered the Classic Tonkotsu Ramen ($18.90) with:

  • medium dashi (saltiness)
  • medium richness (oil amount)
  • 1/2 clove (minced garlic)
  • with scallion
  • with chashu (sliced pork)
  • medium spicy
  • medium noodle texture

The tonkotsu broth was very delicious by itself. It was not too fatty and had rich pork flavors that were delightful to the tongue. The noodles themselves are not my favorite, but I understand why they were selected for this broth. They don’t have a lot of flavor, but they give offer a nice complementary texture to the broth. The broth is definitely the focus here and can work great with any starch. The slices of chashu were fall apart tender and very flavorful. The red peppers on top is concentrated, so make sure to mix it into the soup.

I also ordered sides:

  • premium yakibuta ($9.90) which is smoky yet sweet marinated pork in thick slices. It had some chili pepper on the side.
  • soft boiled egg ($2.90)
  • Osukaran vinegar ($1.50) which is Ichiran’s original balsamic vinegar blend

The premium yakibuta pork slices were fairly tender, but I think this can be skipped for ordering. The pork tasted like it was more overcooked than the chashu. The sauce they doused the pork slices in didn’t do much for me. I’d recommend ordering an extra side of chashu instead if you’re looking for more pork protein.

The soft boiled egg came cold and with the shell on. You have to peel the shell yourself which is a bit of an annoyance and an oddity. The egg yolk itself was mildly runny with some soy seasoning in it. After you peel the egg, douse it with water to try to get any remaining shell shards off and throw the egg into the tonkotsu broth to warm it up.

The Osukaran vinegar was the elephant in the room that offered the best flavor additive to this soup. This vinegar is similar to the black vinegar in some Chinese/Taiwanese beef noodle places. This vinegar didn’t have the exact flavor profile, but it had this very nice, sharp, and sour taste (like other balsamic vinegars). By itself, it definitely was a punch in the face in a good way. I poured the entire cup in, and it really livened the pork tonkotsu broth and made it even more delightful to drink. If you like a little sour umami kick in your broth, this is a must get complement.

The matcha pudding ($8.90) was a Japanese style pudding with a sweetened green tea base. The black squares on top remind me of black grass jelly, which has this jello consistency with some herbal flavors in it. It’s often found in Asian desserts in both drinks and as a topping on shaved ice. The pudding itself was at a good sweet level. When you scoop the bottom, the matcha provided a noticeable bitter green tea counterbalance and was very delectable.

Final Verdict

Ichiran is pretty good if you like a very flavorful broth. The noodles are not the best, but the broth more than makes up for it. Is it worth a 40 minute wait if you’re not a solo diner? I think it’s worth once in your lifetime, but definitely not everyday. If however the lines are short, then this is definitely a decent alternative to other traditional ramen places.

Yelp Jabs

Ramen is pricey and taste is average. The experience and concept of the place was unique. The egg comes on the side and you have to peel the egg yourself which is strange. I felt like I was paying purely for the experience over the food.

Unfortunately, this Yelper missed the mark entirely. The decor is one thing, but it’s really the broth that makes it stand out. The other ramen restaurants don’t really have this specific flavor profile for their tonkotsu broth.

This is definitely one of those one time for the one time spots because sadly their broth, noodles, and ingredients weren’t distinguishable from neighboring ramen spots.

The broth by itself was decent, but if this Elitist had ordered the Osukaran vinegar, it would’ve really accentuated what was great about the broth. I would not expect green onions, kikurage mushrooms, and dried seaweed to taste dramatically different than any other ramen restaurant.