People from Fukuoka pride themselves with their cuisine. This is not simply local bias, but a fact confirmed by Monocle Magazine which states that Fukuoka is where the culinary conscious crowd of Tokyo go for their gastronomic delight. That is right, residents of the city with the most number of Michelin star restaurants fly to Fukuoka for their food cravings.
Fukuoka is known for many dishes but what stands out is its Ramen, particularly tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen. I will go as far as saying that pizza is to Italy, as tacos are to Mexico, as ramen is to Fukuoka! Thus, no trip to Fukuoka is ever complete without trying out Fukuoka Ramen. The Ramen experience is such an amazing experience that I recommend complete focus on the ramen, ignoring all distractions around you. Fortunately, one ramen shop knows exactly how to make you do this.
Ichiran Ramen（一蘭ラメン) is a Fukuoka based ramen chain that not only makes one of the best tonkotsu ramen in Fukuoka, but also provides the customer with a unique experience in ramen dining. Its freshly handmade noodles and its special sauce made of red chili and more than 30 other ingredients, cooked slowly over several days and nights, make it a landmark in Fukuoka.
The ordering system is also unique. You first pay for your order at a vending machine located at the entrance of the restaurant, and fill out a form on what type of ramen you want (tenderness of noodles, amount of spice, amount of onions, level of flavor etc.). Once you are given cubicle (yes, a cubicle, the better to focus, remember?), you hand over your sheet and wait for your dish to be served. No need to talk to anyone, handy for you non-Japanese speaker you. The website interesstingly has this to say about this system: “Since you can order without having to raise your voice, this is an especially popular system with our female customers.”
It is quite a unique experience, and while the restaurant is English-speaker friendly, the fast paced nature of it might just make you confused. So, to better prepare you for your first Ichiran experience, we want to share with you a little “How to Order at Ichiran Ramen” Guide we made:
1. Pick what you want to order. (Clue: Make sure to order Ramen): You can also order side dishes such as egg, extra noodles, extra onions etc.
2.) Pay: Insert the corresponding amount and get your food stub.
3. Wait for space to be available. Each square represents a seat on the restaurant. In this particular branch (Hakata) they are divided into three rows. A lit square means that a seat is available. In this case, Seats 9 and 6 on Row 3 are available. If there are two or more in your party, you can request to be seated together. In this case, others may be asked to go ahead of you until consecutive seats are available.
4. Once you are called, enter the corresponding hall and find your assigned seat. You will then wonder if you are about to take an exam. Coat hangers and tissue dispensers are found at the seat’s rear.
5. Once you find your place, familiarize yourself with your surroundings. To your left is the water dispenser and a glass. To the right are the chopsticks. Right in front of you is the Form where you place your preference (thickness of noodles, flavor, etc).
6. Fill up the form. Note: An English version with instructions is available by request. Press the call button, wait for an attendant and say “Eigo no Menu kudasai.” or simply “English” and they will understand. After filling it up, press the button again to submit your form. Here is a sample form with some recommended choices. I would go for “rich” fat content and “tender” noodles though.
7. Calmly wait for your meal to be served.
8. Go from here…
9. To here…
10. Go home and plan your next visit.
Ichiran Ramen has many branches nationwide, but nothing beats experiencing it right here in ramen wonderland, Fukuoka. Here are the address of some of them
1-10-15 Tenjin , Chuo-Ku, Fukuoka / phone: +81 92 736 5272
Canal City Branch
1-2-22, Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka (Canal City Theater bldg.)