Ramen is one of the most delicious and japanesey things to taste while you're in Japan. There are a plethora of ramen shops in this town and almost all are very, very good. But there are a few that get especially rave reviews and Ichiran Ramen is one of them.
There are two locations in Shibuya and Tim took us to the lesser known location, with a queue of only 15 minutes (lines are generally out the door and up to an hour wait).
Now, the ordering of ramen is very different than back home so it's important to know what to expect.
To start, you place your order at the vending machine.
As you can see, this one is very simple and contains both photos AND English. You won't always find this. Sometimes it's just rows of buttons in Japanese and you have to know what to look for.
Put money into the machine and buttons will light up offering choices given the amount you've deposited. Make a selection of broth flavoring (shio? shoyu? miso? tonkotsu?) and add-ons, if you like (extra green onion? pork? egg?). Push the lever to receive your change and take your ticket(s).
From there the hostess may hand you a form that asks you to circle your preferences of broth strength, noodle thickness, spicy sauce level, etc. She will then show you to your seat. At Ichiran the seating is in rows with dividers so that you can eat your ramen in privacy or you can fold the divider up and lock it away. I decided to put away my divider and strike up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. He looks pretty friendly, wouldn't you say?
Place your ticket and form in front of you so that it can be picked up by the cooks behind the curtain.
While you wait, fill up your water at the handy personal water spicket.
Before you know it - voila! A delicious bowl of ramen will appear from behind the curtain. ENJOY! (Mine is shoyu, regular broth, regular "red sauce", regular noodles, pork, green onions)
What's that you say? You can't get enough of that ramen deliciousness? No problem! Simply fill out the form indicating that you'd like another full or half-order of noodles (called kae-dama) and press the "call" button (remember not to eat too much of your broth because you don't get a refill on that).
And now for the grand finale! If you paid for dessert they will have given you a small tray when you first sat down. Place this tray on the red square in front of you when you're ready for delivery. A cute little song will play and someone will be by shortly.
Here comes your matcha tofu dessert! This dessert is not for the matcha (green tea) lightweight. It's pretty strong, but yummy.
And the perfect way to follow up a yummy ramen experience? A nap.