Hi, this is Joe and Phyo! Today, we’re gonna be sharing our experience at Ichiran Ramen Times Square.
Ichiran Ramen is a venerable Japanese ramen chain, specializing in Tonkotsu ramen. It is also known for its solo dining booths, that allow you to completely focus on the ramen in front of you. Ichiran Ramen is fairly new to Manhattan, with its first location on 31st Street open in March 2018, and the Times Square location following a year later. Manhattan already has many popular ramen shops such as Ippudo and Totto Ramen, so let's see if Ichiran can stand up to the competition!
We went there around 5 pm on a Friday and waited for about 10-15 mins before being seated. When you first enter the restaurant, you can see a switchboard with flashing green, yellow and red lights showing the seating layout, as well as which booths are available right now. If you are a solo diner, you will be seated much faster.
You will be given the ramen order forms, on which you can adjust the saltiness of your broth, the amount of oil/fat, the amount of garlic, whether you would like scallions, the spiciness, as well as how you like your noodles. There is also a separate piece of paper, on which you can order the toppings and side dishes. Our preference was to go light on the oil and go full clove on the garlic. As for the saltiness, you can adjust it based on whether you are used to eating saltier or plainer food. The spiciness at Level 2 was also very manageable for Phyo.
There was a bamboo screen in front of each booth, through which the server will greet you. When you are ready to order, you can press a button and the server will come pick up your order sheets. We decided to get the classic tonkotsu ramen (the only ramen option available) with the deluxe toppings set ($5). We also decided to get the premium yakibuta dish ($10). Water was self-serve and they had both hot and cold water available.
The toppings and the side dish arrived first for us, and then the ramen arrived in a heavy rectangular box.
The broth was flavorful without being overly heavy, which was a difficult combination to pull off. The noodles were very fresh and had the perfect amount of chewiness (Phyo ordered medium done-ness). The slight spiciness really enhanced the flavor of the broth as well, and made it easier to drink the broth without feeling too greasy. Unfortunately, the premium yakibuta dish turned out to be too sweet.
Overall, we enjoyed the unique experience of the solo dining concept, although it was initially a little weird to not be able to see the faces of the server as well as the other diners around you. The food was also great, although on the pricier side for ramen, but keep in mind that they are a no tipping establishment. If you are in the midtown area enjoying art at MOMA, ice skating or shopping at Rockefeller Center or joining the crowds in Times Square, we would recommend stopping by Ichiran for a meal. After that, you can decide for yourself whether it is worth coming back to!