My young friends suggested picking me up in their new Tesla and heading “somewhere exotic.” How could I resist? That trip took us to a seemingly a seedy area of Bushwick at a branch of a Japanese ramen chain. Ichiran serves bowls of ramen at solo “flavor concentration booths.”
We had a short wait (15 minutes) before we were seated on bar stools facing a wall. Each of our booths was lined with posters explaining the process and food. Each also had chopsticks wrapped in an order form, plus a menu and the pencil needed to complete it. I had to select the strength and richness of the stock; the amount of garlic, scallions, sliced pork and hiden no tare (spicy red sauce); and the texture of the noodle.
Once completed, I then pressed a button to inform the server, hidden behind a bamboo curtain to retrieve the menu. The server lifted the shade only a couple inches to grab the menu, then closed it again.
While waiting for our dinner, we folded back the partitions between us to chat. I was told we would be silent at Ichiran in Japan. We yakked until each of our curtains we lifted high enough to pass through the steaming bowl of ramen and shut it again.
That ramen ($18.90) was wonderful, richer than what I had had at Ivan Ramen (where my broth was too salty to eat). My friend ordered kae-dama, a noodle refill, using our chopstick wrapper that could be used to that refill or beverages (beer, sake or soft drinks), extra toppings, a tonkotsu egg or dessert. That form reminded us that “soup refill is not available.”
If you’re looking for an unusual dining experience or just don’t want to talk to your date, this is the place.