For Derek, the arrival of chilly temps brings the opportunity to don a jacket, which he loves. For me, it’s the excuse to slurp hot noodles, especially ramen, and particularly tonkotsu. Our top spot for tonkotsu is shared by the classic bowls at three establishments – a place in Atlanta called Umaido, Brushstrokes Noodle Bar (recently closed) in NYC, and Ichiran in Tokyo. Fortunately for us, Ichiran opened its second NYC outpost in Midtown, so ventured up to try it.
At noon on Sunday, a short line had formed. We spent eighteen minutes and forty-two seconds in anticipation until we were seated. A clipboard with ordering options was given to us in the last few minutes of the wait, providing us a glimpse at our options and saving valuable down time at the booth before the ramen arrived.
The ordering sheet looks complicated, but you can’t go wrong just going with the recommended spice level, noodle firmness, broth consistency, and other choices. I would advise adding the egg, but it’s up to you if you want to go with any of the other additions.
For beverages, stick with the Asahi. I tried the matcha draft beer and didn’t feel it made a lot of sense. I love matcha, but it just seemed to muddy the flavors of the beer and tone down the refreshment factor.
The biggest things missing in NYC from the Tokyo branches are the machine ordering system and the retractable screen to combine booths – neither of which made a real difference in the experience.
The simplicity of Ichiran’s lone base and limited options makes for pure ramen pleasure. Warms the body and spirit, and helps keep your skin young and elastic – at least that’s what I tell myself to justify the calories. Please don’t tell me if I’m wrong.