Remember the world in the movie Her, where people walked around blissfully by themselves in their high-waisted pants talking to their operating systems? Had they been born centuries earlier, perhaps they would have frequented Ichiran Ramen, the new restaurant in Bushwick famous for its solitary ramen experience. Customers sit in solo “flavor concentration” booths designed to totally automate the whole ramen ordering and eating experience so that human interaction is unnecessary. There’s an order form that lets you check off how you want your broth and noodles, and all you have to do is slide it across the table, where a faceless server will pick it up for processing. If you have any questions about how different options will affect your ramen flavors, there are detailed flyers hanging in your booth that will explain all of that. And if you want some extra water, all you have to do is press a button and show a card that writes out what you want.
If you’re more of a social animal than Joaquin Phoenix in the movie, then not to worry, there are certain booths that can be converted into dual booths, and there’s also traditional table seating. The wait for a dual booth was surprisingly short. After getting to Ichiran at around noon, we waited at most 5 minutes for a dual booth, and there was no wait at all for one of the solo ones. Tip is to get here early, as the line grew considerably after 12:30 pm.
The menu is pretty limited, as the purpose is to showcase Ichiran’s famous tonkotsu broth ramen, which you can tailor to your preferences–dashi, richness, garlic, scallion, chashu sliced pork, hiden no tare spicy red sauce and noodle texture. I ordered medium dashi, light broth richness, medium garlic, with scallions, with chashu, mild hiden no tare spicy red sauce and medium firmness for my noodles, and this combination was quite a success.
If you strip away all the automaton gimmicks, the ramen here is actually very good, and it’s definitely my favorite tonkotsu broth by far. The light broth has all the flavor of a tonkotsu without the heaviness that comes with it. The heavy broth, on the other hand, is quite literal in its description, and you can even see the fat separating from the soup in your bowl. Eat that at your own risk. I didn’t see that much of a difference between the firm and medium texture noodles but was fine with either. They taste like standard noodles, and there’s nothing particularly unique in terms of their flavor or texture. If anything I might have ordered more of the red sauce, but otherwise I would keep my order as is.
The only downside? The price. My ramen was about $20 total, including tax and tip (Ichiran is grauity-inclusive), which isn’t horrible. A bowl of ramen at Ippudo after tax and tip might cost you the same. It’s all the add-ons that get you. Ruoxi’s ramen ended up costing $34, which is a bit ridiculous, considering he ordered a few extra slices of pork, scallions and noodles. Extra pork costing $7? I can see that. $3 for extra scallions? A bit much, given that that can buy you bushels of scallions. Just be aware that the add-ons add up. Hands down the ramen here tastes great, but the price and maybe the wait is a little hard to swallow.
374 Johnson Ave (between Morgan Ave and Ingraham St)
Brooklyn, NY 11206