I sorta promised to blog in real-time when I was in Japan. That didn’t happen. Laziness took over. Nyahaha!
Kidding. This trip was purely for vacation, so I savored every little moment to enjoy it. Besides, I realized that typing up a blog using my phone with my stubby fingers? Not an easy task.
So. On with the Japan blog.
My main purpose for visiting Fukuoka is to eat. Specifically, to eat ramen. You see, Fukuoka is often tagged as the best place to sample authentic Japanese ramen so I just have to try it for myself. I’ve already blogged about my initial try at sampling ramen in Fukuoka; here’s a couple more.
Pictured above is the main branch of Ichiran Ramen, all seven floors of it.
My friend describes Ichiran Ramen as the Jollibee of Fukuoka: there’s an Ichiran Ramen shop at nearly every corner of the city. In fact, there’s one right at the basement of the building next to our hotel. Hence, that’s where we had breakfast on Day 3 of our Japan trip.
Time check: 9:22am. And there’s already a line. Fortunately, client turnover was fairly fast. We only waited for about 6 minutes before we got a table.
These machines will welcome you once you enter the restaurant. No need to worry, though. Unlike the one I had on my first night, the machines have English versions. They have staff with ENGLISH badges, too. Ichiran is globally famous, hence, very tourist-friendly.
After placing your order, you will be given a piece of paper where you can customize your ramen, like so:
Regulars of Ramen Nagi will find this process very familiar. Quick tip: Always choose “firm” or “extra firm” when customizing your noodle texture. The hot broth will cook the noodles further as you eat. If you choose “soft”, it will eventually become soggy before you finish your meal. Unless, of course, that you prefer it that way. Personally, I prefer chewy noodles for my ramen.
Once you’re given your assigned booth (each person has his own personal booth, but if you came with a group you may fold the dividers so that you can see your companions while eating), you’ll place your order stub and customization sheet on the designated spot at your table and the wait staff will get it.
It’s interesting that you won’t even see the face of your server while all of this is happening. Once they’ve served you your food, they’ll even close the booth’s curtain for your privacy.
Another side note: each booth has its own faucet for your (cold) drinking water. Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as the one on my first ramen experience. Or maybe it’s not really that complicated and I’m just dumb. I dunno.
So there it is. Ichiran Ramen. My verdict? I totally understand why most people would say that once you’ve tried the real thing in Fukuoka, it would be very difficult to appreciate the ones available back home. This is nothing like the ones I’ve tried in the Philippines. The broth is rich but not too rich. The noodle consistency is just right. The chashu pork isn’t fatty with just the right amount of flavor. There’s no sick/bloated feeling (umay)afterwards. I didn’t even use the available condiments to fully savor its original flavor.
Another side note: each booth has its own menu and order slip in case you want to order some extras, eg., added noodles. We didn’t bother anymore because we wanted to maximize on stomach space. There’s a lot more to eat in Japan; we need all that extra space to fit everything in our tummies.
As for the price: that particular set that I had, which is basic hakata tonkotsu ramen + egg, totaled JPY1010 + tax. In PH peso, that amounts to about php550.00. Which is just about the same price as in our local ramen stores, and this one is utterly more satisfying. There really is no reason to fear that Japan is expensive, because truthfully? It’s not 100% accurate. You just have to be aware of how market prices really are both in Japan and back home.
Ichiran Ramen is very good, but I’m more curious about this ramen shop that my friend has been raving about as soon as I landed in Japan. She said it’s even better than Ichiran, and it’s only available in Fukuoka. Unfortunately, I totally failed at following the directions she gave and I ended up not finding it on my first night in Japan. I therefore resolved never to leave Fukuoka without trying it.
My friends flew back to Manila one day ahead of me and I had a full day on my own in Fukuoka. They left without us having the opportunity to eat there. Luckily, we accidentally found out that there’s a branch of that ramen house at the Kitte mall just across our hotel. I didn’t have to get lost, after all.
Shin Shin is more traditional and straightforward than Ichiran. You just enter the restaurant, and they will lead you to an available booth. You’ll find two menus there, one of which has photos on it. If you can’t read Japanese, just use the classic ‘point-point’ strategy when ordering. That’s it.
For this one, I also ordered a plate of gyoza because my friend also highly recommended it. She said it’s nothing like the gyoza I’ve had before.
I took one sip of the broth without mixing or adding anything on it, and I just found myself uttering the words:
“OH. MY. GOD.”
It’s soooooooo GOOD. It’s really nothing like any ramen I’ve had before. The gyoza was really good, as well.
You want further proof of how much I loved the meal? Check this out.
I had three ramen experiences in my 5-day trip to Japan, all of which are good, but this is the only time I cleaned up my bowl.
As for the price? My meal cost just a little above JPY1100. In PH Peso, that’s less than php550.00 for a full meal of authentically delicious ramen and gyoza. A set like that would set you back above php700.00 in Manila. It’s DIRT CHEAP, if you ask me.