Friday, December 18, 2009

Ichiran - Tokyo

Kyushu-Style Cubicle Ramen
Fresh off our respective flights to Tokyo, we hit the ground running. First up, Pingle's favorite ramen spot in Shibuya. If this doesn't look good to you, you're crazy. It was the tastiest ramen I've had in some time. But the way you get the ramen is even crazier - something I've never seen before.

First, outside the shop you buy food tickets from a vending machine. We both ordered a ramen and a soft boiled egg.

Next, a few steps inside the shop, you wait for one of the small squares to illuminate in the white panel on the left. When you see a light, you know a space has opened up. It's a space for one - a cubicle to be exact. There are 10 cubicles on the left and 11 on the right. The kitchen sits between them.
Luckily, two lights lit next to each other so we could sit side by side. I was going to need guidance. As you can see, each person sits in his cubicle alone and the kitchen is separated from the eaters by small curtains.

Here's a shot of my cubicle, it is walled on either side. If you look to the right, you can see the hand of one of the chef's passing Pingle's egg to her under the curtain.
It gets even more complicated now - in addition to the food tickets you slide under the curtain, you also fill out a "ramen form" in which you can customize your ramen. I don't remember all of the options, but some were ramen tenderness, fatty content, amount of chives, spiciness, etc. I got mine high on the tender and fatty scale and medium for the rest.
Your egg gets delivered first, along with peeling instructions. I mean, come on, do I really need to be told how to peel a soft-boiled egg? A few peels in I realized I should have paid more attention to it. I made a complete mess of it. "Babe can you help me with my egg?" I pleaded.

We traded before she realized how bad mine was. Just look at it, lol. She did manage to save it though and shortly each of us was deep into our bowls. It was the most private meal I've experienced. All I could hear was the occasional slurp from those around me and the murmur of the chefs at work behind the curtains.
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  1. I've never seen anyone peel a softboiled egg at all, much less the way the instructions tell you. I'm gonna try it. Stay tuned.

  2. To be clear, the soft-boiled egg had a hard exterior but a soft yolk, so it could be peeled. Pingle peeled hers perfectly, following the instructions.