Hundreds of fans of the Japanese ramen chain Ichiran lined up before the new Bushwick location opened at 11 a.m. yesterday, but some of them balked at least one difference in New York City’s location — the price. One bowl of the tonkotsu ramen costs $18.90, before add-ons like noodle refills. Even with tip included in the Ichiran prices, many people were irked at how much more expensive it was than at other locations in Japan and Hong Kong. In Japan, the same bowl costs $7.
One fan tweeted a picture of her bill in a Hong Kong location, which came out to less than $13 after a 10 percent service charge. “It's crazy that they thought they could pull a fast one especially because most people in line are die hard Ichiran fans who have had their bowl of tonkotsu ramen from their other locations,” she writes. Fan Dan Gausman, who waited in line for two hours yesterday, also experienced a sticker shock, knowing that a bowl costs less than half the price in Japan. He enjoyed his meal, calling the broth “delicious,” but he didn’t think it warranted the price, he says in an email to Eater. “Broths are simple pleasures. Not $20 pleasures,” he says. “They should be embarrassed of their prices.”
People were also disappointed to see the prices of drinks and add-ons. A soda or tea costs $4.90 at Ichiran, which multiple people called “insane.” Three extra slices of chashu pork costs $3.90, and an extra order of noodles, called kae-dama, costs $3.90. By comparison, a bonus chashu order at Ippudo costs $3 and kae-dama costs $2, though tip is not included in the prices at Ippudo.
Ichiran Ramen $19.80 !! added Kikurage Mushroom $2.9 and Scallion topping $2.9....so this Ramen is $25.6! soup is yummy but Chashu pork topping needs to be improved. Verdict? Not sure if it is worth coming to Bushwick just for this expensive Ramen... #nycfoodblogger #fujikoちゃんny #fujikonyc #nycfoodie #restaurantopening #ichiranramen #ichiranbrooklyn #bushwick #一蘭 高いよー25ドルもするラーメンなんてー涙
But Ichiran’s director of operations Hana Isoda argues that while the prices sound high, they are not far from the city’s other top ramen-yas. The base cost of the Ichiran bowl is about $16, plus a tip that’s included in the final cost. That’s what brings the total price to $18.90. The original tonkotsu ramen at Ippudo costs $15, and the tonkotsu at Mu Ramen costs $16. (Update: An earlier version of this post noted that Ichiran’s $18.90 price included tax. A spokeswoman from the restaurant misspoke. The price does not include tax.) Ramen costs between $14 and $16 at Nakamura, all before tip. “We’re basing it off the market cost of New York,” Isoda says. She adds that ramen costs $5 to $8 on average in Japan, while ramen costs about $12 on average in Hong Kong, explaining that their bowls are comparable to the market in other locations as well. Ippudo similarly charges far less in Japan than they do in New York, about half the price.
Prices simply need to be higher in New York than in Japan, Isoda says. They take pride in making the Bushwick location as similar to the ones in Japan as possible, meaning they ship both the dashi, or soup broth, and the hiden no tare, or the special spicy red paste. That costs money. Ichiran’s rent here is also higher than many locations in Japan, and the cost of doing things like bringing Japanese staff to the U.S. adds to the expense, too. And the fact is that many things like ingredients in New York cost twice as much as they do elsewhere, she says. “It’s just the market is completely different,” she says. “There’s really nothing we can do.”
The location in New York is different from many other outposts in other ways as well. They pay for both the restaurant and the production facility, which will eventually be the headquarters for all new locations in the United States. It could theoretically make up to 8,000 bowls of ramen per day, and they plan to open at least one new location in Manhattan in the next few years, sourcing from the Bushwick kitchen. “When you’re in New York Ichiran, you’re going to feel like you’re in Japan,” Isoda says. “That experience that we’re giving the customers in New York is what we’re paying for.”
Knowing that tips were included did not entirely ease the pain for some customers. Gausman experienced a few service hiccups, like the order of kae-dama coming so slowly that his leftover broth was cold by the time the noodles arrived. He understood that the staff was busy because of opening day, but the situation made him feel more annoyed than he usually would about the price. It “means that when the service isn’t good — you pay for it anyway,” he writes.
Still, overall buzz from the food itself was positive. People seemed to like the broth, the noodles, and experience of dining solo, one of the signatures of the chain. Isoda says they ended up serving more than 1,000 people on Wednesday. Most restaurant chains that open in New York end up charging more here than elsewhere. So a bowl of ramen may cost more than double the price in New York, but it’s still cheaper than a plane ticket to Japan. At press time, a round trip ticket to Tokyo costs about $1,000. Take a look at the full menu below, and keep the feedback on Ichiran coming.