Japanese ramen chain Ichiran’s plan for NYC tonkotsu domination starts making headway next week — the first Manhattan location opens to the public on Wednesday, March 28 in Midtown, at 132 West 31st St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
The latest location leans into the original version of the restaurant, as popularized in Japan: Diners order bowls of ramen in 46 cubicle-like solo dining seats called “Ramen Focus Booths,” part of founder Manabu Yoshitomi’s idea that people should be slurping noodles without the distractions of other human beings. The original Bushwick location offers some communal seating, but here, it’s only about dining alone.
Ramen orders — customizable by richness, saltiness, and noodle texture — are selected by filling out a piece of paper and passed to server after pressing a button. The server, who stands behind the booth and remains faceless, eventually slides the bowl back to the diner and then closes a curtain for solitude.
It’s not necessarily a quiet meal; beeps, dings, and lights signify various parts of the meal to make for a video game-like experience. Still, the ramen itself already ranks among the better in the city when it comes to pork-rich tonkotsu broths. In a review, the Times gave the restaurant one star, calling it “rounded and substantial.”
This is the second New York outpost for the restaurant, which made its local debut in Bushwick in 2016 to a line with hundreds of people. By 2020, the company plans to open two more, though exact locations are still being determined — all of them supplied by a noodle factory in Bushwick and likely continuing to encourage New Yorkers to dine alone.
Ichiran, which has more than 70 locations around the world, is one of many Japanese chains tackling NYC . Fellow ramenya Ippudo was among the first to open in the city, and the locations remain perpetually busy. Others, like Ikinari Steak, TsuruTonTon, and E.A.K. Ramen have joined more recently, and just like Ikinari, nearly all of them have ambitions to spread a state of Tokyo everywhere in New York.