Updated: November 26, 2019
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Is "Fancy" Ichiran Ramen in Ginza Special, or Just More Expensive?

Ginza

If you're a fan of ramen, you've no doubt heard of (and probably been to) Ichiran, one of the most popular and widespread Hakata-style ramen shops in the world. But did you know that a new Ichiran opened in Ginza, Tokyo in October of 2019 that serves "fancier" ramen dishes? We went to see if there's really any difference.

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Is the "Fancy" Ichiran Ramen in Ginza any Different? We Wanted to Know.

Ichiran_ramen_bowl
That's right, the famous Hakata-style ramen chain 'Ichiran' recently opened a brand-new location in Ginza, famous for its expensive stores and Michelin-starred restaurants.

According to the official Ichiran website, the new Ginza location serves ramen with specially developed noodles and chashu that can only be eaten there.

Just how different is it really? We wanted to know, so we headed straight to Ginza to find out.

But First, We Dropped by a Regular Ichiran to Compare the Difference

normal_ichiran_ramen_entrance
The new Ginza Ichiran is located 3 minutes from Shimbashi Station, so our first stop was the regular Ichiran Ramen in Shimbashi.

We went at peak lunchtime (12 pm) and had to wait about 30 minutes to get in! It's quite a well-known and popular ramen shop, after all.
Ichiran_ramen_order_sheet
For those who have never been to Ichiran, take note of the special ordering system. After buying a meal ticket from the vending machine, fill out the order sheet with all of your preferences. This time, we went with all of the recommended options to get a standard bowl of ramen.

The Standard Ichiran 'Ramen'

Ichiran_ramen_bowl
'Ramen' ¥980
This is the classic 'Ramen' with thin noodles and a couple slices of chashu floating in a cream-colored broth and dash of the secret red flavoring on the top.
normal_ichiran_noodles
Ichiran's signature noodles are thin and straight.
They're easy to slurp and are the perfect thickness to match the soup, which is a fairly light tonkotsu broth that gets a wonderful kick from the secret red flavoring.

normal_ichiran_chashu
The chashu is meaty and fills your mouth with umami as you chew it.

After eating the standard Ichiran ramen, it's easy to see why it is so well-loved by the masses. It doesn't have an overly powerful taste or smell that sometimes accompanies tonkotsu ramen and is easy to eat over and over again.

How does the ramen in Ginza compare, though? We headed to the Ginza Ichiran next to see for ourselves!

The Relative Fanciness of the Ginza Ichiran is Felt as Soon as you Reach the Entrance

ichiran_ginza_store_entrance
The Ginza Ichiran is located a 3-minute walk from the Ginza Exit of Shimbashi Station. As soon as we got the entrance, the difference was already apparent. The Ginza Ichiran has a special golden sign and Ginza-esque lanterns on either side of the entrance.

Surprisingly, we didn't have to wait at all to get in when we arrived at around 1:00 pm. Perhaps the word hasn't spread about this place quite yet.
ichiran_ginza_booths
Ginza Ichiran has the signature individual "flavor focus counters," but small details in the trip and materials give this restaurant a slightly fancier feel.

Just like in the regular Ichiran, we again ordered the 'Ramen' with everything as recommended.

Is it... Ramen?

ichiran_ramen_box
After just a couple minutes of waiting, the 'Ramen' (¥1,180) was delivered...
ichiran_ramen_ginza_ramen_box_unopened
In a large box!!

In Japanese, these traditional stacked boxes are called 重箱 (juubako) and have traditionally been used for fancy donburi (rice bowls) called 'juubako donburi.'

It's a fancy touch to be sure, but is the ramen inside any different than normal?
ginza_ichiran_ramen_box_open
Ginza Ichiran's 'Ramen' ¥1,180
Apart from the obvious difference in the shape of the bowl, everything else looks mostly the same. The chashu, however, is noticeably different with a large, round shape.

Ginza Ichiran's version of the ramen is ¥1,180 compared with ¥980 for the regular Ichiran ramen. Is it really worth the extra ¥200, though?
ichiran_ramen_ginza_soup
First, we tried the soup.
Apparently, it's exactly the same soup as used at any other Ichiran, and the flavor was the same. If anything, the soup near the larger chashu was slightly sweetened by the sauce, but that's about it.

The Specially-Developed Noodles

ichiran_ginza_noodles
The "specially developed" noodles in the ramen at Ginza Ichiran were smooth, slurpable, and with a slightly sweet wheaty flavor. To be honest, it was difficult to tell much of a difference between these and the standard noodles. However, these perhaps had slightly more of a wheaty sweetness to them.

The Special Chashu - This is Definitely Better!

ichiran_ramen_ginza_chachu
The last thing to compare was the chashu. The first noticeable difference is the much large size of this chashu! The large, round pieces of chashu are fatty, sweet, and so tender that they fall apart as you eat them. This is the clear difference between the Ginza and regular ramens!

Conclusion:

Both the regular Ichiran and the new fancy Ginza Ichiran have a distinct character and dining experience that is unique to Ichiran. The biggest difference with the Ginza bowl of ramen is the vessel that it is served in and the Chashu, which is undeniable of a higher quality. Whether it's worth the extra ¥200 is questionable, but it's certainly great for a cool Instagram picture. Try it yourself and see what you think!
DeLong
I live in west Tokyo and spend most of my time thinking about food or going bouldering.

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