Can New York support a troop surge in the ramen wars? A Chowhound poster recently reported that an Ichiran ramen shop would open in Greenpoint. While Ramen Setagaya and Momofuku vie for soup-bowl supremacy, Ichiran, one of Japan’s top ramen chains, is making its entry in an area better known for tenements and pork stores.
Meanwhile, a cursory look at Ichiran’s Website reminds us of all the reasons we don’t like Japanese chains and continue to prefer Momofuku to them. It’s not so much a question of taste; they just weird us out a little. First of all, it’s creepy that the elements are all in quotation marks, e.g. “soup.” Is it not really soup? What else might it be? Then there is the usual mumbo jumbo about the painstaking care taken with every element, and the preposterous claims made for them: “A main feature of our straight noodles is that they slip easily down the throat.” That’s good to know. The most un–New York part, though, is the method Ichiran uses to replace plates. Rather than just ask for another bowl, a button at the counter allows customers to discreetly alert the staff, a plus for meek maidens who won’t have to speak up and lose face. “When you order a replacement plate,” the site assures us, “all you have to do is put your plate on the button in front of the table … Since you can order without having to raise your voice, this is an especially popular system with our female customers.” Hey, this is Greenpoint! Nobody minds raising his voice. But Ichiran will find that out soon enough.