I got up at 5.30am for this bowl of noodles.
Ichiran is the latest ramen chain to hit Hong Kong. It’s famous for it’s individual ramen bar counter design with tiny booths separating each customer rather than a single communal long bar. Their Hong Kong outlet is located in the trendy shopping district of Causeway Bay on Hong Kong island. The restaurant only seats 36, so there’s a bit of artificial scarcity going on.
What that has done is pushed the waiting time of the queue to around 3 hours during peak periods. Can you imagine it? Queueing 3 hours for a bowl of ramen? I certainly couldn’t, so I decided to pop over during an off-peak period.
That brings us back to the first paragraph. Having decided to take an MTR to Causeway Bay, I got up at 5.30 to grab an early train (the MTR starts running at around 6 am). I managed to arrive at Ichiran at around 6.45 am and… there was already a queue. Granted it was shorter than the peak queue but there was still a queue. Who queues for ramen at 6.45 am? Me, for starters.
Since I was already there, I dutifully took my place in line. After 30 mins, I found myself inside the shop where… there was yet another queue! Yes, the external queue leads up to the internal queue.
While waiting in line *inside* the shop, they hand you an order sheet. You fill up what you want and wait for seat to free up. Once a seat is free, the waitstaff will show you to your booth. Just hand your order slip to the person inside your booth (yes, inside your booth) and they’ll quickly be back with your bowl of ramen.
Look up at the picture above, see the bamboo screen / blind in the middle. There’s a server behind there. After you sit down, hit the call button and up goes the bamboo screen. You hand an anonymous server your order slip and he / she comes back with the ramen. I say anonymous because it is – the blind is rather small and not at eye-level. You can’t really make out the face of the person behind it unless you duck down a little. Most of your interaction with the server behind the screen will via disembodied hands.
And that, my dear readers, is the dining experience at Ichiran’s Hong Kong outlet for which I woke up at 5.30am and stood in line for 40 minutes.
Pictured above is an individual place setting at a ramen booth at Ichiran. You can’t really see the partitions to the left and right of me but this little bit that you see here is all there is of your counter; partitions on the left and right side keep you and your ramen slurping face away from other diners. Zoom out and have a look at an overview of the dining hall here.
Oh, btw you should drink up the delicious broth down to the last drop because there’s a surprise waiting for you at the end.