— #HappiNHungry (@happinhungry) October 19, 2016
The popular Japanese chain opened its first New York location last week and many were surprised by the prices. In fact, some dishes were close to twice the price of what is charged in Japan and Hong Kong. Without add-ons, a bowl of ramen is pretty dang expensive at $19:
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.
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.”
Despite the prices, the place has been packed. You can view the menu here.
74 Johnson Avenue
(between Ingraham Avenue and Meserole Street)
Mon-Sun 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.