By Joshua Millikan
Have you ever wondered what Japanese people actually eat? When you think of Japanese food, is the very first thing you think of sushi? Well, if you want to try some authentic, healthy Japanese food that’s not sushi, Ramen Ichiban is where you need to go.
Ramen Ichiban, located in south Salem, is a couple-run Japanese restaurant with a down-to-earth atmosphere. It is not your typical Asian sit-down-and-order restaurant. It’s more like hole-in-the-wall pizza shop, only with traditional Japanese art on the walls. Decorating them you’ll find drawing of sumo wrestling moves and many restaurant reviews from local papers.
The man who runs the restaurant is very kind and, if you don’t know what something is, he will explain it. When I asked, he said the restaurant’s most popular dish is katsudon, typically a bowl or rice topped with deep-fried pork, egg and condiments. Sushi is not on the menu, but it can be purchased by the platter if you order 24 hours ahead of time. The restaurant does offer many options of ramen, types of noodles and bentos.
I ordered the katsudon made with the chicken katsu and yakisoba noodles, and my wife ordered her favorite chicken katsu with rice. The order did not take long to come out. Because of its sauce, the katsudon was a little moist, but it was not soggy. The chicken katsu was also very tasty.
The portions filled both my wife and me. The soft drinks only have a one-refill policy, so you may not want to put a lot of ice in your drink. Another thing to note is that if you’re getting take-out, expect a small fee of 25 or 30 cents.
I was able to talk to a customer who was on his way out when we were arriving. He said, “[I] lived five years in Japan. [The food] tastes the same.”
You can eat a meal at Ramen Ichiban for $6-9, higher than your general fast food joint but reasonable for a sit-down restaurant. For $2-4, you can buy a variety of side orders –gyoza (fried pot sticker), mushui (rice balls), ad nappa and cucumber pickles.
Overall, Ramen Ichiban has hooked me as a long-time customer. It is refreshing to have authentic Japanese food that is more than just sushi. Everything from the laid-back environment to the food quality, Ramen Ichiban is a hit. It’s located at 4845 Commercial St. SE and can be reached by phone at 503-391-6618.