It's difficult loving to eat Japanese food and living in Salem. There are the few sushi places and noodle places, but it's nothing like LA or Seattle. As a student of the Japanese language & history and frequent reader of their comics (aka manga ), its nice to be able to eat the food one hears about so often. Japanese food is considered very healthy in its use of fish, soybeans, seaweed, and raw and steamed vegetables. Of course Japanese cuisine has its comfort foods too.
Ramen Ichiban, on South Commercial, is a good example of Japanese comfort food. The menu contains noodle dishes, appetizers, and meat/rice combos. You can also order sushi. My husband and I, after going to the Asian market on Silverton road named A-Dong, felt like eating a Japanese lunch. I remembered seeing the ramen place down where the South Salem Joe's used to reside, now holding a Joe's Outlet and a thrift store. I love ramen (the fresh stuff you get in Little Tokyo in downtown LA not the 10 for a dollar stuff), so the name caught my attention right away.
The restaurant is small with geisha art on every wall. We walked in and were greeted by a Japanese man and woman. I'm pretty sure they are the owners, as the man spoke about his recipes and his most popular dishes. He asked if we had ever eaten there before. When he found out we hadn't , he told us what he felt were his best dishes and highly recommended them. Even though I was tempted by the noodle dishes like the Miso Ramen, I went with his first recommendation as it isn't quite soup weather yet. I ordered the Chicken Kastudon which is chicken breaded in panko with an omelet mixture poured on top. The meal came with my choice of yakisoba or rice. I chose yakisoba. My husband ordered the Teri Chicken (chicken teriyaki) with yakisoba. We both ordered green tea.
The prices were okay. They average about $7 an entree, extra for the noodles instead of rice, and $1.50 for the tea. You have to keep in mind this is a "bento" place which specializes in quick hot lunches, traditionally served for convenience. A bento's ratio is normally - 1/2 rice, 1/4 meat and 1/4 vegetable and cost around $7 a lunch.
Our lunches came out on styrofoam plates. I grabbed some plastic wear and napkins and sat down to eat. I would have preferred chopsticks, but it wasn't a huge problem. I personally think yakisoba is easier to eat with chopsticks, but not necessary. My chicken looked awesome. It was a nice big filet , with a good portion of noodles. When I took a bite, the chicken was a little tough. It got better as I ate my way into the thicker part of the filet. The marinade sauce was addicting and the noodles tasted just like yakisoba should -- sweet and spicy (not hot, but lots of spices). The veggies were a little soggier than I would like, but tasted good. They consisted of pickled cucumbers and napa cabbage. My husband's Teri Chicken tasted a little tough in some bites too, but the sauce was perfect. Japanese teriyaki sauce is not supposed to be sweet as so many American teriyaki places serve. The sauce was lightly sweet, mostly consisting of soy sauce, ginger, and, probably, mirin. I wanted to try the croquettes, so I took a few to-go. I'll let you know later how they are. They look and smell great!
All in all, this place was good. It wasn't awesome, but they serve foods most Americans will never taste in a lifetime. That alone is a good reason to come eat a nice lunch at Raman Ichiban. The ambiance leaves much to be desired, but the food is decent and authentic. I am planning to go back and try the ramen this fall.
Edit 9/20/2008: I ate the croquettes over a 2 day period for snacks & lunch. They were awesome! Even reheated in the microwave, they were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They were filled with potatoes and a little shredded pork and curry spices. I think the dipping sauce was a Korean bbq or hoisin sauce.