Ramen Ichiban

Heading towards "Deep South" (my husband's term for anything south of Kuebler) for a t-ball game last night, we had 30 minutes for dinner. "We'll just drive until something sounds good," I said. We've driven past Ramen Ichiban a thousand times, always thinking we should stop but we never have. Until last night.

As we walked through the door, the very friendly owner greeted us and my husband asked, "What's good?" He told us that most people are familiar with chicken teriyaki, but he really wanted one of us to try his Chicken Katsudon, the house specialty. I said I would try it and was asked if I wanted rice or noodles. After choosing rice, he asked if I wanted half and half. It's like he read my mind! Yes, yes I do. Hubby got the Spicy Beef with the noodles.

We sat down to wait as the owner and his wife (the only two employees) got promptly to work. Now, the decor is nothing to write home about, I'll be honest. It's a little run down and as evident by those who came in after us, this place seems to lend itself towards being a take-out place.

The Spicy Beef came out just a moment before my Chicken Katsudon and I reached over to snag a bite of the beef. Thin cut and tender as can be with a definite level of spice. My husband loved this dish, and as he wiped the sweat from his brow, would definitely order it again, maybe even asking for it to be even spicier!

My Chicken Katsudon came out and I was so pleased to see only white chicken meat. An egg was broken over the top and cooked. The chicken had a sweet and savory taste, which as we spoke to the owner/chef as we ate, we learned that was how real Japanese food should be, a combination of tastes. He also informed us that he was the only real Japanese restaurant in town (I can neither confirm nor deny this statement), that as a Japanese child growing up in a big family, they all shared responsibilities and that is where he learned to cook. The Chicken Katsudon that I was eating was the same as the one he ate as a child. It really was a delicious meal, different from anything else I have had in a teriyaki-style restaurant.

As we ate, we spoke with the owner about how the current state of the economy has really impacted his business. He has struggled just like probably every other restaurant owner in town. He has no other employees, after 16 years in business, his wife and he do it all. And while the atmosphere leaves something to be desired, the food is high quality, delicious and different from anything I have had in Salem.

My one complaint as a bit of an environmentalist? The styrofoam plates and flimsy plastic forks (one of which broke as I was cutting my chicken). Without employees, I am sure washing dishes presents a challenge. But I wonder if there's another, more environmentally safe disposable product?

We'll definitely be returning to Ramen Ichiban next time we get a craving for teriyaki-style food. I definitely want to try the gyoza and I know my husband is wondering just how hot the spicy beef can get. I suggest you try something new and support this local business!

Ramen Ichiban
4845 Commercial St SE
Salem, OR 97302

Weekdays: 11am - 8pm, Saturday: 12pm - 8pm


Beka said...

Hey Amber, I was just wondering what the prices are like. Price range?

Amber said...

Hey Beka, Prices were good, between $7 and $9 per dish.

Anonymous said...

This used to be one of me and my husband's regular lunch spots. He for the Kahlua Pork and myself for a bit of everything. But, alas, I changed jobs and never really head that far south anymore.

My husband had recently been in the area and had dinner there again with our son. Loved it. Same charming couple except now we're all about 15 years older.

My husband and I were just discussing the fact that if they were more centrally located we would likely make this a regular stop once again.

One funny side note. My son who is now in his 2nd year of Japanese at South High loved to look at their collection of Japanese magazines as a child.


Chuck Bradley said...

Good review Amber. I was beginning to think we were morphing into an advertising only forum. ;~) I've liked this place for years. Had lunch there a couple of weeks ago. The Curry Croquettes with Yaki Soba Noodles were a treat. SWMBO had Miso Ramen, which she liked. For us good food and nice people negate a lack of atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

I had their Pork Katsudon once and enjoyed it very much, as well as other dishes they offer. They have good food and are a friendly couple. My only concern is the same you have "styrofoam plates and flimsy plastic forks," alas nothing is perfect.

Anonymous said...

By the way ... ichiban in Japanese means "number one" or "the best."

Anonymous said...

The Gyoza is great. Thanks for the reminder. I will have to make the trip across town again. I agree with the owner this japanese food is hard to get in Salem. I wish this place was closer to downtown in a more central location.