In a world buzzing with endless distractions, like celebrity pregnancies or your best friend's love life, it's rare that we find a few minutes to enjoy a meal alone. Some people dread the idea of eating at a restaurant solo, yet they face their fears by hiding behind a book or Instagram to avoid judgmental glances of strangers.
At ICHIRAN, a Japanese ramen chain that recently opened in Brooklyn, guests are invited to set aside all of these interruptions (books, phones, iPads) when they come in to dine.
The restaurant is created to help customers practice mindfulness while eating their food (an unusual concept in a city where commuters often cram burritos and burgers into their mouths on the subway). So I visited ICHIRAN to see if I could break distracting habits and just focus on my meal.
Outside of the dining area, a panel lights up when seats become available. Diners are directed to solo booths that are meant to help customers concentrate on their food and its flavor.
ICHIRAN discourages talking, cell phones, and other interruptions> Even the servers remain hidden behind bamboo curtains. All that is seen of them is their hands when they take your order and serve you the food.
The restaurant serves one main dish, tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen, with the option of a few add-ons such as dried seaweed and slices of pork belly.
Ordering at ICHIRAN is a breeze. All you have to do is check a few boxes on a piece of paper. It's like the most exciting multiple choice test you'll ever take because it asks you to pick your preferences—like the richness of the broth or the thickness of the noodles.
You can take all the time you need to fill this out, and when you're finished, simply press a button, and a server will whisk away your menu without a word.
When my bowl of ramen arrived, I snapped a few pictures of the food, then quickly hid my phone for the rest of the meal.
While eating without distractions felt pretty uncomfortable at first, the silence in the restaurant (besides the clanking of utensils and bowls) helped ease the awkwardness I felt, and left me to really enjoy the textures and spices in the ramen.
Not only does ICHIRAN serve a simple and savory Tonkotsu ramen, but it also introduces a unique way of enjoying food. It's a relaxing place to dine alone, and while you're there you will learn a lot about reducing common distractions—even if it is just for half an hour. Happy (quiet) slurping.