Friday, March 8, 2013

Palate Cleanser 1: Oodles of Noodles & Automated Service

Konbanwa! (Good evening!) It is now 20 days until my departure and it has been a little while since I've updated this blog. Not much has changed since my last post, but I figured I'd write something new anyway. For those of you who've spent some time in Japan, you may be familiar with this post's contents, so enjoy the pictures. For those of you who haven't, I'd like to tell you a little bit about two things; the vending machine culture in Japan and tonkotsu broth.

Bite 8: First off, many people think of Japan as a very technology-friendly place to be. However true or untrue that may be, Japan does have the highest ratio of vending machines to humans in the world (approximately 24 machines per person living here.) Some of them talk to you, have touch-screens, play video, or all of the above.

Personally, I think the abundance of vending machines here is rather great. Not only because they're frikkin cool to look at, but also because the majority of them only contain beverages. As you'll notice above, only a couple of those drinks are soft-drinks. Most of them are tea, coffee, or vitamin supplements. That, my friends, is the direction we should be going in.

Although most of these machines are located outdoors, many can be found inside restaurants, where they are used to expedite service. Owners of ramen shops usually have a predilection towards using these machines, as they usually experience a high volume  of costumers during peak meal hours. This evening, I had dinner at Ichiran Ramen, where they use several different kinds of machines to help move the swarms of people that are fond of eating there. I'll walk you through the process.

Step 1: Prepare yourself for the delicious ramen that awaits you while staring at the cool sign outside.

Step 2: Walk in and select everything you'll need to leave you comatose. Pay.

Step 3: Check seat availability and proceed to the nearest vacant spot.

Step 4: Observe how the personal eating areas slightly resemble voting polls. This is for optimum flavor appreciation. Ichiran Ramen believes that one must fully concentrate on the complex flavors that a serving of their delectable noodles has to offer. I concur.

Step 5: Slide your ticket from the vending machine located at the entrance under the opening in your booth. Wait for all hell to break loose in your mouth.

Step 6: Follow the instructions on the panel. Repeat as needed.

There you have it. You are now fully capable of ordering ramen at about half of all noodle establishments in Japan. If there's no English print and you can't read Japanese, just press some buttons. Chances are whatever you get is going to rock anyway.

Now that I've given my version of a ramen shop tour, I'd like to pose some questions. Do you think this would work in a similar setting in the US? I'm curious to know what you foodies out there think about it. Your comments would be much appreciated. I happen to think this could be a very helpful tool for young entrepreneurs who are interested in opening up a casual dining restaurant and are trying to cut back on service costs. What do you think? In what kind of establishment would you appreciate ordering from a machine? Keep in mind that there will always be an employee around that can answer questions and make slight adjustments to your order, so you wouldn't be facing any "404: page not found" situations.

Some extra thoughts. For those of you who don't know exactly what tonkotsu ramen is, I'll elaborate. Tonkotsu is a broth made from boiling down pig bones, fat and collagen for many hours, over high heat. The resulting taste is quite buttery, almost milky. Pardon my language, but it's fucking delicious. Anyway, if you have the chance to try some, go for it. I'm thinking about using tonkotsu in a variety of ways once I get back to the states. Maybe a tonkotsu stew. I feel like hearty potatoes, carrots and maybe rabbit or some kind of game might fuse well with the broth. What do you think? What kind of spin would you put on this popular Japanese dish?

And just for fun, I had this little piece of awesomeness for desert:

I actually paid about $1.50 for this at a 7-eleven (yet another convenience Japan is fond of.) Mont Blancs seem to be all the rage over here. I can see why. They're amazing. I wonder why they're so uncommon back in the states. Hm, food for thought.

1 comment:

  1. Although it's probably great for expediting service, it would be weird to not be serviced by a fellow human while dining out. I'm personally not so fond of machinery like this :/


Total Pageviews