I’m often asked where chefs are eating these days.Each month we’ll take a look at a different spot that industry insiders can’t get enough of.
Ichicoro – What is a “Ramen Army” and how do I enlist?
Ichicoro is the brainchild of a collective group of international chefs and beverage experts helmed by restaurateur, Noel Cruz.
The chef team consists of Branden Lenz, who has cooked throughout the U.S. and South America, most recently of Chef’s Club in Colorado; Masa Takaru and Chakira Hiratsu, who have been serving Japanese cuisine, especially ramen, out of New York.
The beverage team consists of John Isom, curator of beverage programs including Michelin-starred Junoon; Jessica Wholers, mixologist of Cien Fuegos and manager of Clover club; and Choun Yeh, whisky and spirit expert of the renowned Rye House in Chelsea.
Together, the team has composed a mixture of styles and traditions to create a new type of ramen house.The menu consists of traditional ramen from Sapporo and Tokyo with a Tampa flair, such as grilled meats, spice and citrus elements to reflect the regional ingredients.The newest addition is the trademark CuBaoNo, a wild take on the Cuban sandwich of Tampa, served in a bao, then pressed.And yes, the CuBaoNo is as life-changing as it sounds.
Not to be outdone, the beverage menu, too, goes above and beyond the norm. You’ll find a list of local Tampa beers, obscure Japanese beers, and even a frozen beer machine that produces a slushy-like head to your Kirin Ichiban (think: magical, fluffy beer cloud).The sake list is specialized with easy-to-understand tasting notes.The shochu-centered cocktails are beautifully constructed and named after the “Final Fantasy” video game franchise.The team experiments often with oak aging Shochu, smoking syrups and Japanese flavorings. They have even begun working with brewers for special beers they can enhance to experience.
The atmosphere has been carefully thought out with modern design, hip hop music and art from all over including a centerpiece by renowned NYC street artist Faust. The team is collaborating with Cass Contemporary which brings in local and international Artists to showcase while you slurp noodles.
All together the Ramen Army, as they often call themselves and their many fans, is expanding beyond a simple Ramen Shop with eclectic concepts and diverse collaborations in their Tampa home as well as New York, and Los Angeles to name a few.
Though new to the scene, Ichicoro is quickly becoming one of the hottest ramen spots in the nation.Yes, you will likely wait to get a table, but some restaurants are just worth it.This one not only lives up to the hype; it exceeds expectations.(I’m still dreaming of their Tonkotsu ramen!)
So why is Ichicoro a spot where chefs eat?Simple:The food is always the show, but the food is never a show.Compositions are authentic, not fussy, and always executed with skill and panache.