warm tastes

introducing ganko ittetsu ramen

Craving something more substantial and filling than instant ramen that you can find in a grocery store and whip up with a pot of hot water? My roommate and I were hungry for comfort food when we finished unpacking on move-in day. We did not have to venture far before we stumbled upon the newly opened restaurant next to Pokéworks on Thayer Street: Ganko Ittetsu Ramen.

I was not prepared for the sensory overload when I walked in. Colors flashed before my eyes: black, white, grey, and a splash of red. The staff greeted us in Japanese, and we were quickly directed to a table. From there, I made more sense of the quaint surroundings.

The spacious, clean, dark-grey details and repurposed wood tables sprinkle this modern ramen house with decor focused on traditional, intuitive, Japanese simplicity. A beautiful wall mural shows enthusiastic ramen lovers gulping down their ramen and savoring every drop of the broth—the restaurant is probably hoping for the same reactions from customers.

Tables are arranged in twos and fours. Though tables sit close to one another, the proximity doesn’t feel too awkward—the ambiance is lively, full of conversation. You can even observe the chefs’ magic live if you grab a seat at the counter.  

Once seated, the staff hands you a menu featuring six ramen flavors. Since that first visit with my roommate, I have become a regular, shamelessly sampling every flavor, and on a recent visit, I had the opportunity to chat with head chef, Ken Iwaoka. By the restaurant’s bustling kitchen, he explained the intricate planning behind the ingredients and combinations that make up each Sapporo-style ramen dish.

What makes Sapporo ramen special? The ramen’s base broth and sauce are mixed in the wok to create a richer flavor.

The basic components of each dish are broth and noodles, with varying sauces that distinguish the six ramen options. Ganko Ittetsu’s broth is locally sourced and never frozen, made up of 70 percent chicken and 30 percent pork stocks. The restaurant’s custom-made ramen—a bouncy, thick noodle—is found in four menu items while thinner noodles complement the lighter Shoyu and Shio ramens. Ganko Ittetsu’s uniquely thick soy sauce comes from a Japanese factory. The unpasteurized sauce is not fermented during transport, giving it a short shelf life, but it’s worth it. A variety of toppings help balance the flavors of each dish: For instance, onions and scallions neutralize the Gantetsu Shoyu’s oiliness. From corn to wakame (edible seaweed), every element is flavorful. And if you’re hungry for something extra, you can choose to add an extra serving of noodles or another protein: chashu (melting soft, mildly flavored sliced pork) or seasoned ground pork.

Let’s untangle the mysteries of each ramen dish!

Tan Tan, the restaurant’s signature sesame option, is slightly nutty and mildly spiced. The added spicy garlic oil enhances the depth of the buttery, silky, rich broth. This is a great rendition of China’s original soupless noodle dish, tantan!

When you want some spiciness in your life, Gankara Miso is your go-to. Packed full of flavor, this dish is spicy but not overwhelming, with perfectly crunchy bites of corn and tender tan-tan pork. If you’re wary of spice, you can ask for the spicy paste on the side. This miso-based ramen is a house favorite!

You cannot go wrong with Ganko Ittetsu’s “Signature Shoyu Ramen.” Shoyu is one of the most traditional kinds of ramen: basic and well-known. The soup’s dried fish stock and diced onions add character.

Shio (translates to salt) is the “Hokkaido-style shio ramen.” This clear broth tastes like a combination of chicken and pork. Ingredients like sea salt, fish stock, dried scallop, kelp sauce, and more complement each other to create a light but hearty broth. I drank all of it! Shio might sound simple, but like Shoyu, this ramen is difficult to perfect.

Ganko Ittetsu’s heaviest, most filling dish is Gantetsu Shoyu. This ramen includes more oil and toppings—including bean sprouts, scallions, sliced and diced chashu—to balance out the dish. Dry fish powder and fried garlic bring out the ramen’s flavor, leaving me satisfied.

Miso is “the origin of Sapporo style.” Sapporo is the largest city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. According to the history section of Ganko Ittetsu’s website, the famous miso ramen was invented in 1954 when a customer asked for a miso and pork soup with noodles. As miso was invented in Sapporo, this dish adapts the signature Sapporo recipe, with miso sauce giving the dish a mild flavor and a twist of chicken lightening the pork broth.  

Ganko Ittetsu’s ramen is authentic, delicious, and full of flavor. You can taste the love that goes into each and every bowl of heaven. Every noodle tastes fresh and bouncy, creating the perfect bite. Along with flavorful sauces, rich broth coats the noodles perfectly. Every ingredient in the bowl is expertly combined and prepared—down to each perfectly-cooked egg. Don’t hesitate to try the condiments found at each table: ground white pepper and shichimi (a spicy powdered seasoning). Though Ganko Ittetsu’s only protein is pork, vegetarian or seafood options may be available in the future. Moving forward, Ganko Ittetsu wants to stay focused on ramen—their speciality—but according to the head chef, they are open to adding appetizers, additional toppings, different ramen flavors, and more.

This niche restaurant is a welcome addition to the Providence food scene, perfect for college students craving an authentic taste of Japanese ramen and good enough to rival Ken’s Ramen downtown. Not only does Ganko Ittetsu Ramen feature high-quality, flavorful ramen and generous portions sizes, but I also look forward to the ambiance every time I visit: the friendly, attentive staff, artwork, and decor. I am excited to return for more, especially as the weather gets colder and days get shorter this fall: Some days just call for a warm bowl of ramen.