Fuji Ichiban - Retaining the Title as Guam's Ramen King
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
"IRASHAIMASE!!" is the enthusiastic greeting and welcome you receive whenever you enter Fuji Ichiban Ramen. It's like clockwork - does a hidden door chime goes off when the door is opened? However they do it, they all seem to be on the same wave-length whenever a new body enters - and amazingly the same goes for departing guests, who get an appreciative "Arigato Gozaimashita" upon departure. The staff (both kitchen and servers) have got it right as they fully understand that they are there to serve you, the customer, and enjoy acknowledging your presence and thanking you for your business. You'd almost think you were being congratulated for surviving the San Vitores obstacle course and finding a place to park! The road construction is not helping anyone's business (except the contractor!) Regardless, they make you believe the motto emblazoned on the menu "Your Smile is Our Reward".
The real reason people go to Fuji Ichiban is not for the "ego stroke" but for the affordable casual ramen experience - nothing takes away hunger and loneliness better than a hot bowl of tasty ramen. The Fuji Ichiban I location where I dined this particular evening was across from Acanta Mall and Stanlee's Liquor Store...and I must say that it was later than usual for me...I could tell because Stanlee's lights were just turned out! This store is a 24-hour shop which makes all the sense in the world because ramen is eaten all day long and is the perfect late night/early morning "comfort" food. On evenings like this, you'll see a lot of locals eating here, many of them just getting off their hotel shifts, while others may be in between. Couples, families, friends, and tourists alike all enjoy the casual ambiance of Fuji Ichiban. This store has nearly doubled it's dining room area since the last time I ate here. My original review was in January 2000 (that's some time ago), and designated Fuji Ichiban as "Guam's Ramen King." There have been some menu additions since then as well. But it is still a simple, straightforward, no-frills kind of eatery where you can sit at a table or mosey up to the counter and slurp your noodles. The menu has color pictures of every dish served so you'll be able to tell by looking what kind of dish you're going to eat.
I opted for one of the Value Sets, the Karaage Ramen ($9.75), which is Soy Ramen, fried Karaage chicken and a Side Salad. The Value Sets are great for single diners, as they allow you to enjoy a little variety with your noodles without having to buy a separate appetizer. However, you can almost make a meal of the appetizers. They have great Gyoza ($4.50), Kimchee ($2.75), and Karaage (Deep Fried Chicken $4.50). The appetizer portion is slightly larger than the combo size portions. Fuji Ichiban Ramen uses fresh high-quality ramen noodles that are served in a very flavorful broth. There are several types of ramen styles so you can order according to your preference. The Shio Ramen, shio means 'salt' in Japanese so this broth is straightforward without any soy sauce, goes for $6.75. The regular Soy Ramen has a yellow "Local Favorite" banner on it. Another bannered "Local Favorite" is the Taiwan Ramen ($7.50), and it has a spicy soy taste. The Taiwan Ramen has 2 red chili peppers beside the bowl, designating it as "Hot". The temperature legend breaks down the heat intensity from a mild 1-pepper, to a hot 2-pepper, and a spicy 3-pepper rating! Two dishes, the Shio Chashu Ramen ($8) and the Shisen Miso Chashu Ramen ($8.50), are 3-pepper dishes.
Another dish that I had before was the Yakisoba ($6.75), and they do a decent job with their stir-fried noodles. A newly-introduced dish is the Chashu-don ($3), which is rice topped with Original Chashu. Something I'd not seen before was a rice dish called Tenmusu ($4), which is a rice ball with shrimp tempura. The Karaage I tasted was notable...it was breast meat cooked just right so it was still moist...the batter seemed to have a little powdered ginger and was crisper and better than I recall on my last visit. The beer prices are reasonable, too, with Japanese beer available for $2.75/bottle, which is just a quarter more than the popular American beers and that's not bad for Tumon!
There are two Fuji Ichiban Ramen locations still open - down one since Typhoon Pongsona - with No. 2 located across from the Reef Hotel next to Seoul Korean restaurant. That location, however, has shorter hours, and is open daily from 11am to 12 midnight. Take-out can be ordered by calling 647-4555 (No. 1) and 646-4477 (No. 2). As testament to the popularity of their take-out, I have been in the offices of more than one large Tumon restaurant at lunchtime when the staff is ordering take-out from Fuji Ichiban instead of eating "in-house" food. The one thing both Fuji Ichiban Ramen restaurants do is to consistently serve quality, inexpensive, and tasty dishes to customers who appreciate this restaurant's brand of service by making return visits. "Come and get your "Noodle On" at Fuji Ichiban - Guam's place for Ramen.