Fuji Ichiban - Guam's Ramen King
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
"IRASHAIMASE!!" was the rousing Japanese "welcome" I received as I entered the doors to Tumon's Fuji Ichiban Ramen, located directly across San Vitores Road from the Acanta Mall. It wasn't June, so I didn't think it was a surprise birthday party for me (though it seemed like it for a instant), and after quickly looking around I noticed the exuberant greeting was just that - a greeting! Nice touch. I sat down at the polished woodgrain counter and looked around this busy restaurant. There were several tables with families and other diners up at the counter down from me, many were absorbed with their ramen bowls, eating with spoons, chopsticks and forks. Fortunately, I'd brought my coupon for a free order of their famous Gyoza (Chinese Pork Dumplings-$4.50) that I'd printed from the guamdiner.com Specials section.
After looking over their colorful menu with illustrated food pictures and descriptions for all appetizers and entrees, I decided to order the Karaage Ramen ($9.75) which is a combination of deep fried Karaage chicken, salad, and a bowl of soy flavored ramen noodles. This would prove to be more than enough food to eat and would give me a good review selection.
I picked up the menu again to see some of the items I didn't order. The Tenmusu (tempura shrimp rice ball - $4.00) looked good, and so did the Chahan (fried rice -$5.75), which one of my neighbors was eating. Several types of ramen are available--Shio Ramen (salty taste - $6.75; Soy Ramen - ($6.75); Miso Ramen (miso taste - $7.50); and Taiwan Ramen (spicy soy taste - $7.50). Several variants of these have "Chasu" in their names, signifying more meat added. While reading, a chorus of voices in the background exclaimed "Arigato Gozaimashita" (Thank you very much!) as the doors opened and some customers departed! Man, that's staying in touch with customers....certainly not a place for shy people! I noticed throughout my time there that everyone was greeted and bade farewell in the same manner. The strong voices of the cooks carried the loudest, and since the open kitchen's location was just across from the entrance door, they have a definite sense of the presence of customers. I doubt that any customer would ever feel neglected at Fuji Ichiban.
This place was quite busy. The waitstaff, cooks, shift manager, and busboys were always busy doing something productive, and the servers were frequently checking on customer tables to see that everything was alright. A steady stream of customers would come in, many were young married couples with a little baby or some other toddlers. This seemed like a popular place for working families...after all, the prices were very reasonable, especially for those families who have to stretch their dollars. This particular Tumon location is a popular one for locals and tourists alike. They offer a good value for their "hotel row" locations.
My gyoza arrived and I added some hot chili oil and soy sauce to my plate to dip them in, adding a spicier flavor. These were not bad, and for an appetizer, probably best shared with someone else, since there are seven pieces. When my my entree arrived, I was impressed by the size of the Karaage chicken...they serve a sizeable portion - seemingly as much as in the appetizer. It's accompanied by a lemon slice, which actually tastes good when squeezed over the battered thigh meat. I did a quick calculation and figured I definitely came out ahead by ordering this combo meal instead of getting the ramen separate from the Karaage appetizer. The salad was a bonus!
My first bite of the ramen was mostly bean sprouts, and though the broth was flavorful, I added a little "yani" (red hot pepper paste) to my soup to spicen it up a notch. The pork was sliced wafer-thin, and it was tender. Its thinness allowed more broth to be absorbed and made the meat easier to chew. The portion was modest, but adequate for me. It's good that they offer larger meat portion dishes. I stirred the ramen, vegetables, and meat, then took another bite and tasted the delicious ramen noodles. I like the flavor and consistency of fresh noodles. Fuji Ichiban takes pride in their noodle preparation, using only the best quality flour, all natural ingredients, and purified water. In addition, they are fortified with calcium. Some key words to describe the Fuji Ichiban experience: "Safe", "Healthy", and "Tasty"!
Fuji Ichiban's soy is an original special proprietary blend that is imported from Nagoya, Japan. Guam's 3 Fuji Ichiban restaurants are part of a very extensive family of ramen restaurants in Japan. That accounts for the high degree of uniformity and consistency in these outlets. They have a template for success.
Marilyn, my server who was also the Shift Manager for this Tumon location, has been with Fuji Ichiban since they opened this location. She enjoys the type of service and quality experiences they offer customers. I asked the significance of the turtle character which appears to be their mascot. She didn't know. We both agreed that the Japanese are really into cartoon characters and use animals, like this turtle, to represent certain qualities in people. You have to admit, this ubiquitous turtle's cute with that cap on its head and bowl of steaming ramen in its hand.
Two colorful posters on the wall caught my attention. They were advertising two entrees not on the menu. One was Yakisoba ($6.75), with is a blend of Fuji Ichiban's fresh made noodles, Yakisoba sauce, cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts and green onions along with their chashu. This did look quite appealing! The second entree was Kim Chee Ramen ($7.75), and this was promoted as "Spicy". It is made with fresh squeezed garlic, bean sprouts, Taiwan mince, and kim chee...I guess I'll save that one until I'm ready for a spice infusion!
During lunchtime, Fuji Ichiban Ramen offers a free bowl of rice if you buy a ramen dish. The rice is refillable, and usually costs $1.00. This offer is good from 11-2. One of the wonderful things about this Fuji Ichiban is their hours...they are open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., which is convenient for a lot of hospitality workers and other diners who want a hot bowl of delicious ramen noodles after a long night out! And as an added bonus, VIP Rewards points are provided!
The other 2 Guam locations for Fuji Ichiban are across the Reef Hotel and in Northwest Plaza in Tamuning. This Tamuning location's hours are 11:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and form 6 p.m. to midnight for dinner.
It's easy to see why customers feel so comfortable coming into Fuji Ichiban Ramen's restaurants. The immediate welcome and recognition helps the customer feel good, the food is both tasty and filling, and the price affordable. Try Fuji Ichiban Ramen - Guam's Noodle King! You'll be glad you did.