Downtown welcomes a sprawling ramen restaurant that will bowl you over
BY LORI BROWN
Ichicoro Ane opened downtown in the space formerly occupied by Café Alma and Station House. The original Ichicoro Ramen in Seminole Heights in Tampa opened two years ago in a smaller space than its newest big sister, Ichicoro Ane (pronounced ah-nay), meaning big sister in Japanese. The new space in St. Pete is almost 6,000 square feet designed as five separate spaces : the ramen room, the main dining room, private dining room, the main bar and the sipping lounge.
Many traditional ramen eateries are small shops. The ramen kitchen here has its own space with an open kitchen (separate from the main dining room kitchen), menu, and it operates on a first-come, first-serve basis with no reservations. Just like in Tokyo, it is waitlist only.
On this night, we shared a bowl of the Niku Udon. Diners can customize a bowl by adding “extras.” This not only adds more flavor fun, it also keeps the price lower if you choose not to add a lot of extras. For this bowl, we added the Ajitama – beni shoga seasoned egg -and Spicy Sauce 2 – Sichuan style. Very flavorful and chock full of goodies!
The main dining room is “Izakaya-inspired” cuisine (small plates) and takes reservations. We sampled many items from the main kitchen. In no particular order, here are some of our favorites:
Yukke (Lori’s favorite)- Japanese steak tartare of Wagyu beef, gochujang, sesame, fuji apple, egg yolk, konbu chicharrones
Gyu Skewers – Wagyu beef, spring onion, teriyaki
Sake No Misozuke – broiled salmon, miso butterscotch, lime, shoji, furikake Tonkatsu – breaded pork loin and bulldog sauce on top of cabbage and pickled mustard seeds
Kani Gyoza – deviled crab-stuffed fried dumpling with Thai chili jelly on the side Okonomiyaki – vegetable pancake made with cabbage, Kewpie mayonnaise, Bulldog sauce, beni shoga, katsuobushi
Gyu Steamed Bun – smoked beef shoulder, creamy gochujang mustard
Hana Yasai – the most delicious fried cauliflower (we couldn’t get enough of these)
In the center of the restaurant, the main bar has a limited menu from the main kitchen (ramen cannot be ordered here). There are lots of great drinks, as well. A few of our favorites were The Fake Mustache (bourbon), Gin & Tonic (they make their own tonic in house), The Golden Saucer (gin), and The Black Mage made with activated charcoal.
The large and elegant sipping lounge is nothing short of spectacular with Japanese murals painted by New York artists. Along with other concoctions, the bar features whiskeys grouped by characteristics rather than name or brand. For example, light and floral, fruity and spicy, rich and rounded, full bodied and smoky.
Ichicoro Ane is a very welcome addition to the downtown restaurant scene.
Ichicoro Ane 260 1st Ave S, St. Petersburg, 33701 Dinner only, bar opens at 4 pm daily, dinner 5 pm weekdays, 6 pm Saturday and Sunday