We fell in love with Ikko in 5 Points South last week, and not just for the bubble tea.

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Man with fire at Ikko
Check out the fire element on full display in the kitchen at Ikko Japanese Ramen and Sushi. Photo via Bham Now

I may be one of the few people in Birmingham who hadn’t yet been to Ikko Japanese Ramen and Sushi until one cold day last week when all of that changed.

One of my fellow Bham Nowers who happens to be a wizard with photography equipment and I headed over there just after the lunch rush to see what caused other coworkers to gush about this place like a first crush.

1. Ikko is really conveniently located, right next to the Golden Temple in Five Points.

Ikko is right next to The Golden Temple
When my GPS directed me to The Golden Temple, I thought I was in the wrong place. Turns out, Ikko is right next door to the Golden Temple in Five Points, making it super-easy to find. Photo via Bham Now

Right next to The Golden Temple and across from Surin, Ikko is in a great location. I was lucky to find a parking spot on the hill up by the Terrific New Theatre.

When we got there, I had a chance to speak—and sample the wares—with Mandi Li, one of Ikko’s three owners. It’s a family-owned business, and they take pride in using the best ingredients in their food. They want their guests to keep coming back for more.

And since Ikko first opened in December 2017, they’ve developed a loyal following. Medical personnel, students and others come again and again for the ramen, the sushi and of course the bubble tea.

2. Ikko has football-themed sushi wrapped in soy paper.

Man making sushi at Ikko
Check out the details on that knife. Photo via Bham Now

You’ll find a UAB Blaze Dragon Roll, a Bama Crunch Roll, a Crimson Roll and of course a Tiger Roll among the sushi offerings at Ikko.

The UAB Blaze Dragon Roll features shrimp tempura, crab, green soy paper and spicy mayo on top. The green soy paper is a fan favorite not only because it gives that nice light green color, but it’s less chewy than seaweed which isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

We hear the Volcano Roll is also a fan fave, and yes, people who’ve never tried sushi do in fact order the Bama Crunch Roll or the Crimson Roll because #rtr and the Tiger Roll because #wareagle.

One nice feature is that there is a “cooked sushi” menu at Ikko. Translation: “cooked” = not raw fish. So if you’re new to sushi, or just squeamish at the thought of eating raw seafood, that’s your go-to menu.

Dragon Roll at Ikko
The Dragon Roll is one of Ikko’s football-inspired menu items. Photo via Bham Now

3. Bubble tea tastes surprisingly delicious.

Bubble tea at Ikko
This was the first bubble tea they brought us. I thought the bubbles would be weird but they were delicious. Photo via Bham Now

I’ll admit, I’m kind of a latecomer to the bubble tea party. But now that I’ve tried it, I’m a fan. Probably the kind of fan that will go on and on about it to anyone who will listen to it for a while.

Because inside each of those colorful little bubbles in the brightly colored tea was a little squirt of juice, which was almost as fun as Trader Joes’ Gummy Tummy Penguins, but without all the chewing.

They also brought fun little portions of things like coconut and aloe that you could add in. At first I thought they looked too slimy, but when I tasted them, they were, in fact, delicious.

More bubble tea
This one had tapioca bubbles. Photo via Bham Now

4. The rice bowls at Ikko look tantalizing.

Rice bowl at Ikko
Gyu Donburi. I don’t even eat beef but man, that looked so good. Photo via Bham Now

This beef rice bowl looks absolutely amazing, and I don’t even eat meat.

5. You’ll never eat ramen out of a cup again.

Ramen at Ikko
This vegetarian ramen was to die for, especially with a little chili oil added. Photo via Bham Now

Mandi explained to me that so many people had never had ramen before. Real ramen, not the kind of out of a cup. I must admit I was among the uninitiated until this gorgeous bowl of vegetarian ramen became my lunch.

It was every bit as delicious as it looks—rich, interesting, flavorful and satisfying. The secret was following the lead of all the folks on Yelp who said they added a little spoonful of chili oil to this dish. Perfection.

For the non-vegetarian ramens, they boil a pork bone for at least 16 hours to make a rich and tasty broth. Then they add in all the other good stuff for an unforgettable bowl of noodle soup.

Each one is topped with a special egg purposefully cooked to a precise temperature in a couple of flavorful sauces. While I wasn’t sure what to think before I tried mine, I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty and flavorful it was.

Asparagus
My first-ever stint as a hand model. And yes, that asparagus was as delicious as it looks. Photo via Bham Now

6. Ikko has poke bowls, too.

Poke
Hawaiian Classic Poke. Photo via Bham Now

The poke bowl’s a lunch crowd favorite. If you’re new to poke, it’s basically sushi that hasn’t been rolled up. You take all the same things (well, minus the wasabi and pickled ginger), put them in a bowl, and voila. Poke.

7. You can get your food to go, too.

Food to go
Another Happy Customer. IKKO Ramen Sushi. (Bham Now)

Finally, what kind of Asian food place would Ikko be if they didn’t also have takeout? If you head to their website, you can place a group order and they’ll get it ready for you to pick up in no time.

Of course, you don’t want to forget the bubble tea!

Bubble tea to go
Milk tea with bubbles. To go. Photo via Bham Now

  • What: Ikko Japanese Ramen + Sushi
  • Where: 1909 11th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35205
  • Hours: Sun-Thurs 11AM-10PM, Fri-Sat 11AM-11PM
  • Carryout hours: Sun-Thurs 11AM-9:30PM, Fri-Sat 11AM-10:30PM
  • Check their website for a full menu

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Author: Sharron Mendel Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference