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.
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.
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.
3. Bubble tea tastes surprisingly delicious.
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.
4. The rice bowls at Ikko look tantalizing.
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.
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.
6. Ikko has poke bowls, too.
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.
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!
- 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