Up until a few years ago, ramen joints were more or less the bottom rung of the Japanese dining scenes. Sure, the food might have tasted great, but they tended to be so crowded and dirty that many women refused to set foot inside one.
Recently, though, ramen restaurants have been cleaning up their act, sprucing up their interiors, and attracting more and more female customers. With more and more women appreciating a steaming bowl of Japan’s favorite noodles, some couples are even heading out on ramen dates.
But just as ramen restaurants had to meet certain criteria before they could win over the fairer sex, so too are there missteps a ramen-loving boyfriend has to avoid to keep from spoiling the mood.
To get the lowdown on ramen no-nos, we interviewed a group of women in their 20s and 30s. We came back with a list of their top six complaints.
6. A guy who takes you to a ramen restaurant, sees that it’s closed, and doesn’t fess up to screwing up
A lot of independent restaurants in Japan are closed one day of the week, and ramen joints are no exception. Sometimes, a guy will forget to check if the restaurant is open before dragging his girlfriend there, finds it’s closed, and tries to play it off by saying, “Oh, they must have had some sort of problem and had to shut down early today.”
While there’s no problem if that’s actually what happened, our study participants didn’t appreciate being fibbed to if being closed was part of the restaurant’s regular schedule. “It’s pathetic if a guy can’t admit to his own mistake,” said one.
5. A person who won’t stop looking at his smartphone while he’s eating
Between their cheap prices and counter seating, ramen restaurants draw a lot of single diners. Many of them have stacks of manga or magazines for diners to leaf through while they’re eating, and it’s also common to see a guy with a smartphone in his off hand as he shovels noodles into his face with the other.
But while this is a great way for solo diners to kill time, it’s also a great way to kill the mood if you’re with someone. “Those kind of poor table manners are disgusting,” insisted one woman in her 30s. “If I’m sitting in a restaurant with someone like that, the people around us will think I have bad manners, too.”
4. A date who takes you to a restaurant with massive portions
Japan’s got a whole vernacular for the practice of upsizing cheap eats like ramen, with names such as omori, tokumori, and dekamori all translating to larger than normal portions. But while some male ramen fans can’t get enough of the stuff, their dates don’t always believe that bigger is better, especially with Japan’s cultural fixation on the importance of cleaning your plate.
“I’m not a competitive eater, so there’s no way I can finish it,” explained a women in her 20s we spoke with. “It just gets so oily, and it starts to make me feel sick.”
3. A dude who doesn’t just order ramen, but adds sides of gyoza and rice
Speaking personally, I have a very hard time imagining a time when ordering a plate of the garlicky pot stickers Japan calls gyoza would be a bad idea. Honestly, I think they’re a fine choice for any social occasion, whether it’s a state dinner or a funeral.
Not everyone agrees, though, especially when they’re paired with something that’s already as calorie-intensive as a bowl of ramen. “I’m not crazy about the guy sitting next to me chowing down like a pig at the trough,” grumbled one of our ramen date etiquette panelists.
2. A man who gets really detailed with the toppings and seasonings in his order
Some ramen restaurants allow you to customize your meal by choosing between lightly or strongly flavored broth, how firm the noodles are, and even how much oil is added. But while a custom order like “firm noodles, extra oil, and heavy on the green onions” may make some people want to dig in, one women told us the longer her date’s order is the more she wants to get up and walk out the door. “It makes it look like he’s way too into his ramen,” said another participant. “I just can’t put up with that kind of nastiness.”
1. Someone who has to blog about the ramen he just ate
Gourmands in Japan love being up on the latest trends and hearing about the hottest restaurants, and there are tons of food blogs and review sites. The number-one complaint we heard, though, was about guys who seemed to be more into connecting to the online community than the girl they were sharing a meal with.
“It makes him look like some kind of geeky otaku,” remarked one woman this is a deal breaker for, especially if her date was quiet and reserved during the actual meal, and only became animated when he started typing his impressions of it into his smartphone.
While we can’t say we condone this kind of ungentlemanly behavior, we have to admit we’re no strangers to the joys of writing about ramen. Still, it’s probably best to leave your written reports for until after you and your date have kissed each other good-night.
Speaking of which, that’s one more reason not to ask for extra green onions.