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Ippudo [New York]

Ippudo [New York]
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  • Ippudo [New York]

    Post #1 - January 24th, 2010, 1:48 pm
    Post #1 - January 24th, 2010, 1:48 pm Post #1 - January 24th, 2010, 1:48 pm
    If you read about the highly anticipated arrival of Ippudo to the American shores from all the Sino-slurpin’ fools awhile back, you’d have thought they were talking about the Second Coming. From afar, you could see why. The self-described “Ramen King”, Shigemi Kawahara, hails from ramen ground-zero, the Fukuoka Prefecture of Southern Japan. Kawahara won the TV Champion Ramen competition three times and was entered into the Ramen Hall of Fame. Although several of his ramen shops exist throughout Japan, his original noodle shop is located near the town of Hakata.

    Ippudo carefully, patiently, and thoughtfully entered the American market in April of 2008 in New York. (We went last October.) When we arrived at the door a few minutes before they opened, we could see the all-staff huddle/pep rally inside, preparing for the onslaught of ramen lovers. The operation is a well-oiled machine that seems to have a mission to create an inviting and upbeat atmosphere, much in the same vein as any self-respecting izakaya would attempt to do.

    Ippudo is unlike other ramen shops I’ve been to, and I’m quite sure that is their intention. Historically, ramen noodle shops were often considered dirty as well as depressing to many Japanese. The Ramen King’s long-term objective was to create an environment that would make Japanese women comfortable as well as eager to enjoy a great bowl of noodles…even solo. Apparently he was successful with this dream, having at this point over 50 locations throughout Japan. Ippudo New York has created a Jerry Kleiner-Marche circus-like ambiance, trying to keep things light, happy, and shiny for their largely upscale clientele. On initial inspection, you would almost guarantee that a good bowl of ramen would be an impossibility here.

    We opted for Ippudo’s two most popular ramen offerings:

    the Shiromaru Hakata Classic is made with slices of chashu (Berkshire pork), kikurage, red pickled ginger, menma, tamago, sesame & scallion and added a honjyuku (molten) egg for good measure.

    Image
    Although the base broth was luscious and multi-layered— one of the most thoughtful tonkotsu broths I’ve ever had anywhere—the other elements of the bowl brought down the overall effort. I’m a total sucker for a thinner, squarish Hakata-style noodle but these noodles lacked character (i.e bland) and were a tad overcooked. For my palate, the chashu was a touch dried-out, lacking a desirable level of fattiness. Most likely, this was not pork belly but some other less-fatty cut and was perhaps an intentional move on their part.

    The biggest and most significant complaint I had about this bowl was its overall construction with its anemic amount of toppings. For example, if you note the tamago, the dreaded gray ring shows that it was clearly overcooked. Compare that to the beauty of a perfectly cooked egg like the one found at Gardena Ramen in Gardena, California:
    Image
    Execution in many seemingly small and insignificant ways such as this distinguish between an excellent bowl of ramen and something less.

    We also had their signature tonkotsu, Akamaru Shin-aji, which is topped with some sort of “special sauce”, miso paste, and a highly fragrant garlic oil. Chasu (Berkshire pork), cabbage, onions, kikurage & scallion are also included. Again, we added the honjyuku as well. Of the two styles of ramen we tried, the table concensus was this was the superior bowl because of the coupling of their solid base tonkotsu broth along with the other innovative and modern ingredients they added to it. Because I ordered the Shiromaru Hakata Classic and am not one to readily share things like bowl of soup communally, more for reasons of oneness with the dish than any sanitary concerns, I can’t give more details but those who did seemed to really love it. One or two spoonfuls of soup does not an opinion make, however trixie, who is not a ramen-nut like me, finished her bowl with relish, which she almost never does. Her comments were that the broth was seasoned perfectly, starting off subtly and building on itself throughout the meal until the last bite felt like it was pushing the seasoning threshold but never stepping over the line into salt-fatigue. Her noodles were not over cooked, and her chasu was fatty and moist.

    Image

    Initially, I had a real hard time getting over thoughts that Ippudo was concentrating mainly on ambiance and less with what was going into the bowl. But looking back on the whole experience, I realize that Ippudo, for what they were going for, is a fun, trendy place that is shooting to be something more than just what hardcore ramen-eatin’ purists are after and is trying to attract a larger, more-diverse cross-section of the Manhattan crowd, from Japanese tourist to local foodies. Personally, I don’t care much for the pomp but I suspect that many will appreciate its well thought out business model and its overall high level of noodling.
  • Post #2 - January 24th, 2010, 5:21 pm
    Post #2 - January 24th, 2010, 5:21 pm Post #2 - January 24th, 2010, 5:21 pm
    PIGMON wrote:Initially, I had a real hard time getting over thoughts that Ippudo was concentrating mainly on ambiance and less with what was going into the bowl. But looking back on the whole experience, I realize that Ippudo, for what they were going for, is a fun, trendy place that is shooting to be something more than just what hardcore ramen-eatin’ purists are after and is trying to attract a larger, more-diverse cross-section of the Manhattan crowd, from Japanese tourist to local foodies. Personally, I don’t care much for the pomp but I suspect that many will appreciate its well thought out business model and its overall high level of noodling.

    Interesting thought because I've heard several raves from friend who love it and the bowls in your shots look delicious. I imagine, based on your comments, that one could do worse even at spots that are purportedly more hardcore.

    Thanks, Pigmon, for the info.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

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  • Post #3 - January 25th, 2010, 5:27 am
    Post #3 - January 25th, 2010, 5:27 am Post #3 - January 25th, 2010, 5:27 am
    I found Ippudo's ramen to be roughly on par with the ramen served at Menchanko-Tei in Midtown, which is to say that it's pretty good. But I had very high hopes for Ippudo when they set up shop in New York, especially given the hype, so I left Ippudo somewhat disappointed.

    Fortunately, Ramen Setagaya, another well-regarded Japanese ramen chain, has a US outpost in Manhattan as well, so I never had trouble satisfying my ramen fix when living in New York.
  • Post #4 - January 25th, 2010, 10:06 am
    Post #4 - January 25th, 2010, 10:06 am Post #4 - January 25th, 2010, 10:06 am
    I really liked Ippudo. Granted, I'm no ramen expert. My last authentic bowl was several years in Vancouver. But to me, the broth was deep and rich in flavor, which is the key, and which is lacking in Chicago. I also liked the high energy of the place.

    Jonah
  • Post #5 - January 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm
    Post #5 - January 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm Post #5 - January 25th, 2010, 4:04 pm
    DY wrote:I found Ippudo's ramen to be roughly on par with the ramen served at Menchanko-Tei in Midtown, which is to say that it's pretty good.


    Menchanko-Tei is a personal favorite of mine. Not life-changing, but a big bowl of M-T's chigae and a cold beer is a great hangover/jet lag cure. It certainly fits the shabby, almost divey profile that Ippudo apparently is trying to redress.
  • Post #6 - January 26th, 2010, 12:00 pm
    Post #6 - January 26th, 2010, 12:00 pm Post #6 - January 26th, 2010, 12:00 pm
    I went to this Ippudo on my last visit to NY. The Akamaru ramen is just amazing, the broth is so rich and has so many complexities, I can't imagine even trying to describe the taste sensation.
  • Post #7 - February 22nd, 2010, 7:36 am
    Post #7 - February 22nd, 2010, 7:36 am Post #7 - February 22nd, 2010, 7:36 am
    I had the Miso Ramen (Soy bean paste flavored ramen noodle in 'the original tonkotsu' based soup with beansprouts, corn, pork chashu, cabbage & scallions) last Saturday for lunch...WOW! That was the best ramen I ate in a very long time. Now I am craving an equivalent in Chicago.

    Most places focus too much on the broth and make it too oily. Ippudo's ramen is well balanced, contains rich ingredients and is not overbearing.
  • Post #8 - March 22nd, 2010, 6:16 pm
    Post #8 - March 22nd, 2010, 6:16 pm Post #8 - March 22nd, 2010, 6:16 pm
    Hit up Ippudo on a recent long weekend in NYC. As said upthread, this is a snazzy hippified version of your classic ramen shop. Nearly an hour wait for lunch (on a Saturday). Place packed with shoppers- tourists such as ourselves- I felt like I was eating in exactly where I was- the East Village. Service was a bit patchy, a little iffy on certain menu questions and erratically paced. Call me ignorant to Japanese service customs, but we were a bit taken a back by all the yelling back and forth amongst the staff. Is this communication system authentic or a gimmick?
    We ordered fried shishito peppers, like pimientos padron without the occasional fiery blast. They were great with beer, dipped in a savory salt blend that was probably half msg. The pork buns had issues- the pork belly was just dandy with a sweet/ hot glaze. The buns themselves tasted a bit prefab- not sure if this menu item is typically handmade (never particularly seems that way), but they had a bit more resistance than the pillowy light texture that I prefer. The real weirdness for my tastes was the inclusion of a warmed up piece of iceburg lettuce with a smear of also warm kewpie mayo, giving the thing a fast-food burger topping effect. I must say that I prefer the finer balanced version at Momofuku.

    PIGMON wrote:

    Although the base broth was luscious and multi-layered— one of the most thoughtful tonkotsu broths I’ve ever had anywhere—the other elements of the bowl brought down the overall effort. I’m a total sucker for a thinner, squarish Hakata-style noodle but these noodles lacked character (i.e bland) and were a tad overcooked. For my palate, the chashu was a touch dried-out, lacking a desirable level of fattiness. Most likely, this was not pork belly but some other less-fatty cut and was perhaps an intentional move on their part.

    The biggest and most significant complaint I had about this bowl was its overall construction with its anemic amount of toppings.

    Execution in many seemingly small and insignificant ways such as this distinguish between an excellent bowl of ramen and something less.


    Ramen-wise, I ordered the special of the day, the Spicy Tonkotsu. Silky, luscious broth as described above with a slow burn from added chili paste. Noodles were to my liking, they had a nice bite and a pronounced flavor. I am new to the world of ramen- as there are not so many options in our fair city- but from what I have learned from multiple viewings of Tampopo and the definitive bowl I enjoyed at Daikokuya in L.A., it seems a balance of ingredients is critical and this bowl, while not out of whack, was paltry in its toppings and careless in its construction. Advertised ground pork and cabbage were barely existent. Kikurage was there, but incorporated throughout the soup rather than neatly poised atop the noodles. The chashu in my bowl was pork belly (my dining companion experienced a leaner, drier cut in her bowl as explained above). The pork was nice and fatty, maybe a bit skimpy in that there were only two two inch pieces. I enjoyed this soup, but it was not the heady, transcendent experience that a well composed ramen can be.
  • Post #9 - April 26th, 2011, 10:57 am
    Post #9 - April 26th, 2011, 10:57 am Post #9 - April 26th, 2011, 10:57 am
    PIGMON wrote:added a honjyuku (molten) egg for good measure.

    Image

    ...

    The biggest and most significant complaint I had about this bowl was its overall construction with its anemic amount of toppings. For example, if you note the tamago, the dreaded gray ring shows that it was clearly overcooked. Compare that to the beauty of a perfectly cooked egg like the one found at Gardena Ramen in Gardena, California:
    Image
    Execution in many seemingly small and insignificant ways such as this distinguish between an excellent bowl of ramen and something less.


    Enjoyed this (and the other ramen) reports. Ippudo has a special place for me as the first place I really got ramen (in Tokyo). That egg is a crime though. Not at all molten (nor is the Gardena one, nor are the ones at Santouka at Mitsuwa alas). Also, in the Tokyo locations, they have condiments (mustard greens, bean sprouts, maybe one or two other items) at the table for you to add yourself, and you can order noodles by doneness. Not sure if this is available in the NYC location, which I somehow have not made it to yet.
  • Post #10 - May 9th, 2011, 11:29 am
    Post #10 - May 9th, 2011, 11:29 am Post #10 - May 9th, 2011, 11:29 am
    I had a strong first visit here on Sunday morning.

    We started with pork buns and shishito peppers. The pork in the buns was fantastic (better cooked, to my tastes, than what we had at Momofuku Noodle Bar about an hour later), but the buns themselves and the sauce were just ok. The peppers were also very good, but could have used a bit more blackened/blistered skin for better flavor.

    I had the miso ramen and added nitamago. This egg was perfect, with parts of the soft yolk melting into the broth after it was pulled apart. However, the amount of ginger served with the ramen was excessive...I pulled about half the lump out and still considered the ginger flavor a bit too dominant in the broth. My friend had the Akamaru Modern, whose broth I definitely preferred. Still, the noodles were better than anything I'd previously had (this record lasted for about an hour, until the aforementioned visit to Noodle Bar and the Ginger-Scallion noodles there).

    All-in-all, this was an ultimate hang-over cure and I initially thought it set the bar quite high. Certainly it outshines Ginza and Takashi locally and I think it was on par with Kintaro and the other ramen-yas I've visited in Vancouver (though that was several years ago at this point). It just so happened that on the noodle front, Noodle Bar managed to out-do it very shortly thereafter.

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