It was a Sunday afternoon, and I found myself craving Ramen noodle soup like no other (and it was a day off from my diet) so I decided to check out Ippudo. I had heard and read lots about Ippudo, it was up there with Totto Ramen in the ramen noodle soup aficionado world, and it was a cold wintery day so what could be better than a steamy satisfying bowl of salty goodness?
I called up my cousin and fellow foodie, and we made a date for 4pm hoping we’d miss most of the lunch crowd and slip in before the dinner crowd. We were wrong! Even at that odd hour, we were told it would be a 45 minute wait. But unlike Totto Ramen where you are forced to linger about aimlessly outside because there’s no where to stand, Ippudo actually has a decent sized bar where you can grab a drink and enjoy the ambiance while you wait. The bar was great, decorated with large ramen noodle bowls mounted to the wall and real ramen inside the bar. It was so cool! It was literally a “ramen bar” 🙂
We ordered some drinks, I got the Lychee Martini – my all time favorite and a must at an Asian bar and my cousin got the Shochu with grapefruit juice. Shochu is like a Japanese vodka apparently, and it was quite a light and refreshing cocktail.
Before we knew it, our name was called and we were being led into the dining area. Before we crossed the threshold, the hostess stopped and the entire wait staff and kitchen staff yelled something at us in Japanese which I can only imagine meant some form of “welcome”, but who really knows. It was so fun and unexpected! The dining room was crowded and very loud and frenetic, but in a good way. There was a large open kitchen where you could see all the action, and a counter where you could sit right at the kitchen. The tables were large, wooden and communal style (which was a surprise to me), and we were sat with a couple and two single diners. Apparently, dining here alone is quite popular as it greatly cuts down on your wait time.
Since it was my first time here, I took the opportunity to ask my fellow diners what they had eaten and what they liked or didn’t like. I got a unanimous recommendation for the steamed pork buns and heard about the variety of ramen bowls they had gotten. I was torn between getting the original and most talked about one – Akamaru Modern, and the two special Ramen’s which were available for a limited time only. After much consideration (I have a hard time making decisions in case you hadn’t noticed), I decided on one of the specials – the Kogashi Miso Ramen (the other special was the same just a spicy version). My cousin opted for the Akamaru Modern so that we could each try something different. One of the coolest things I noticed on the menu is what they call “Kae-dama” – a system that offers you an extra serving of noodles for $2! Let’s say you’re half way done with your soup, but have finished all the noodles, you just tell your server “kae-dama” and a ball of noodles will appear shortly after. This is amazing! Had I not been dieting, I totally would have taken advantage of this – kae dama!
Our table companions were not kidding about the pork buns, they were awesome! The bun was so soft and pillowy, it reminded me of a savory marshmellow, and the pork was so sweet and tender coupled with the crispy lettuce, it was a delicious explosion of flavors and textures in my mouth. It’s a good thing we were sharing, otherwise I definitely would have eaten that second one!
Finally my soup arrived, and I couldn’t be more excited to try it! I was taken aback by how dark it was, I had always only seen a clearish broth. But according to the description this was “Chintan” chicken and pork base noodle soup, a dark, rich broth made from black charred miso, topped with pork chashu, cabbage, leafy greens, and glazed with a layer of oil. I sunk my huge soup spoon in and took a bite, and I was floored! The depth of flavor from the black charred miso was nothing like I had ever had before, and blew all other ramen soups right out of the water! The noodles were perfectly cooked, even a little “al dente” if you will. The pork had just the right amount of fattiness and totally melted in your mouth. And the nitamago – the seasoned salt boiled egg was cooked just right and made an excellent addition to the rich broth. (FYI -the egg was an additional $2). As Ippudo says on it’s website, “ramen is a cosmos created in a bowl”, it’s the combination of the perfect soup, noodles, and toppings which brings about the perfect cosmos of flavors. I could not have agreed with them more!
Now as for my cousin’s bowl – she had the Akamura which is the original silky “Tonkotsu” (pork) soup noodles topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. I tasted hers after having quite a bit of mine, and mine had a much stronger flavor profile so it was hard to fully enjoy the more subtle flavors. However, she maintains that the traditional ramen bowl at Totto Ramen was superior to this one. I was so in love with my bowl, that nothing even came close in my mind. On that note, I have to update my favorites page, because Ippudo’s Kogashi Miso Ramen has become my new favorite!
At the end of our meal, our server brought us a very fragrant green tea, which is the perfect ending to a great Japanese meal.
Great experience at Ippudo and I will most definitely be going there again soon, but now the dilemma will be whether to stick to the noodle bowl I love, or try a new one?!
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Ippudo | www.ippudony.com | 65 4th Avenue