Restaurant: Ippudo – 65 4th Avenue, Manhattan, New York
I’m probably one of the few people that went to college and stayed away from ramen. Ippudo, constantly crowded, often with hour-long waits, was the perfect place to change that.
Ippudo can best be described as an experience. The staff is high-energy and yells out in Japanese to greet diners every time they’re brought into the dining room. (I’m assuming they’re saying ‘hi’.) Along one side, an open kitchen displays numerous ramen chefs churning out bowl after bowl while waiters and waitresses scurry around the restaurant. The dining area is decked out in dark wood and features communal as well as private seating. It can best be described as extremely organized chaos.
This is all assuming you can get a seat. The wait at Ippudo can stretch into the 3+ hour range on weekends.
I had no idea what to expect at Ippudo. As someone new to the world of ramen, the menu is a little overwhelming. I ended up settling on:
- Hirata buns with pork: steamed buns filled with your choice of either pork, chicken, or eggplant & eringi mushrooms served with Ippudo’s original spicy buns sauce (you know them as pork buns)
- Akamaru Modern: the original silky “Tonkotsu” (pork) soup noodles topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil (I added a poached egg and braised pork belly to this)
I’d heard rumors about how good Ippudo was and those rumors were dead on. Two pork buns came out as the appetizer. A good-sized pork belly was nestled in between a freshly steamed, doughy bun. It was a little bit spicy and came with iceberg lettuce.
I had no idea what to expect with the ramen. I was greeted with an enormous bowl of a steaming hot concoction. I quickly dove in and was met with a very rich, flavorful broth filled with lots of noodles and an ample amount of pork belly. Man was this good! The pork belly was by far my favorite part. It literally dissolved as a I tried to get it into my mouth. As I looked around, everyone else was closely huddled over their bowls, a clear sign Ippudo does things right. I tend to engulf food extremely quickly but at Ippudo I was met with chopsticks, and this forced me to take my time and taste all the unique flavors of the ramen – there’s a lot of stuff in there!
The waiters, waitresses and chefs all yell to greet you when you walk into the main dining area. Enough said. The service was attentive and quick. You may be met with a long wait just to get into Ippudo, but the host/hostess is friendly and on top of the ever-growing wait list.
The pork buns ($9) and ramen ($21 with my additions) is more pricey than I expected. You’re not breaking the bank here, but it’s clear Ippudo knows the clientele is going to keep coming back regardless of pricing.
For my first venture into the world of ramen, Ippudo was a solid start. I don’t have anything to compare it to, but if this is the standard, sign me up for some more. I definitely will be going back to Ippudo (and getting there early so I don’t have to wait) and I suggest you do the same.