The hype around Ippudo is well-known, but in spite of long waits and a relatively high price tag, it doesn’t seem to deter people. I actually went with H.o.P. to try the much-ballyhooed ramen when Ippudo brought their goods to the Mitsuwa Food Festival earlier this year in Costa Mesa. I thought it was okay then, and I remember thinking that maybe the ramen got lost in transportation, because it didn’t seem to taste all that special. It was good but not mind-blowing in any way which was probably what I was expecting.
We arrived a little bit after 11am (which is when they opened) and saw it was already crowded. It seems that people were already lined up and waiting outside before 11am. I like the look of the restaurant from the outside with its faux wood brick design. I think it gives a certain sense of authenticity to the place. The restaurant is not small by NYC standards, but it’s not really big either. Upon entering, there is a bar and the wall above the bar is decorated with a bunch of different ramen bowls, each with its own unique design. It’s kind of cute.
After waiting over an hour, our party of 9 finally got seated at one of the bigger tables. We immediately ordered some appetizers including another round of Ippudo Pork Buns. We had sampled a bite while we were waiting at the bar, but we all wanted to have one of own as well.
This pork belly bun craze seems all the rage these days, but I think what seems to separate Ippudo’s from the others I have tried is the spicy mayo sauce. Honestly, considering how fatty the pork belly slices already were, it’s not like it needed the extra calories, but I think they used the Japanese Kewpie mayo which has a little bit lighter and more tasty twist than the your everyday Best Foods mayo. Although others didn’t seem to appreciate the use of mayo, I didn’t have a problem with it. It gave a creamier taste to the sauce, probably making it taste fattier than the pork belly already was (as if that could be possible). My only critique (especially after trying the Milk Bar pork buns immediately after) were that the pork slices were kind of small and it was way more fat than pork. Nevertheless, I still found these pork buns to be pretty darn tasty, and I would definitely recommend ordering them when you come.
The Shinto peppers were very good. They were not spicy at all, in fact, they were probably a little bit on the sweet side. They were deep-fried and served with a seasoned salt on the side. I’m not sure what was in it, but it really went well with the peppers.
Pdho ordered the Shiromaru Hakata Classic which is the “original tonkotsu” soup that comes served with pork loin chashu, kikurage, menma, half a boiled egg, red pckled ginger, sesame and scallions. I ordered the Akamaru Modern which is made with the same “original tonkotsu” broth but comes with Ippudo’s special sauce, pork belly chashu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, miso paste and fragrant garlic oil. Although the broth is similar in both ramens, I think the Ippudo special sauce and garlic oil really brought more depths of flavor to the Akamaru Modern. It was slightly spicy and much richer tasting. I also preferred the pork belly chashu over the pork loin version in the Shiromaru Hakata Classic probably because it was fattier. However, although the Akamaru Modern broth was probably more interesting in taste, I think I preferred the Shiromaru Hakata Classic more. I think it’s because I like the taste of my soups to be more simple and clean. The noodles are an equally important component in the ramen, and I was a little disappointed with the ones in both of these ramens. I prefer a little texture and crunch on my ramen noodles which seemed to be more like the noodles in the Karata Miso ramen that other people ordered. Instead these noodles were a little bit plainer, but not bad… just not as interesting. Nevertheless, both of the ramens were very good.
Overall, my second tasting of Ippudo ramen was good and maybe slightly better than the first time. I can’t help but be ever so slightly disappointed still, because the hype, expectations and wait unfortunately build Ippudo up to such a high pedestal that it would be hard for any restaurant to live up to. That shouldn’t detract curious ramen-eaters from at least giving it a try once though, if only to prove or disprove all the hype. Just be sure to come early, with very few companions and start off with an order of the pork buns.
65 4th Ave
New York, NY 10003
PAFO Ratings for Ippudo NY:
Price 3 stars
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars