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Ippudo review

I had lunch there today and tried their two signature styles of ramen: the shiromaru classic and akamaru modern, which is seasoned with garlic oil and a secret sauce. The shiromaru broth was too salty and the noodles were not as tender as I would have liked. Overall, it was a rather boring, plain bowl of ramen. The slices of Berkshire pork were tasty, though, and the cabbage had a good crunch and sweetness.

The akamaru was more interesting, thanks to the secret sauce. The broth was richer and more flavorful, and I would order it again, but I wasn't wowed by it.

Ippudo definitely has an advantage over the other East Village ramen places because of its size—it's a lot more spacious and comfortable than the usually cramped ramen restaurants. There are a lot of interesting design details, too—dried ramen under the glass-topped bar, kimono silk on the wall, tatami-lined booths, traditional tapestries on the tables, a giant bamboo tree in the center of the room. The staff is also very friendly. But the food was less than stellar. Another con: they don't have to-go containers, so if you can't finish your ramen (and it is a very large bowl), it just goes to waste.

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  1. Thanks for the review, was it busy when you went?

    1 Reply
    1. re: eatfood

      I was there at 1pm and it was pretty packed. They seat people at large communal tables, though, so the wait isn't too bad. I heard the wait was 2.5 hours around 6pm on opening night.

    2. I'm with you on the akamaru, but I also think I liked everything better overall than you did, Kiwi. I'm more of a central and northern ramen guy (or even Hawaiian style) than Ippudo's down south pork version but I enjoyed it quite a lot.

      Also, I had a great sweet potato shochu ( double size for free "cause its our first week") at the bar. Oh and do peak in the basement kitchen on route to the bathroom to check out the 3 huge pots breaking down bones.

      Lastly, no wait at 5:45, and hour+ at 6:15.

      1. Hit Ippudo today for breakfast at 11:30AM as it was mobbed last Wednesday night at 9:30PM and I gave up. 10 minute wait but getting increasingly crowded. Very cool place. Felt like I was back in Roppongi district in Tokyo. Good service. Had sake, a pork, egg sushi roll which was pretty good and the traditional tonkatsu ramen. Very porky tasting, very comforting, very warm, very slurpy. Had I grown up on the stuff like the fat Japanese guy who was having an even slurpier good time than me and who I was sharing one of the communal tables with, I would have curled up in a fetal position and sucked my thumb. I prefer pizza for that reason, but it was definitely a cool place and cheaper than a plane ticket to Narita.

        1 Reply
        1. re: guttergourmet

          Sounds fun...i'll have to check it out next time i am back in the city...

          i spent three weeks in Fukuoka this past winter, and i have to say Ippudo, while not bad, was not my fav ramen joint in that city -- the akamaru was just too fatty for my taste: but i'm curious how the NY one compares...and i'm also disappointed to hear that the NY branch does not have garlic cloves/presses on the table: for me, that's an essentially great part of tonkatsu ramen...

        2. I thought Ippudo was great! My table had the shiomaru classic, the akamaru, and the miso ramen. Of the three, I liked the akamaru the best. It had excellent pork flavor, and one of my dining partners commented that it wasn't as fatty as the broth at Santoka. She felt Santoka's was too fatty and salty - I love the ramen at Santoka and I have to say that Ippudo comes a very close second. The miso ramen was unusually sweet and probably my least favorite of all three but still pretty good. In fact my only beef with this place is that you can't order extra slices of pork (which were extraordinarily tasty)! Ippudo is definitely the best ramen joint in Manhattan - blows the competition out of the water.

          3 Replies
          1. re: yt28

            You can order extra pork. It's not on the menu but I asked and they were happy to oblige for $3.

            1. re: snaporaz

              On the Ramen menu there are listed ramens with suffix of Niku-Iri, those have extra pork and cost $3 more. There is also a good Meat entree of grilled pork.
              Ippudo is busy for dinner everyday of the week, weekends are even crazier. I do want to take a peek in the basement kitchen.

            2. re: yt28

              I agree. 8 of us walked over for lunch on friday and couldnt have been happier with the meal. I had the akamuru and found the broth extremely flavorful. Would have typically liked more pork but considering I wasnt starving, it worked out perfectly. And I noticed you can side order extra pork too (its on the menu now). The spicy ramen soup which my husband had was also excellent. All around, everyone at the table loved their food. Loved the vibe of the place too.....moderately upscale but yet very relaxed, and very comfortable seating if you get one of the tables with leather couches. Service was very friendly.

            3. Does anyone know if they have cold Soba noodles? As summer is upon us, I can have those nearly every day. In contrast, the hot steaming bowls of noodles seem more enticing in February. Thanks.

              12 Replies
                1. re: comiendosiempre

                  Any authentic ramen place would serve ramen only. No self-respecting soba place, similarly, would sell ramen. To foreigners, they're noodles, so the same. These places stay pure in Japan, since it takes great expertise to get it right -- even if it's considered fast food. Of course there are exceptions, such as the stand-up only slurp-and-sprint soba places in train stations. To Japanese, one is Chinese (even the name ramen is often spelled using katakana, which is the Japanese "alphabet" for foreign words), and fast food; the other is Japanese, and hand made, more subtle. A soba restaurant and a ramen restaurant are very different in appearance and menus. Having said that, ramen places often serve hiyashi-chuka in the summer months, which literally means cold Chinese (style noodles). I don't know if Ippudo offers this, but places such as Rai Rai Ken does (although bastardized with Americanized ingredients), as does Menchanko-tei (2 midtown locations, east and west) and Menkui-tei (on Third between St Marks and 7th Sts, also W56th St). These last 2 offer the traditional versions: cold ramen in a cold dashi/miso broth, with sliced cucumbers, chicken, ham, egg omelet, scallions and pickled red ginger. Great.

                  1. re: Wa Shoku

                    who has a decent version of hiyashi chuka? i love that dish, but i dont know if ive ever had it in ny

                    1. re: Lau

                      Sunrise, JAS, Katagiri, etc. all sell hiyashi-chuka "kits" with noodles and sauce. You can then add your own ingredients. It's replaced oden as our household summer Japanese comfort food.

                      1. re: Silverjay

                        arent u supposed to eat oden in the winter? (i love oden btw)

                        1. re: Lau

                          Poor phrasing. I meant to say that oden is our comfort food in winter and now that it's summer, we've switched to hiyashi-chuka as our comfort food....That said, I opened my bento today to find that my wife had packed oden. So go figure....

                          1. re: Silverjay

                            haha i can eat oden almost anytime, but i guess i can eat hiyashi chuka anytime as well

                        1. re: Lau

                          Per above, Menkui-tei on Third Avenue between St Marks and & 7th has good hiyashi-chuka; the Mechanko-tei locations also offer good versions. Rai Rai Ken on E10th St has the Americanized version. Other places? Sapporo on W 49th St -- that old ramen pioneer.

                          Menchanko-tei has pretty good oden, btw.

                          1. re: Wa Shoku

                            Unless Menchanko-Tei is doing something with their hiyashi chuka differently than in the past few years, I wouldn't say it's very good. I found it pretty mediocre to bad, actually. I've also decided not to revisit the East Village outpost of Menkui-Tei after one of the worst Japanese meals I've had in NYC (admittedly it was early on in their existence and they probably didn't have their shit together, but still). The Menkui-Tei on 56th is still alright.

                            1. re: E Eto

                              I agree, Menchanko-Tei's hiyashi chuka was pretty darned awful. So disappointing. It's not that hard to make.

                    2. Among the tonkotsu-style places in Tokyo, Ippudo is only average. What is described as rich in these reviews is actually much less rich than what you would find in a very good Kyushu (tonkotsu)-style place. Don't get me wrong -- I still like it and keep hoping for true Tokyo/Japan-style ramen in NY; it just hasn't happened yet. The big chains that have come into NYC are like the big chains we've exported there. Would you say that Sbarro is a good indication of NY's top pizza? So we're getting closer, better, but still middle of the road. That Ippudo NY (and I have been to their Roppongi and Ebisu locations) does not offer gyoza or beni shoga (red pickled ginger) as they do and must in Tokyo, is inexcusable! This would be like serving hot dogs without an option for mustard or sauerkraut, or burgers without fries. When I asked why these were not served, for gyoza, they said it takes too long and is too messy and smokey; for ginger they just apologized, knowing this was an omission. As for prices, they're not bad -- it's what I would expect. What's weird about the American way of eating ramen is that people linger as if this is a full, leisurely meal. In Japan, ramen is like fast food, fast Chinese food (Chinese --yes, Japanese consider this a version of Chinese food). You're in, you're out in 15 minutes. Even then, you can pay $15-$17 for a bowl of ramen --- but man, is it worth it!
                      Let's hope for one of the better places to come to NYC, soon.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: Wa Shoku

                        Generally, I agree with you. See- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/506901 .But in all fairness, I think Ippudo and some of the other chains, maintain a fairly high standard in quality and reputation in Japan. They are above average and become chains based on merit more than scale economics/pricing like the U.S. So I don't think NYers should feel shortchanged. They're only looked down upon by über-ramen snobs like us ;) ...But all things considered, I'm generally pleased with the fact that those chains are making inroads here. And btw, Ichiran's status in Brooklyn is still in limbo.

                        1. re: Silverjay

                          Peace! : )
                          I agree that these chains coming to NY is a good thing, and has raised the level of ramen offerings. My point is that the superlatives over Ippudo are justified based on a lower bar. I think Ippudo is fairly, not very good, for all the reasons mentioned above.

                          1. re: Wa Shoku

                            I will go back to ippudo with a more critical tongue. I dont find the broth too fatty. And I didnt notice any big difference from the ramen ive had in japan. But I was hungry , very hungry each time i went to ippudo ,, so i just slurped it down. I did notice that they serve each type of ramen in different shape and size bowls. Also, the pork is much better quality than Settagaya.

                        2. re: Wa Shoku

                          ippudo branches tend to degrade in quality the farther you get from fukuoka. hakata-style tonkotsu ramen typically has a less thick broth than say, ramen from kurume so the richness of ippudo's soup is relative. compared to an assari-style shoyu, any tonkotsu ramen could be considered rich. also, they totally changed up the menu for the NYC location, for obvious commercia/demographicl reasons. is it great? it's not like anything you'd find in fukuoka, or even tokyo. is it bad? not at all. if i lived in NYC like you lucky barstools, i'd be eating there, absolutely.

                          1. re: rameniac

                            To be clear, they changed the recipe, but it still tastes like something you would get in Tokyo and/ or Fukuoka. It's very authentic. Minca and some other shops make up their own recipe and try to approxiamate authentic style, but Ippudo is the real deal. It's just not Ippudo's typical recipe. It's not as porky and is more balanced.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              sure, in that sense, ippudo is still hakata tonkotsu ramen.

                              as for minca, though, i had a chance to try it while i was in NY last month, and after talking to the waitress there, it seemed as though the chef was really going for his own unique ramen creation, albeit one in the spirit of real ramen from japan in terms of attention to presentation and detail, rather than to follow any particular style.

                              i'd say that minca was really the surprise of the trip. i still prefer ippudo, but minca definitely came in under the radar as a prime example of why new york, overall, has better ramen than LA. there, i said it. hahaha.


                              1. re: rameniac

                                Minca is horrible. "Unique ramen creation" is a euphamism for "doesn't know what he's doing". Other than Ippudo and Santouka (which can be shakey sometimes), there is no compelling chowhound worthy ramen in NYC. You guys in LA are writing 4,000+ word ramen reviews on local shops. You're saying these places aren't as good Minca? Crikey, that's depressing.

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  i couldn't disagree more. perhaps this is a case of the grass being greener on both our parts. silver, you may not like minca, but it is definitely more ambitious than the large gamut of places in LA. i think LA has many more generic shoyu/miso/shio ramen shops, but they all taste the same, they all source the same generic noodles, and as a whole, bring down socal's ramen averages tremendously.

                                  i of all people can appreciate the various regional ramen styles (i mean, come on, i literally put that stuff on "a" map lol), but there are countless ramen shops throughout japan where the chef just does his own "unique" thing. in fact, if no one ever did that, we'd never have those fancy gyoukai multi-broth soups that are all the rage in tokyo these days. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but what's great about minca is that chef puts considerable thought into everything, and it's definitely not run-of-the-mill. same goes for say, asa ramen in LA.

                                  silver, i know you spend as much if not more time in japan as i do, and let's face it, we wouldn't bat an eye at either minca or asa if these particular shops had set up across the pacific. but relative to what we've got in the states, they're definitely a step up from nearly everything else!

                                  1. re: rameniac

                                    It does seem to be a case of the grass being greener. Take a look at your review of Daikokuya (a ramen shop in LA for those reading along). That about sums up how I feel about Minca. I've been to Minca several times through its maturity and while it may have been living up to its ambitions early on, my subsequent eating adventures there included one disaster and mostly misses. Borrowing a term you used about Daikokuya, it seemed like a case of the inmates running the asylum. That's not to say it can't be decent. There is no auto-pilot in ramen-making and once the pilot resumes the helm, they might actually make a good one. I just haven't had one in several years there.

                                  2. re: Silverjay

                                    i see another vote for "authentic" trumping "tasting good"

                                    i must disagree. even in japan the reason for preferring one ramen place over another is its unique approach to ramen. what makes a place special is what is different from every other place, not what is the same.

                          2. Add to the list of trendy, slightly better than mediocre ramen places. The miso broth was sweet. How stupid is that?

                            the hot and spicy tofu appetizer is gooey with sugar.

                            the lard laden broth is a cheap way out.

                            the pork was dry and flavorless.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Borat

                              Borat ,, please tell us the name of a better place. Also, note that Ippudo has a mostly japanese clientele, unlike the overrated , trendy , momafuko

                              1. re: foodwhisperer

                                ahh, momofuku. let's just say i have never paid more for slop lol.

                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                  Even Santoka walks all over Ippudo. Momofuku leans towards charlatanry, I think, and also lacks depth. But Ippudo just plain sucks. Even the trendy tacky interior does not save it.

                              2. despite the size, the crowd, the atmosphere and being a chain, ippudo is great. be sure to order some items outside the ramen... pork buns and the chicken wings are solid starters.

                                word's already out... last 2 times i went in a party of 2, there were at least 45 min waits and those were on monday / tuesday nights respectively.

                                and for what it's worth... iron chef morimoto ranked in 2nd to momofuku in his ramen crawl...


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: thievery

                                  there was a huge furor over that, and every foodie i know was dumbfounded. i'm sure it makes a difference when david chang actually prepares the ramen for you, and when he's your buddy.

                                  i usually don't think about prices, but momofuku was the worst $50 i've ever spent at a "ramen" joint (3 people came out to $151!) this was for 3 bowls of ramen, their pork buns, some chicken wings, and orion beer (it was the beer that did it - at $15 per bottle, rather ridiculous)