Kuala Lumpur - KL's Best Ramen at Hakata Ippudo, Pavilion
Finally got round to trying KL's 3-month-old Hakata Ippudo late this morning. Yup, that chain which was famous for its 2.5 hour queues in New York, where even celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba and Martha Stewart have to wait in line. When it opened in Singapore in 2008, there was a 1-hour queue when it opened each day at 11am for the first month. I'd counted myself a "regular" of sorts *until* I had a rather adverse "MSG"-syndrome one afternoon after lunch there. My lunch companion had the same reaction, so we weren't sure if it was some extra-shoyu or stronger miso in our ramen that day. My interest in Ippudo tapered off after that, and today was the first time I'd returned to one.
The KL outlet on a Saturday morning was surprisingly bereft of customers at 11am, although it filled up rather quickly and was full house by 11.45am.
It was a *noisy* place - for one, the staff would all scream in unison when some customer(s) stepped into the restaurant. Secondly, the in-house rock music was also rather loud, perhaps to drown out any slurping sound a diner might make whilst ingesting the thin ramen noodles which Ippudo was justly famous for.
For starters, I had the Pork Bun (a piece of fatty stewed pork belly sandwiched in a steamed "mantou" bun) and the Curry Cheese Haru Maki (deep-fried curried spring rolls), both of which I didn't quite like here.
The stewed pork belly was pale and rather bland, topped with mayonnaise and lettuce. I'd have enjoyed an order of "buta no kakuni" (my fave in the Singapore outlet) much more.
The deep-fried curry-filled spring rolls were nasty - the filling reminded me of those in cheap samosas you'd get in snack bars at English railway stations.
For the ramen, I opted for the more robust, miso-flavoured Akamaru Shinaji, which I'd always preferred over the blander Shiromaru Motoaji. The one here had a delicious soup-stock and perfectly-textured ramen noodles. But the egg was a tad overcooked and the yolk was firmer than should be, whilst the simmered "chashu" pork tasted rather fetid. I left most of it untouched.
Overall, Ippudo KL satisfies on 2 counts: (1) Prompt, efficient service, and (2) Offering perhaps the best ramen experience in KL, where the other ramen places are dismally worse.
Lot C4.07.00, Connection Level 4
168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur,
Tel: +603 2110 6233
The standards at the original Mandarin Gallery outlet has indeed deteriorated once they moved the talented chefs who spearheaded the opening with much pomp and promise.
But the standards in Singapore still far exceeded the Malaysian outlet's. Somehow, you just *know* when the chefs are not Japanese.
- Nikumiso Tofu Salad (which had minced meat miso paste) - crisp, fresh greens and tasty miso dressing. Nice.
- Aji Onigiri (Japanese rice balls with chicken, mushroom and carrot) - served warm. It was pretty substantial as a starter and very tasty.
- Fried Young Corn (Garlic-flavored deep-fried young corn with seaweed seasoning) - this was tastier than I expected, but a bit greasier than I'd have liked as well.
I actually preferred to sit in the airy, bright bar area than the darker, more constricted space in the main dining room inside.
Back to Ippudo, this time to try some other menu options:
- Bakuretsu Tofu (Spicy tofu and minced pork with crispy noodle in a hot stone pot) - a Japanese take on the popular Chinese 'ma po tofu' dish, and it was just as spicy and tasty. The crispy noodles seemed unnecessary, but served to make this little stone pot dish a meal in itself.
- IPPUDO’s original pan-fried Gyoza dumplings. Very light, crisp and tasty version served here. Don't miss.
- Teppan Chashu (BBQ pork slices served on hot plate) - tasty pork, but seemed too greasy and overly sweet for my taste. The sizzling dish was brought to the table topped with a raw egg - break the egg to let it cook in the bubbling gravy.