IPPUDO

>> 4/15/14

65 4th Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 388-0088


Last week I mentioned various crazes that have hit the New York City food scene in recent years. Donuts, cupcakes, burgers... Add to the list ramen soup. Ramen places have been sprouting like weeds. Time Out New York and New York Magazine and Thrillist have all recently had big spreads listing the "Top 10" or so in the city and there are plenty more that haven't made it onto those lists. Hell, even I've written reviews of two ramen spots in the last few months with this one, Ippudo, being number three. 



Mr. Dogz has been on something of a ramen soup kick as of late. It seems to be all he seems interested in eating these days. If it ain't noodle soup, keep it. So, figuring it wouldn't be too hard to cajole him and his girlfriend, Dr. V (is for vegetarian) to join me for dinner, I tossed out a suggestion to meet me and Myna at Ippudo. Ippudo has two outlets in Manhattan and a bunch more in Japan, so I suppose that they're a chain, though so is Palm and Morton's and Capital Grill. Do not go to Ippudo expecting a Japanese Chili's. 

While many, if not most, ramen restaurants are dingy run down hole-in-the-wall places that you feel couldn't possibly deserve any better than a C-rating by the health department, Ippudo is chic. It's got a trendy atmosphere and pretty hostesses at the door. It has dim lighting and a modern design. Everything is sleek. It's also more expensive than the others that I've been to. That doesn't mean it's expensive, but if you can go to ramen place X and pay $12 for a bowl with all the trimmings, Ippudo starts at $15 and there are sides for extra. Expect to drop $20 before you order drinks and appetizers.




Of course, we ordered some appetizers and it's my personal opinion that you should also. Dogz and V ordered Vegetable Harata Buns, sweet steamed buns filled with eggplant and lettuce and sauce and Myna ordered the Pork Harata Buns which had... pork. Both were delicious and it appeared that the vegetable one actually won out for best. The buns themselves were marshmallow soft and sweet and the filling, be it the eggplant or the pork literally exploded with flavor the kind of flavor you usually only dream about when you're high. I wanted to be a bit more adventurous so I ordered the Tako Wasabi: raw, chopped baby octopus in a slight wasabi marinade. Very very good and nothing like your standard calamari/octopus appetizers. Really, think more like an octopus ceviche. There was no fishiness whatsoever, but there was a bit too much sliminess. This might be off-putting for some palates, but for me it was more about being difficult to pick up with the fancy, glossy chopsticks that the restaurant uses. Wooden chopsticks are always my preferred chopsticks.



Anyway, if the appetizers were good, the soups were better. Now, I can't speak for V's Wasabi Shoyu Ramen, a soy sauce and vegetable based soup with bean curd, wasabi, menma, nori, scallions, and wasabi infused oil, but she and Dogz enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it was the only vegetarian broth soup on the menu, so my vegetarian readers have few options in this regard. As for the rest of us, we luck out. Myna and myself ordered the Shiramaru Hakata Classic Ramen, the "original" pork broth ramen topped with pork loin, sesame kikurage mushrooms, memma, red pickled ginger, & scallions. I also ordered the additional toppings of Bakudan, a red spicy paste, Kakuni, pork belly, and Nitamago, a boiled egg. Without the toppings, it was great. With the toppings it was amazing.... though in truth the pork belly was probably overkill and I doubt I'd get it the next time I go. But definitely get the Bakudan if you like heat. Just dump the whole little bowl in and watch the soup turn from the pictured silky tan to a brick red hue while your nose starts to run a tad. Heaven. Dogz ultimately won out though with his Akamaru Modern Ramen, pork broth topped with Ippudo's secret "Umami Dama" miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and garlic oil. While my classic ramen was smooth, his was smoother. While mine was thick and hearty, his was thicker and heartier. If you like a noodle soup that has some heft to it, you can simply not go wrong with the modern ramen.




After we left and bade goodbye to Dogz and V, Myna decided that she wanted to return and bring a few friends with her. While the expense is slightly higher than the rat-trappy places that Ippudo competes with, she felt that it was well worth the added expense for the clean interior, extra space, and far more appetizing atmosphere. "I can afford the extra fifteen bucks" she said as we walked to the R train.

Ramens average $15 per bowl and extra toppings average $3. Appetizers average around $10. We did not order any beverages.





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POURING RIBBONS

>> 4/7/14

255 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009
(917) 656-6788


Unlike the burger craze or the cupcake craze or the dollar pizza craze, the Cocktail craze that began back around the same time that I first started this blog hasn't shown signs of its impending demise. In fact, if anything, it's grown. Milk & Honey, the original, has moved from its divey digs to more corporate Flatiron, and PDT has its own "cookbook" at Barnes & Noble. Even Little Branch has opened a second location in Murry Hill. So in a sense, its nice to see that a place like Pouring Ribbons can still arrive and open shop under a filthy awning between a liquor store and a Subway. If you didn't know any better, you'd assume that it's where a knitting wholesaler might launder money.



Inside and up the stairs is a large and comfortable bar. Sofas, tables, comfy chairs, oak floors, flapper-era globe lamps. All these things and and a lot of space between them make Pouring Ribbons quite different from the tiny, cramped speakeasies you might be used to. Myna and I arrived early on a Saturday for a pre-movie drink and we were the first ones in. No beer, no TV might make Homer go crazy, but during March Madness, it also meant we weren't standing on a line for twenty minutes hoping to get a seat inside. The snack menu at Pouring Ribbons is almost nonexistent, so get a slice of pizza beforehand. Meanwhile, the cocktail menu at is large and imposing. To make your decision making somewhat easier, Pouring Ribbons rates the drinks on two sliding scales. Scale one goes from refreshing to spiritous (how boozy it might be) and scale two goes from comforting to adventurous (whether or not you've heard of its ingredients).




 I started off with a classic drink, the Dark & Stormy, a rum and ginger cocktail. Typically, they are made with ginger beer, but Pouring Ribbons instead uses a hearty ginger syrup. Myna opted for the Sing For Your Supper a very tropical drink of mango, bitters, and vanilla vodka. It was apropos given that she's a singer, and it was very fruity. "This would be the perfect brunch drink," she said. "Or it would be if they sold brunch here." These two were topped off with one final cocktail to pound back quickly before we raced out the door to the movie. We decided to share the Bols Deep, a citrusy cocktail made with Bols Genever, green tea, clarified milk, and chamomile-infused rye. I can't say that I really tasted the rye or the chamomile, but the drink itself was extremely light and smooth. It would be a fantastic drink to enjoy on a stifling hot summer day.


Pouring Ribbons was quiet (when we were there), sophisticated, and the drinks were excellent. If I was back in the dating game, I'd certainly go here on a first or second date (Myna says it should be a second date). I can't speak to how crowded it gets late in the evening or how long the line, if any, there might be. But on a nice night I would absolutely be willing to hang around and wait to go in or give them my number and holdout for a call. And in the meantime, there are a dozen more cocktail places a short walk away that I might enjoy myself in while I wait.

Cocktails are $14 each, but at least the place is not cash only.


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