65 4th Avenue
New York, NY 10003
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. "It's worth 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.