Ippudo NYC – New York City, NY


Ippudo NYC
65 4th Avenue
New York, NY 10003-5220
(212) 388-0088

The New York City arrival of the Hakata style Ramen temple, Ippudo, really signified to me the just how wide spread the ramen invasion was in North America. While ramen had been gaining in popularity on the West Coast for quite some time, especially in Asian strongholds like Los Angeles, San Jose, and Vancouver, it didnt seem to have the wide spread appeal that sushi did.  Even with something like David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, it could be written off as an anomaly. Not anymore – thankfully, it looks ramen is here to stay.

Ippudo is a ramen chain started by Shigemi Kawahara, the “Ramen King” of Japan. King or not, he has definitely been credited with many advances, and pushing the envelope with the art of ramen – a modern, yet traditional approach to ramen. Each Ippudo location takes advantage of regional differences and produces a slightly different variation of their ramen – offered in addition to their traditional tonkotsu offering. In New York, that offering is the Akamaru Modern.

For more details on Hakata style ramen, please see Shokutsu’s description in his Menya review.

Once you get in, usually taking 30-90 minutes these days, you’ll be seated in a modern, understated environment. It is comfortable, and far larger than Kawahara’s original 10 seater in Fukuoka.

There is a diverse variety of appetizers available – a lot more than the traditional gyoza offerings. While many sound appetizing, to be honest, I’ve only tried the one. Hirata BBQ pork buns. Chinese steam bun meets house made chasu, sauce,  with a touch of lettuce and mayo. These are amazing. While steep in price, they are worth every penny. Many people prefer Momofuku’s, but I like these better. The chasu is cooked perfectly, fat rendered gelatinous, and extremely flavourful. Not too sweet, they have a very well balanced flavour – earthy, sweet, unctuous.

The aforementioned Akamaru Modern is Ippudo’s adaptation of their traditional Hakata Ramen offering for the New York market. Their somewhat mild, and “cleaner” tonkotsu soup, hakata style noodles, a dollop of rich chili paste, chasu, miso paste, fragrant garlic oil, cabbage, onions, kikurage, and scallions. It offers a wonderful broth – with their signature light touch on the richness of a traditional tonkotsu broth.  I actually prefer a slightly richer broth, but this is definitely more easily eaten, and likely much healthier than the very rick tonkotsu broths i prefer. The chasu is a great blend of berkshire fat and meat – great texture and flavour the accentuates the experience without getting lost in the bowl. The noodles are very good as well – they may lack a bit of bite i’ve noticed with most Hakata noodles, but these had a good blend of toothsome, with a touch of chewiness.  The lack of bite and flour-like texture are a common complaint, and is discernible – but I’m not enough of an expert to appreciate the differences, and like these noodles just fine.

Ippudo offers Kaedama with all of their ramen. Since I can’t describe it any better than rameniac, (rameniac.com), I’ll use his words to explain it:

Kaedama means “extra noodles” in Japanese. Ordering kaedama is a pasttime that originated with the Hakata style of ramen, in which portion sizes are traditionally smaller.

Since I’ve never mastered getting all the noodles and soup finished at the same time, I usually run out of noodles. Kaedama is a great offering for people like me.

I’ve also had their traditional offering, the Akamaru Hakata Classic. It comes with a poached egg, beni shoga, sesame, and scallions. While i love the poached egg, I have to say, out of the two, I definitely prefer the Modern. The classic uses the same broth, which lacks some of the richness and depth the Modern has put back in the lighter broth by adding sauce, garlic, and the miso. It is still a great bowl of ramen though.

All told, if you are a ramen fan, then Ippudo is worth a visit. Like pizza, everyone has a different preference for what they like, which can change day to day. They offer a very solid foundation with their light-medium tonkotsu broth – still loaded with flavour, but without the rich, fatty depth of a more traditional tonkotsu broth. The noodles are good, and the toppings are top notch – fresh, tasty, and well proportioned. Even if your preferences are for different ramen styles, you’ll still enjoy Ippudo. And really, any establishment that puts that kind of care and attention to detail into their food deserves a visit – and hopefully, raises the bar for other ramenya to follow. All hail the king in NYC – Ippudo.

Ippudo on Urbanspoon

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6 thoughts on “Ippudo NYC – New York City, NY

  1. Well, it seems I really dropped the ball when I was in New York City. Had I known this was there (aside from Momofuku), I would have gone for Ramen rather than… pizza? Oh, well. I hope there will be a next time in NYC for me!

    Now, for the obvious question: Although you mentioned there is a preference component, how does it compare to the Vancouver offerings?

  2. I prefer Ippudo over the Vancouver offerings, partially because of the quality of the ingredients, partially because of the technique and composition. The broth has a very rich depth to it that doesnt just come from fat. Motomachi is uncomparable – it’s apples to oranges, Kintaro is a touch too salty – and too much flavour comes from big chunks of fat, and while i like Benkei, it doesnt have the sophistication and depth of the ippudo broth. Menya doesnt even compare. Never tried GMen, but i will at some point.

    Hakata noodles are hard to compare to other styles, but they are of better quality than any of the Vanramen shops. Their chasu offering is also the best – where i definitely prefer Kintaro out of every place i’ve been to in Vancouver, though they are a bit too thick cut for my liking. Everything else, except the cabbage which was a bit odd, was on par if not better.

    That said, i’d happily take any of the aforementioned in my town in a heartbeat. They are all very good ramen offerings who take ramen seriously. I just prefer Ippudo.

  3. Porkiness is an attribute that Westerners are not accustomed to in ramen broth. I can see why the ramen-ya here in North America specifically source light flavoured pork and bones to make the broth. (You can have Chinese soups at some specialty soup shops in Richmond that are so porky that it smells like a barnyard…good if that is your thing).

    I have not had ramen at Ippudo, but am now angling to try it. My rameniac friend who splits his time between LA and NYC rates it at the top (Santuoka is also right up there. I’m looking forward to the opening of the Vancouver location.)

    GMen’s ramen surprisingly is quite good, IMO. I had it for the first time a couple of weekends ago. The broth is nice and glossy from gelatin…good flavour without being greasy or fatty. They were skimpy on the pork belly, however.

    • I agree gastro – it is something not accustomed to. However, I’ve had some fantastic, very rich, very porky broths that could appeal to a wide audience – i think balance is the key. My biggest complaint with heavy pork broths i end up disliking is usually sodium – too salty or not salty enough, you end up with a very unbalanced taste. Managing your seasoning is key when you’re working with something that rich and fatty.

      Santouka is fantastic – but quite different from Ippudo. Regardless, it’s definitely worth a visit.

      Shokutsu has been bugging me to go to GMen for a while – he likes the broth there the best out of all Vancouver offerings. I will definitely make an effort to get there the next time im in town.

  4. Ippudo is good but my fav is still Ramen Setagaya in NYC.
    The broth at Ippudo is richer, but if you like a cleaner, simpler broth (like a shio ramen) try Setagaya. I also like their noodle texture.

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