Friday, October 8, 2010

Ippudo New York

Though my stops have been relatively few and far between, I'm intent on slowly working my way through visits to what are widely considered some of the top spots in Manhattan for ramen. Rai Rai Ken came first, followed by Momofuku and Ramen Setagaya (which is now known as Ramen Kuidouraku). Earlier this week, just before crossing town and jumping the train back to Philly, I added Ippudo to the list; really, though, I should say we, as I was back in action with Joe and Nattles, the same crew from last fall's visit to Setagaya.

While I think it's fair to say that Momofuku has the most urban vibe and frenetic energy of the bunch, it's Ippudo that slots in as the least casual, most typically restaurant-like — from its menu to its service, and from the snazzy decor to the generous table sizes and spacing. That's all reflected in Ippudo's prices, the highest of the bunch when it comes to what we'd all come for: ramen.

Of the several renditions of ramen available, I opted for the Akamaru Modern: 'The original tonkotsu' soup noodle with Ippudo's special sauce, pork belly chashu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, miso paste and fragrant garlic oil. As the picture above does a reasonable job of conveying, Ippudo's broth is opaque and fairly deeply miso-enriched. It's intensely savory, almost too much so, as I found it hard to get through the whole bowl of broth (in fact, I didn't). The noodles, though excellent in terms of flavor, flexibility and silkiness, could have used a bit more oomph in both the tooth and girth departments in order to stand up to their dark, heady bath.

Back to those prices — if you're going to fork out $13 for lunchtime ramen, you may as well throw in an extra three bucks for the "set," as that modest upcharge will net you a nice little soy-ginger dressed salad and a surprisingly substantial side. Of the four available choices, I went with the broiled eel, classically prepared and set atop a bowl full of slightly sweet sticky rice.

I'll return to Ippudo without a doubt. Overall, it was a more than satisfying experience. I'll even go for the ramen again; I liked it more than my description above may have made it seem. That said, I'll go at dinner rather than lunch, or on a day when I'm feeling the call of the bottomless pit. Perhaps on a wintry day, when that slightly out of balance richness may be brought into check by the elements. Conversely, I won't go when I'm craving that certain ramen fix, something I'm much more prone to at lunchtime, when I'm usually looking for simplicity, lightness, comfort and a sense of being left energized at the end of the meal. For me, I'm coming to learn, that means shio ramen, served in a no-nonsense setting.

Ippudo NY
65 Fourth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 388-0088
Ippudo on Urbanspoon


Joe Manekin said...

I don't know who that dude is in the photos bookending your post, but he clearly spends way too much time on that damn mobile device.

David McDuff said...

Hey, even I, the retro phone man, will admit that thing came in handy now and then. And I was giving you the benefit of the doubt in the first shot -- maybe a menu rather than a droid....

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