Last night, I, along with my friend Krista, finally got to visit the New York City palace of ramen, Ippudo in the East Village. I've been hearing about Ippudo for years, but have been intimidated by stories about people waiting for an hour to get a seat in this super-popular noodle shop. I should have ignored the hype and gone a long time ago.
Walking into Ippudo, we were greeted by the agressively cheerful Japanese hostesses that are the norm in Japan. A small crowd was gathered in the front area, and we were told our wait would be about 35 minutes. I found a friend from the lindy hop scene waiting with her husband and child, and we had a nice chat about all the things they liked about Ippudo.
The restaurant has a really cool, modern Japanese vibe. One wall is covered in beautiful bowls. Wait staff rush about with bowls of soup and noodles. Ramen masters preside over the open kitchen in the back, where a row of stools allows patrons to watch the whole production.
Krista and I were soon seated with a bunch of other diners around a large wooden table. Lots of solo diners here, I saw, as well as couples on dates, and several families with small kids. What child doesn't like noodles? The place had a friendly vibe, and Krista was soon talking with the woman beside her about the ribs she had just ordered.
The menu had a number of delicious looking starters and side dishes. But we were here for ramen and ordered two bowls of their "Classic" and "Modern." The waiter seemed a bit confused on the differences, but it seemed hard to go wrong.
The classic has a much creamier, simpler broth, with the taste of the giant pieces of braised pork lending the dominant flavor. The modern had a richer, more complex body, with strong garlic notes. Krista preferred the classic, while I liked the modern slightly more.
The noodles were the real winners though. Perfectly al dente, super fresh, they were the best ramen noodles I've ever had. The trick is to eat your noodles and reserve the broth, and then immediately order another round of noodles for just $2 before your broth cools too much.
The ramen was perfectly filling and satisfying on its own. I think a side order would have been a bit too much. That said those ribs looked damn good, as did the steamed buns.
The final bill was just $36 for the two of us, which is totally reasonable and worth it. I'm already planning my next trip back.