Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ippudo - Simply, Was It "Worth It?" Part II (New York City)



On an earlier post during my earlier visit to Urasawa, I asked a simple question: Was the meal "worth it?" In regards to Urasawa, it was worth every penny I spent that night for dinner. Now the scene shifts to New York City's famous Japanese ramen restaurant: Ippudo. Although I've heard of stories where people wait over an hour to be seated here, especially during the winter season, my friend and I thankfully were seated immediately upon arrival.


Dining Room at Ippudo

After my friend and I looked over the lunch menu, we decided on the lunch set ($16), which included a choice of ramen, a rice bowl "don," and a small salad. After all the hype surrounding Ippudo, I was finally there to enjoy it! My friend decided on the Ippudo's famous Akamaru Modern with a Nitamago (Seasoned soft boiled egg, $2) added, with a roasted pork rice, while I went with the same ramen, but with a fried chicken rice bowl.

Roast pork over rice @ IppudoFried chicken (spicy) over rice @ Ippudo

Top: Roasted Pork Rice. Bottom: Fried Chicken Rice

First, we were given our two rice bowls. I was able to try both and I preferred the fried chicken version a bit more than the roasted pork. I wasn't too keen with the spicy mayo used in the roasted pork version. Although both bowls had nice flavors and we were given ample portions of the meat, the rice bowls didn't quite stand out. I hope the ramen would stand out relative to these rice bowls.

Akamaru Modern @ Ippudo

Akamaru Modern

I wish I took more pictures. More pictures of the ramen, the nitamago, the noodles, but alas, I was too focused with the bowl of "soupy" (is that a word?) goodness placed in front of me. This was the main attraction, one of the reasons I was willing to pay more than $20 for ramen, Ippudo's famous Akamaru Modern.

The Akamaru Modern is a "tonkotsu" style ramen, which from wikipedia states:

"Tonkotsu ("pork bone") ramen usually has a cloudy white colored broth. It is similar to the Chinese baitang (白湯) and has a thick broth made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen over high heat for many hours, which suffuses the broth with a hearty pork flavor and a creamy consistency that rivals milk or melted butter or gravy (depending on the shop). Most shops, but not all, blend this pork broth with a small amount of chicken and vegetable stock and/or soy sauce. Currently the latest trend in tonkotsu toppings is māyu (マー油/麻油), a blackish, aromatic oil made from either charred crushed garlic or Sesame seeds. The noodles are thin and straight. It is a specialty of Kyūshū and is often served with beni shoga (pickled ginger)."

In terms of the Akamaru Modern, the thick, creamy broth was made from pork bone as stated above. With the addition of spicy miso paste, and garlic oil, the broth was enhanced beautifully with those two additions. I really enjoyed the rich taste of the soup broth, as it's better than any I've had here in Los Angeles. The nitamago was silky smooth, and the yolk was runny, just what I wanted in a soft boiled egg in a bowl of ramen. The bowl of ramen as a whole was great, probably the best bowl I've had in the United States. Compared to the local favorites in Los Angeles of Santouka and Shin Sen Gumi (I've yet tried Daikokuya) the broth is definitely richer and the addition of the garlic oil added a nice touch.

Now, the key question: Was this bowl of ramen worth the $22+ I spent that day for lunch? You could say, "Hey Panda, you went to Urasawa, Per Se, etc, what's another $20 for ramen?" While that may be true, I just don't know if ANY ramen was worth this price. After everything, even though this bowl of ramen was superior, I'd rather eat the lunch specials offered at Shin Sen Gumi (Ramen + Bowl of Fried Rice) that's under $8. I do think I'll return here on my next trip, at least to try the famous Hirata Pork Buns, Ippudo to me just wasn't worth the price. While this might be the best United States have to offer, you can just find me at Santouka, as I'm more than happy slurping down the ramen there. Until then, I'll end this review with another shot of the Akamaru Modern.

Akamaru Modern @ Ippudo

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

Ippudo in New York


Gastronomer said...

The ramen *only* costs $13. Is it still not worth it?

fel said...

When I went to Ippudo, I found myself asking the same question and I think I would go again. It is pricey but, like you mentioned, the broth is better than most in LA.

I liken it to a special occasion ramen house (rather than your go-to whenever a ramen craving hits).

Diana said...

Considering that I have spent $17 on "just a salad" and, most recently, $6 on a candy bar, I say it's worth it! :) Sometimes it's fun to be a little bit reckless when dining out.

Dan said...

you know, most of us that go here just get the ramen, its a under $15 meal for the best Ramen in America! I'm a repeat offender, its worth it :P

Protocol Snow said...

Wasted opportunity: you should have saved "Simply, was it worth it? Part II" for Masa in NYC =)

weezermonkey said...

First, I can't stop singing the Pet Shop Boys now.

I'm going to NYC again in August. Are you saying I should skip this?

Kung Food Panda said...

Cathy: Being a cheap Asian, I spent over $22 on the ramen and rice. I thought it's a bit much? Though, it's definitely the best ramen I've had and I'll return.

Fel: I agree. It's definitely not a place I could eat weekly. Definitely the best ramen broth I've had.

Diana: I guess it's a splurge!? :)

Dan: I'll go with you next time. Maybe I'm contradicting myself, but I'll return, but I'm not sure if it was worth the $ entirely.

Protocal Snow: Maybe that's for part 3? Though I'm not sure if/when I'll try Masa...

WM: I think you should go, and let me know what you think. Best ramen I've had, I'm just not sure if it's worth the $22+ and the wait (if you're unlucky)

burumun said...

No, no, no Panda. No pork bun at Ippudo, for pork bun go to Momofuku! Tsk, read my post will you? :P Just kidding, but seriously, Momofuku's buns are better.

mattatouille said...

I'm sorta with you. Even $13 for ramen is a bit much, but considering the price of admission to go to Japan and get the good stuff there, it's not a bad deal. Well, then again, we in LA have to fly over to NY. I'm going to try ippudo and see how it fares with ramen in Japan. I'm sure it's comparable, though good ramen in Japan won't set you back more than $9 or so. Really good ramen in Japan is still pretty expensive.

BeefNoGuy said...

Man I wish we had Ippudo in California (Northern and Southern). That all looks great!

Pandalicious said...

if you get just the ramen, it's less than $20. personally, i think it's worth it, and better than santouka or any of the other ramen places here. i still have yet to try Daikokuya.

is that worth the wait?

Keizo said...

Great post! Wow the price is almost doubled. The akamaru is 850 yen here. Anyway, it's not really the price that matters as long as the ramen gets the job done...right? If this is the best bowl you've ever had, I will be waiting for you in Tokyo preparing a ramen that will overtake that crown!

Bonnibella said...

I don't really mind paying over $20 for the ramen, at least to try once. I mean people pay over $3 for cupcakes, coffee and donuts.

This places sounds interesting if the broth is superb than Santouka (there's one in San Jose now.)

I'm waiting for all the tasting menu blog post!

Kung Food Panda said...

GP: Ya, I heard the ones at Momofuku were better, but I didn't have time. sigh....

Matt: Let me know what you think when you try it later this year. I think it's worth it to a certain extent. I'd maybe avoid the rice bowl and just get the ramen and the egg. I think the egg is essential!

Ken: Welcome to the blogging world. And I agree with that quote. Nor Cal especially has some lacking ramen. I don't think any ramen shops I've tried were really good. Though there is a Santouka in SJ now.

Amy: I need to try Daikokuya myself. You're right, the ramen itself is $13, even with the egg, it's not THAT bad :) Maybe I'm contradicting myself now...

Keizo: Best ramen I've had so far in the States, definitely. I had some good ones in Japan last time, but it's been so long. I'm ready to try your creation, hopefully Winter 2010!

Bonnie: It's definitely better than Santouka. You guys are making me think if this was really worth it. LOL.

I'm ready to write about the tasting menu. I should have my first one up by Friday!

Anna A. said...

I've sadly never had ramen, unless you count the "top" varietal. Kind of a lot for noodles and broth, but at least now you know you have it good back home in cali.

Aaron said...

I didn't even think of trying the rice bowls here. They look good, but are they expensive too?

Ravenous Couple said...

perhaps it's something about Asian food..no one complains when a simple pasta can easily be in the 15-20 range.. that's why we don't eat much Italian :)

Kung Food Panda said...

Anna: We should go sometime? Daikokuya, etc? Santouka is da bomb too!

Aaron: The rice bowls were part of our lunch set, so in this case, it's $3. Not sure how much it is a la carte.

Hong: Ya, it's weird, it's weird spending over $22 for ramen and rice bowl....I was just thinking it's "New York Prices."

Food GPS said...

Back when Anthony Mangieri used to charge $21 for a pizza at Una Pizza Napoletana, that also bothered a lot of people. My take is that for a great food experience, it's worth the price, and so is what you (and I) paid for a bowl of ramen at Ippudo. It might be expensive for ramen, but not for a great meal.

Kung Food Panda said...

Josh: Totally agree. Maybe I was just slightly surprised. Even on the next trip, I'll most likely return to Ippudo!

Anonymous said...

There are NO ACCOLADES for Ippudo. I've been coming here for ramen, since I moved to NY about 2 years ago; but yesterday, I abruptly left the restaurant when management decided to slap me with a surcharge of $4/person for eating a cupcake in their restaurant. No one gave me a warning, but they just automatically added the ridiculous surcharge to my tab. I went late in the afternoon, and did not have to wait for a table, but for some reason, things were EXTREMELY SLOW in the kitchen. I mean, come on, it should take 5 minutes to bring out a bowl of ramen. I was STARVING and the only thing to stave off my hunger were the cupcakes that I bought from Butter Lane. I asked if, instead, I could order an appetizer or drinks, but they didn't even give me the option. Moreover, I think it's annoying when this "policy" was not listed anywhere on the menu. The manager on duty said management is allowed to do whatever they please, but shouldn't they, instead, try to please the customers? Afterall, you are paying $15 for a bowl of peasant food. So fellow ramen enthusiasts, beware!

Kung Food Panda said...

Anon: That's just pathetic what Ippudo did! $4 more to eat a cupcake? Seriously? Jeez....I take it you haven't gone back since....