I used to be ashamed to say that I have never been to Ippudo as a 5-year downtown New York resident. Shame, be gone, because guess what – I went last night! And because most New Yorkers were out of town celebrating America’s independence, my friend Sara and I only had to wait 1 hour at 7pm, which is pretty much a miracle given the average wait time each time I’ve asked has been no less than 3 hours.
While I came for the ramen (yes, it’s ridiculously, unbearably hot in New York but I’m recovering from the flu), I leapt for joy (alone) when I examined Ippudo’s awesome cocktail list. After a little shochu with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and soda at the bar, Sara and I were seated in the chaos of shouting ramen chefs and privileged foodies chompin’ at the bit for their ramen to hit their table. Given I’ve waited 5 years to eat here, I didn’t want to mess around – we ordered the steamed pork buns, fried chicken wings, a green salad, and the Wasabi Shoyu Ramen, a soy sauce and vegetable based noodle soup that the waiter recommended as a lighter version of the thick pork broth that can get a little salty. The pork in the pork bun was perfectly crispy and meaty with just the right amount of fat content, but I by no means welcome mayonnaise in anything, and I couldn’t really get over the glob of mayo that caught my eye. The hot fried chicken wings with Ippudo’s black pepper sauce made up for it – a plate of 3 for $7 was a steal, and they were meaty, hot, crispy and totally unique in tangy peppery flavor. The crispy cabbage on the side rounded it out as the perfect small meal. The green salad was nothing to boast about, but that’s to be expected.
Now, the ramen. I know the traditional order is one of the ramens in pork soup, but as a sickling all I wanted was something light and brothy. The shoyu ramen was the perfect answer. It was dark, earthy and rich in flavor, and with the side order of pork and a bounty of curly ramen noodles, it was absolutely filling. While the bamboo shoots were a little tough to chew, the soft slices of seaweed added a unique texture, I only wish there had been more.
At just $25 per person, I left Ippudo feeling satisfied with the return on my investment – a rarity in this city of exorbitant prices and small food. When I’m willing to wait again with a party of 2 (probably no more, though they have a few pretty large tables), I will definitely be back.
Location: 65 Fourth Avenue @ 10th Street (new location in midtown west coming soon!)