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Ramen is a major comfort food when it comes down to what I want in cold weather and It was a very cold day in January when we went here. Naturally, my girlfriend and I went to Ippudo NY to grab us some salty broth and chewy noodles. We heard good things about it from friends; even from reviews online, but we had to judge for ourselves. We’ve gone to other places like Mitsuwa in Jersey or Totto Ramen in the city, and we were not disappointed with the quality of their noodle/broth concoctions - and also the value!
Upon arrival, we were put on the waiting list for 45 minutes - the place was packed. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait outside in the cold and we took some seats by the bar. Oddly, no one was having any drinks. Instead, the whole bar area was set up like a waiting room for the dining area in the back. The bar did look nice, with a variety of different ramen bowls displayed on the back wall along with instant ramen bricks underneath the glass panels of the bar top. This did not help our hunger for ramen as all it did was remind us the reason for our being here; the ramen theme was taunting us and hyping up what awaited. The rest of the crowd seemed unfazed, everyone waiting within eyesight was on some sort of smartphone trying to kill time or get one word out to a friend.
When we were finally called up, we were taken to the back seating area where we were greeted heartily by a resounding “irasshaimase!” from all the workers in Japanese. I was surprised but it was a nice touch. We also realized that the place had large community tables; you’d bump elbows with a stranger as you slurped down a hot mess. This didn’t bother us too much since the space in between each person was comfortably wide and accommodating. Ippudo NY does have actual private booths where a party of a few people can sit together, but I wasn’t aware at the time if there’s an extra charge for this. The place looked really nice with warm, ambient lighting and a nice view of the ramen kitchen. We took a peek at their menu and were slightly taken aback at the pricing. It was $14 for their signature ramen, but after reading all the reviews it had to be that good, right? We gave them a chance, I ordered their signature Shiromaru Hakata Classic and Wess ordered the Akamaru Modern.
Shiromaru Hakata Classic.
Service was quick. We got our orders in but a few moments and the bowls arrived piping hot. Presentation looked great and it smelled just as good as it looked, but taste is what matters here. The broth was salty, rich and very flavorful and the noodles had just the right amount of chewiness. The char-siu pork in the bowl was very lean, however, and somewhat dry. I’ve had better in other places. The bamboo shoots still held a satisfying crunch. Overall, the bowl of ramen was good, which was reason for my disappointment. It was just good, not amazing, not heavenly, not wonderful, just plain old good. If this was a $9 dollar bowl of ramen, I can understand how the place would be great, but it wasn’t. It was a $14 dollar bowl of ramen with dry char-siu pork that was just good.
The waiter then handed out some glasses of hot barley tea when we were almost finished with our meal. Apparently, they give it out to everyone for free but they don’t always have a fresh brew ready for every guest that walks in. It was really good tea, which took some sting off the price of the ramen. Afterwards we had to use the restrooms. There’s something about eating a large bowl majorly composed of liquid along with a glass of free barley tea that raises awareness of one’s bladder. Bathrooms were awkwardly located down a flight of stairs back in the waiting area. The sink taps were also reversed, as Wess stated, coming back with freezing cold hands and saying how the hot water never got hot at all. I also came across what appeared to be some kind of machine involved in the noodle-making process, but couldn’t tell for sure. They get bonus points for making their own noodles on-site only if it’s true! It was not a terrible experience, but I’ve had superior ramen at other places and for much cheaper with shorter waits. If you have to pick a ramen joint, you definitely can do so much better than Ippudo NY, but for what it is, you’ll get you what you want.
65 Fourth Avenue (Between 9th and 10th Street)
New York, NY 10003