With ramen, as in so many other food things, I tend to let more experienced bloggers be my guide. I am still learning about ramen. What makes a good tonkatsu? How many toppings and what kind do I like? How many different regional variations are there? I learned a lot by making a few kinds at home, but I am by no means a master and never will be. So, for the trip to NYC I looked to Rameniac's guide to the bowl for 2009 and slurped along my merry way. We ate ramen every day. Every.single.day.
Rameniac calls Ippudo the second best bowl in North America. We stopped in one afternoon around 1:30 and the wait was 90+ minutes long. Close by was a branch of Setegaya (Rameniac's first best bowl in North America 2009). We strolled over there, low and behold the location at 90 University Place has been ousted by Ramen Takumi. Ramen Takumi is a likely looking hole in the wall. A half empty restaurant with completely empty stomachs and we were down for whatever ramen came our way. All the patrons there were Asian, take that for what you will. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Takumi. But they offer only chicken broth ramen. It was good, but didn't blow me out of the water. I ordered spicy ramen and it was actually spicy. Good. I would hit it again if in the 'hood and hungry 'cause there's no way I (my husband) is waiting 90 minutes for ramen (or anything).
Sunday morning after some quick Italian shoe shopping in the village I pushed D into a taxi landing on the doorstep of Ippudo 5 minutes after they opened. Above is the bar, hundreds of instant ramen cakes under glass. We still waited 15 minutes.
Ippudo reminds me a little of Katsuya or Sushi Roku, has an almost nightclub aesthetic. Very trendy. These are not my favorite restaurants. But I was there for the noodles and certainly the grade A people watching didn't spoil my fun.
The decor reminded me a little of pictures I have seen of the Bayless associated Red O in Los Angeles. I suppose it's silly to make comparisons. I did like the varied table configurations. Just in between this giant bamboo sculpture is a table for 6 made from a cross piece of wood cut from a single tree and varnished to mirrored perfection.
Along the back wall are booths seating 4 to 6...under the glass tops and hanging down over the side of the table are beautiful macramed flounces.
Small parties shared this communal table around an unlit fire pit. It was certainly cold enough outside for the fire pit to be lit, maybe they save the drama for evening. We were sat far in the back room and asked to be moved to the counter so we could watch the kitchen.
To our right, a cook puts out grilled appetizers. Here he puts the finishing touches on a small plate of ribs.
Directly in front of us a couple cooks work on the famous steamed pork buns. This guy minds the pork belly, steams the buns and puts the components together.
We started with ponzu hotate with yuzu and jalapeno.
In theory, the scallop is a little grilled and you can actually see grill marks on the flesh. In reality, the chef must have set the scallop down for a millisecond on a very hot grill because this was very rare. Fortunately, we love hotate sashimi so we were in good shape. This was delicious. I would definitely order this again.
I adventurously misordered. After the exotically luscious ramen at Yatai last summer I am tempted by exotic sounding ramen. The above ramen special caught my eye. Smoked oyster sauce, ankimo & pork chasyu pate over mini garlic toasts with chives and fried pickled ginger. It sounds so fun!
It was fun. And delicious. But frankly the broth was mild compared to the my husband's bowl and the noodles didn't have the spring I normally like. They were a little al dente which I thought was odd. What do I know? I am a ramen newb. Technically, in my mind, I should be ordering the same ramen bowl at every single spot (spicy miso, please) so I can really compare and contrast with more accuracy until I really know what I am doing/eating.
Recently at work while ooh'ing and aah'ing over various Southern California ramen establishments with one client another interjected to ask if by ramen we meant Top Ramen. lulz. Thank goodness I am no longer that much of a newb. It only takes one bowl, people. Just one amazing bowl of tonkatsu ramen will make you a convert.
Miso ramen. Perfection. This bowl was wonderful. The noodles were bouncy and cooked through, but not at all too soft. That white ball to the left is fresh ginger, enough that every single bite was full of ginger bits. Lots of green onion and greens, although the pork slices had literally no meat. Just fat. Flavorful, but too fatty. D felt this had too much ginger for his liking and was disappointed in the meat. Ultimately, he thinks Daikokuya is better and I can see his point overall. However, this broth is superior to Daikokuya, hands down. For my palate, it is all about the broth. Maybe we need to ramen at Daikokuya tonight to find out for sure.