Much has been gushed about Ippudo Hakata Ramen in New York since its grand opening in March this year — news articles reported that New Yorkers waited in the brutal winter cold for up to 90 minutes to eat a bowl of steaming ramen that was a “religious” experience, as quoted in popular food blog, Serious Eats.
A friend who lives there declared Ippudo was her favorite after eating her way through many ramen shops in the Big Apple. With such a vote of confidence, I had to try this tonkatsu (pork broth) sensation when a couple of friends were in town for a visit.
For kicks, I decided to patronize the very first shop built in Ippudo’s chain, which is located in Ebisu, a chic well-heeled neighborhood known for its cool nightlife and culinary delights.
There wasn’t a line to get in (phew…) but it was pretty full of salarymen and OLs (office ladies). I got a seat immediately and pointed to the fabled Akamaru set. Being Singaporean, it was the natural choice as it’s topped with a spicy paste that is not in the Shiromaru one which is just plain tonkatsu soup.
Large bowls of spicy preserved spinach and bean sprouts were placed at every table — this simple but yummy appetizer whetted my taste buds for what was to come.
The rich, savory flavor of the ramen made everyone at the table slurp in silent appreciation. Oishiiiii (delicious)… The noodles were al dente and slippery, while I was just floored by the complexity of the soup — it was a melange of mysterious minced beans (probably from the spicy paste) and punchy meatiness.
You’ve got to try the sui gyozas (steamed pork dumplings) which swim in a clear, light broth and spring onions. Since I’m Chinese by ethnicity, I’m quite critical of gyozas and these little babies were definitely a five-star experience.
What’s unusual about the yaki gyoza (pan-fried pork dumplings) was it had a smidgen of yuzu (Japanese mandarin) paste on the side. The citrus bite completely transformed its heaviness and you’d feel you could stuff in just a few more.
Did I see the Ramen Gods in Ippudo? Almost, just almost. I’ve yet to find another shop that’s better and it’s no wonder that it’s touted as the best ramen chain in Tokyo.
Address: 1-3-13 Hiroo, Hainezu Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours: 11am – 4am daily
How to get there: Take the West Exit from Ebisu JR station and head towards Meiji-dori. You’ll spot the shop next to a post office.