Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Believe the hyphy

Hakata Ippudo
65 4th Ave at 10th St.

We've all read long, overblown descriptions of Ippudo. The decor, the J-Pop blaring, the giant soup spoons. Some highlights:

Best noodles, best broth, really cool surroundings--and I think I was one of the 5 gaijin in the place on official opening day.

Wow. Congratulations.

Deep, intense, and profound: Fancy yourself a philosopher in the middle of winter? The Shiromaru was made for you. The broth is creamy, rich, and with a deep toromi that will soothe every inch of cold out of the soul. There is an intensity to all the flavours, but not overwhelmingly so. The thin noodles are cooked to a perfect al dente, balancing out the density of the broth. The thin slices of pork, cabbages, and scallions bring an added flavour complexity to the bowl. It is definitely a ramen worth examining, and Socrates himself would have pondered it for weeks.

Edgy, adventurous, and spontaneous: The Akamaru will bring out the Beethoven in any ramen lover. The spicy miso and garlic oil added to the the broth brings out an edgy, yet still fragrant element to the soup that layers on the flavours with each spoonful. Coupled with the again perfectly al dente noodles and the pork, each bite brings out new dimension as the spicy miso, garlic oil, broth, and the whole symphony of flavours bring different notes to the dish. If ever a bowl of ramen could achieve unity in bold, dramatic movements, it is the Akamaru.

Wise, serene, and at peace: How tacky is it to think of Confucius at a moment like this, right? But that's what the Miso Ramen did for me. It's not that it's fantastic or bad, but it's stable, wise in its consistency, balanced in its flavours, and aiming to be nothing more than what it is. The toromi of the broth is probably the least dynamic of the three as it consistently maintains its flavour. While it may not be profound nor bold, it is definitely the most balanced in texture, complexity, and flavour among the three. Take comfort in the wisdom of this bowl.

Good god. Is this ramen or perfume?

I never thought I would describe a ramen bar as sexy but the restaurant is that. The lighting made everyone look attractive and sophisticated, the J-pop music is sultry yet poppy w/o being obtrusive and the food. . Mmmmm, I'm smacking my lips just thinking about it. Future Date write this down. . .Ippudo puts me in a mood, the hot and bothered kind of mood.

You get the idea. Last night I braved my literal shitstorm, hopped up on Pepto Bismol. Walking into the restaurant, I felt like I was at Benihana's on acid. It's ramen for crying out loud! I don't need a fancy dining room. We were seated (all 7 of us), after about an hour wait, at a giant private booth that could've fit at least 2-3 more people. Our waitress was great - very energetic and enthusiastic and POLITE.

I got the Shoyu Ramen, pictured #2 above. The broth was rich and well-rounded. After Chikubu, which is now closed, this is probably the best shoyu I've had in NYC. And it's not even their specialty. I also sampled the Akamaru Modern, pictured #1 above. The broth was rich and nicely flavored. The only adornments we were given were a pepper grinder and sesame seed grinder. Many complained that there wasn't enough "stuff" in the ramen. This was true, as I only received two thin slices of pork and a sliver of fishcake. I didn't need much more - maybe a couple more slices of pork. But really it's about the noodles (thin, chewy, delicious, homemade) and the broth. Maybe they'll put some add-ons on the menu as they get more seasoned.

Bottom line, the ramen speaks for itself. They need to knock out the trendy decor and then they'll be able to fit about 20 more seats in there. The bar area is a great waiting area. No need to gussy it up for the NYU crowd; if they need all that ambiance they probably shouldn't be eating ramen. OOOOH.

And something else to look forward to: Santouka Ramen is slated to open in NYC later this year. Thanks for the tip, Ricky.

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