NYC — Summer 2015: Ippudo Westside

Sunday, September 13, 2015
Hello, I'm back from NYC! Which means the next few days are going to be filled with — what else? — food posts. I went to NYC with my mom this time and we were staying at the Paramount, which is in the Theater District (a half-block away from Times Square — not my favourite area to stay in because of the intense amount of tourists, but hotels in the area usually have cheaper rates for the same reason). I had made a list of restaurants that I wanted to try on this trip, making sure to include several in the Theater District in case we didn't want to travel too far to eat. We arrived on Tuesday evening, and my mom had mentioned wanting noodles for dinner. (Of course, typical Asian mom answer.) Knowing that we were going to be tired, especially during the intense record-breaking heatwave last week, I decided to take us to Ippudo Westside, the second Ippudo location that is five blocks from our hotel (the original East Village location got so busy that there were sometimes three-hour waits for a table, so they opened one in Midtown). Ippudo is considered one of the best ramen restaurants in NYC, so I was pretty excited to try it.

Pork Hirata Buns

Ebi & Kani Croquettes

After about a 20-minute wait, we got seated at the centre bar. It's a fun, loud, raucous atmosphere, typical of Japanese izakaya and ramen bars, so if you want something quiet or romantic, this is not the place to go. We decided to start with the ultra-popular Hirata buns, which are steamed buns filled pork (you can also choose chicken or vegetables), served with Ippudo's "original spicy buns sauce" and mayo. The pork belly is tender with just the right amount of fat and has a salty-sweet flavour (I think it's marinated in soy sauce and sugar) that goes well with the sauce/mayo blend that tastes kind of like Big Mac sauce. It's topped with crisp lettuce and stuffed into a fluffy white bao, and they are positively delightful. I don't think it's a particularly unique dish (lots of places serve pork buns), but it is reliably tasty and satisfying. Our second appetizer was the panko-crusted shrimp and crab croquettes, served with tonkatsu sauce and tomato mayo. The outside was perfectly crispy and golden, while the shrimp and crab filling somehow remained soft and almost pillowy. The tonkatsu adds a nice tangy kick, and the mayo helps to mellow it out. Beautifully presented, too. If you're in the mood for something deep-fried and different than what typical ramen places offer, the croquettes are a fantastic choice.

Akamaru Modern

Finally, the main event: the ramen. I decided on the Akamaru Modern, which is described as "a more bold translation of the original pork broth." And the broth is definitely the star here; it's flavourful and rich and slightly milky, and the garlic oil and miso paste give the broth a different dimension and fragrant profile without it becoming too salty or heavy. But that's really where the praise ends. Both my mom and I thought the pork could've been fresher (my mom described the taste as "pork that's been sitting in the freezer for a few days and then cooked"), but we agreed that the main problem with the ramen was the ramen itself. If you're going to pride yourself on having some of the best ramen in the city, your noodles should be pretty extraordinary, right? 

Now, I guess the size of ramen is personal preference because I always prefer thicker noodles, and Ippudo does describe their noodles as thin, so I'm not going to complain so much about that, but I will say that it is thinner than the typical ramen noodle. The texture of ramen should have a nice spring to it; firm, but with a good chew. These ones were cooked on the harder side of al dente, so they were firm but almost with a crunchy bite to them. (How does one slurp hard noodles?) The main issue with this is that they don't absorb any flavour, so the broth is really wasted. I don't know if they were having an off night with the noodles or if it's just the Westside location, but the ramen was a disappointment. I've continually read and heard that Ippudo serves the best ramen in the city, though, so either Toronto's ramen is just way better and I've been spoiled or I need to try the original Ippudo location instead.

Ippudo Westside
321 W 51st Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 974-2500
Be First to Post Comment !
Post a Comment

Klik the button below to show emoticons and the its code
Hide Emoticon
Show Emoticon