As you ritually commit all my posts to memory you do not need me to remind you that we were rebuffed on our first attempt to eat at the 51st St. location of Ippudo Ramen. Well, not so much rebuffed as hit in the face by a minimum wait of an hour at 5.15 pm on a Saturday. On that occasion we decided not to chance the missus getting late for her theatre date and ended up eating a nice if expensive for what it was dinner at Empire Diner. And given the fact that Ippudo does not take reservations we resigned ourselves to probably not being able to eat there at all on this trip. One hour waits with young children are no fun for anyone and our weekday dinner plans for the next week were pretty set anyway. As it happened, though, we got in without any wait at all just the next day.
For this we probably have rain to thank. We emerged from a play we’d taken the boys to (the Harry Potter parody, Puffs) and found it drizzling. We also emerged to find texts on my phone from the old friend we were supposed to be eating with at Bombay Bread Bar saying that she had a work emergency she had to go in for. We punted the Bombay Bread Bar date to the next weekend and decided to take a chance on walking into Ippudo again. The rain had begun to pick up as we were getting closer and this doubtless had kept the hungry hordes at bay. Though just barely. There were some seats free at the bar but only a couple of tables in the larger dining room, one of which we got.
It’s a large space—much larger than Bantam King in DC and a very different vibe and feel. The restaurant is below street level and so there’s no natural light to speak of, only somewhat harsh yellow lighting bouncing off shiny wooden tables. The menu is larger than I was expecting with a long selection of appetizers/starters. To be frank, I’m not sure what differentiates their “Speciality Appetizers” from their “Signature Appetizers” or both from their “Starters”. In any case all we got from those two pages of the menu was an order of agedashi tofu which was rather good. The ramen selections are split between four pork broth options and three vegetarian options. There was also a special with chicken broth. The missus got the “Karaka Spicy”, I got the “Akamaru Shinaji” (with a poached egg added) and the boys split a “Shiromaru Motoaji”.
For a look at the food and the space launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see what we thought of it, how much it cost etc.
Well, we liked the ramen a lot too. We’re not ramen mavens by any means but the broth in all three bowls had excellent depth of flavour and silky texture and the noodles were great. I’m not sure, by the way, if all three ramens had the same broth. They’re all listed as tonkotsu but may well be prepared differently. At any rate, with everything else in the bowls it was hard to say. Granted it was not the same style of ramen as at Bantam King but we liked this a lot better. Service was good as well. By the way, as you may have noticed if you looked carefully at the menu pics, they have a number of vegetarian ramen options—as of a few years ago, I gather—and so this is a very plausible place not just for those who don’t eat pork but for those who don’t eat meat.
Price? Once again we paid in the $70s for the four of us; about $78 with tip. The ramen does cost quite a bit more than similarly-sized bowls at Bantam King. Regardless, I’d be very happy to come back here for another bowl of ramen on our next visit to the city—and I would like to try more from their appetizers/starters sections of the menu as well. Though if you have suggestions for other ramen spots in Manhattan, please let me know.
Up next from New York: another Japanese meal. But before that I’ll have a report from St. Paul.