Ippudo NYC: Restaurant Review

March 15th, 2014, 2pm

Is it cold outside? Do you crave something warm and hearty that will help you get ready for a cozy nap? Well, a bowl of Ippudo ramen might just be the thing for you.

Style: Fukuoka-style Tonkotsu ramen Overall rating: 7.4/10 tasties Location: Astor Place, Manhattan, NY

A little history

Ironically, the first bowl of Ippudo ramen I had was not in New York, and I didn’t even know it was an Ippudo ramen when I was eating it. I was visiting my twin sister who was working in Roppongi back in 2004, and Ippudo was the first place she took me to eat ramen. I couldn’t read the sign in front of the shop, but I remember the big red bowl, the most delicious broth I’d ever tasted, and the softest piece of chashu I’ve ever chewed (yes, that pun was intended). And rightly so. The owner of Ippudo won the ramen master title from the famous (mostly in Asia) game show TV Champion with his original Hakata style ramen all the way from Fukuoka.

What we ordered

The first time (in Roppongi) and the first time back at their East Village branch, I ordered their signature bowl, the Akamaru ramen (pictured above, $14 for lunch, $15 for dinner). The Tonkotsu broth is made from pork bones simmers with miso and sake resulting in complex, savory flavors that are enhanced by Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, which is too intense to eat by itself, so you’re best mixing the dollop into the bowl to achieve the ultimate ramen broth that awaits. Each bowl also has a tinge of roasted sesame oil in it to whet your appetite. I usually like adding a bit of freshly ground sesame (the grinder is right on your table) for the aroma. I remember the Roppongi branch had unlimited kimchi bean sprouts as a condiment, but we did not have that same luxury in New York. The soft, springy, thin noodles freshly pulled right in the shop served as a good vehicle for delivering delicious broth into your mouth. The chashu was soft and impregnated with intense flavors, melts into a burst of happiness in your mouth.

I’ve also tried the Shiromaru Hakata Classic ($14 for lunch, $15 for dinner). It’s just not nearly as good as the Akamaru Modern, and I definitely would not recommend this for a first-timer, as you might have a misconception of what Ippudo can achieve. Although still quite good, the broth doesn’t have the help of the “Umami Dama” miso paste and really is not as good as it can be. The pork chashu is lean and a bit too chewy for my taste.

shiomaru classicThe inferior Shiomaru Hakata Classic

Another time, I tried a special ramen of the day at lunch for $13, which was somewhat similar to the Karaka Men, which they have regularly for both lunch and dinner. It boasted the original tonkotsu broth with a special blend of hot spices (hence the angry-looking broth), which really gave just a tiny bit of almost unnoticeable heat. Came with cabbage, kikurage mushrooms, and scallions.

ramen of the dayOne-time only ramen of the day!

I’ve tried Ippudo’s appetizers a few times, but I don’t think anyone went to Ippudo for their appetizers. The most popular one would probably be the Hirata buns for $9 – soft, airy steamed buns wrapped around a piece of pork chashu dripping with sauce (you can also get chicken for $9, or eggplant with eringi mushroom if you’re a vegetarian for $8). The buns were pretty good, but its main purpose was to keep me calm while I wait for my ramen. Otherwise, I have not been impressed with Ippudo’s appetizers, which were rather pricey (ranging from $6 to $15 for small portions) and unimpressive (nothing I would die to eat again).

What else is on the menu?

Don’t come to Ippudo for a full Japanese cuisine experience, as it focuses mostly on ramen and otherwise offers largely overpriced appetizers. It has a nice list of pricey sake as well (definitely cheaper if you buy a bottle from the various Japanese stores in East Village, or step into another Japanese restaurants and order a cup).

Price range: $20-40/person with tax and tip

Most ramens range from $14-$17. Price tag goes up quickly if you start ordering drinks (at least $11 per glass of sake) or appetizers (small portions ranging from $6-$20). Dinner adds $1-$2 to lunch prices.


The East Village branch presents a similar feel to the Roppongi branch, with ramens in glass cases and an overall modern, minimalist vibe, which I can imagine serve as a hip spot for drinks at night. Most servers speak with thick Japanese accents and everyone will yell “Welcome!” in Japanese as the hostess walks you in.


Food: 9/10

Might be the best Japanese ramen I’ve ever had, but the overpriced appetizers distract from their true mission.

Atmosphere: 9/10

Keeps to the decoration and style of the original store. Will transport you to downtown Tokyo if you let it.

Service: 10/10

Food is pretty quick (15-20 minutes per bowl of ramen). Servers are attentive – you will never be without water, bowls are taken right after you’re done, and bills come promptly when asked.

Menu variety: 5/10

Don’t waste a trip unless you want to eat some really good ramen. Try elsewhere (the nearby St. Mark’s/Astor place) if you want other types of Japanese food.

Vegetarian-friendliness: 2/10

Your option is quite limited as a vegetarian, but you can get their one vegetable based broth ramen if you’re really hungry (the wasabi shoyu ramen). Otherwise, get ready to nip on appetizers made out of some cucumbers, some peppers, or the tried-and-true steamed edamame.

Location: 9/10

Two convenient locations, one on the lower east side and one in midtown west, help you avoid taking the crosstown bus if you don’t want to. The westside location is a few blocks from multiple subway lines (C, E, N, Q, R, B, D, E, 1). The east village location is also only a few blocks from the N, R, 6.

Value for money: 8/10

The ramen is heavenly, and totally worth the high teens price tag you will be paying. This only applies to ramen – avoid drinks or appetizers if you want to keep your bill reasonable.

Overall rating: 7.4/10 tasties

Location and access

Ippudo NYC East Village: 65 4th Ave (between 9th and 10th street), New York, NY 10003

Access: a few blocks from the N, R, 6.

Phone: (212) 388-0088

Store hours: M-S 11AM-330PM for lunch, 5PM-1130PM for dinner. Sunday 11AM-1030PM (does not close between lunch and dinner)

Website: http://www.ippudony.com/

Other locations:

Ippudo Westside: 321 West 51th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue), New York, NY 10019. Phone: (212) 974-2500

Ippudo World: Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Sydney, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, London, Singapore.

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June Howell

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