What I love about NYC is the fact that you can have a full day of activities and not worry about having nowhere to go for dinner, even late at night. In Vancouver, restaurants mostly shut down after 10 pm, unless you happen to be in an area where there are some decent late night options that don’t include pubs or a 24 hour joint that may be better after a night out on the town. I started to get hungry last night around 9:30 pm, so I got up and walked out of my apartment, knowing full well that I had plenty of fantastic food choices I could still easily track down.
I’ve got a massive list of restaurants that people have told me about for the city, and I was scrolling through to see what was close by and also struck my interest for a lively solo meal. I realized that Ippudo was only a 5-10 minute walk away from my place, and after trying Niu Noodle House on Friday night, I just had to get to Ippudo as soon as possible, so that I could make my own comparison after everything great I had heard about the place.
Turning right up 4th Ave, I knew that the restaurant would be coming up soon. Across the street I noticed a really busy entrance that had Japanese and Kanji characters out front, and had a feeling this had to be Ippudo. After Googling around and finding the exact address, it turned out I was right. Crossing the street, I made my way closer to the door, where I saw a collection of people having cocktails around the bar near the entrance while they were waiting for their tables.
Dining solo definitely has it’s advantages. For me, I really enjoy people watching, especially when in a restaurant with a strong energy and great vibe that has so many patrons. In this case, Ippudo doesn’t take reservations and always has a line up, but when I walked in, I was seated in less than 5 minutes. Walking down a narrow hallway leading into the main dining area with a wrap-around open kitchen and booths lining the walls, I was greeted loudly by the staff in Japanese, and then seated in the middle of a long communal table near the back. I instantly felt like I was in for a great meal.
I ordered a Hakata Cocktail, with Sake, Gin, Lemon, and Grapefruit Juice, and then began to sort through the menu to see what I wanted to order. Next time, I’d stay away from a mixed drink and instead go with beer or wine, but I’d already had some white earlier in the evening and thought I’d change things up a bit.
Looking around the restaurant, I was trying to see what others had ordered and everything appeared delicious. There were a couple of large groups sitting in the surrounding booths (including a birthday celebration), couples who were likely on dates, and girlfriends catching up over a bowl of noodles. Seeing this late on a Monday night made me want to definitely include living in NYC a few months each year as part of my ongoing plans. I felt right at home.
So with that, I decided to order the Vegetable Hirata Buns – absolutely divine steamed buns with eggplant and eringi mushrooms, served with Ippudo’s original spicy buns sauce. These were better than the buns I tried at Niu Noodle House a few short days ago, or even those from Momofuku Noodle Bar on my last trip. My mouth is watering as I think about them, and it’s only the next morning. Also available are pork or chicken options.
For my main, I decided on the Shiromaru Hakata Classic, as I figured a classic bowl of ramen soup was the way to go on my inaugural visit. Their original Tonkotsu, or pork, soup noodles are topped with pork loin chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, memma (a condiment made of bamboo shoots), red pickled ginger, & scallions. And of course, just to make it even more interesting, I added on a side of Kakuni (or braised pork belly). When in Rome!
The broth was phenomenal. The noodles were delicious. I really loved everything about this ramen, and it was definitely the best bowl that I’ve ever eaten to date. I’m not even sure how to explain it, and it could have been a result of the atmosphere and the feelings that were evoked in that restaurant at the time, but I was experiencing bliss. The smile never left my face, and I knew I would be back for more.
I’d have to say that I really enjoyed everything about my dining experience last night. I almost felt like I was in the background peering into the lives of several New Yorkers from afar, like watching a scene in a movie, but then determined partway through my meal that I was just another one of them. Ippudo is definitely a great place to go for a fun evening with friends, as long as you can get a spot and don’t mind the wait.
Yes, I will be back, and I’ve already been tipped off by Maurice on a couple more dishes that I must try next time, including the fried shisito peppers & bakuretsu tofu appetizers.
No reservations accepted and dine-in only.