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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ipp Ipp Hooray

Ippudo may be a prevalent chain in Japan, but in the US there is but one location - a beacon in the East Village.  Critics don't usually review chain restaurants, so when the Frank Bruni of the Times not only visited Ippudo in 2009 but gave it a star, I knew there must be something special.

I don't usually go out on Monday nights but made the exception for this ramen.  Since there is always a super long wait, we all went home after work, with Sasha stopping by the restaurant at 6:45 (she lives nearby) so that we could eat at 8:15.  Yes, there is an hour and a half wait even on a Monday night.  Don't let that discourage you; just prepare for it.  It's worth putting your name on the list and running errands/getting coffee nearby and they'll call your cell when your table is ready.

We started with the Japanese cucumber mixed with sesame oil dressing.  Doesn't sound special, but it was. The cucumber was crisp and the spices were yum yum yummy.  Next up we got the steamed buns (pork, chicken, and shrimp).  Pork buns are probably my favorite Japanese appetizer and these were made with a well balanced sauce and light sticky buns.  We also got one of the appetizer specials - yellowtail carpaccio with broccoli rabe, lemon, and oil.  I was nervous about the broccoli rabe.  I thought it would be too bitter and firm to work with the light fish, but after having been marinated, it stood back and let the yellowtail take center stage.

The appetizers are good, but the ramen is the star.  If you don't want to get ramen, don't go - you don't deserve to take up space in the restaurant.  There are several different options, but I went with the Modern.  It was similar to the original but had a miso paste on the top.  I added a boiled egg and side of spicy paste that the waitress suggested would be a better, more flavorful option than getting the spicy ramen.  I am a big fan of Hide-Chan Ramen.  They probably beat Ippudo in the pork department; however, the broth at Ippudo was slurp-worthy. I usually think soup has to be creamy to be good, but there is something special about this broth. The miso and spicy pastes take it to a whole new place.  I'm already thinking of errands I need to run near Astor Place so I have an excuse to go back.

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