Ippudo New YorkPosted By Jennifer Ho Sep 28 2012 · 0 comments · Dining Out
If you like Japanese food and you’re in New York City, you’ve got to go to Ippudo. A steadfast regular on NYC’s Talk of the Town on Urbanspoon for several months now, I made sure to check it out this time around. Hopping into a cab, we made it just in time to catch a spot in what became the middle of a long line minutes later. People really love their food here, that’s for sure. Showing up to the restaurant an hour before opening to secure a spot inside? Braving the elements in the name of a good meal? This definitely becomes more admirable as the weather gets colder. Now, that is commitment. In some ways, I’m thankful Montreal hardly has lineups this size – maybe it’s because we’re a smaller city or maybe it’s because people in the city have yet to catch this level of food craze or maybe, dare I say it – no restaurant has yet been able to inspire it.
As the doors finally open, people excitedly file in, taking pictures left right and center – me included. The hostess brings diners in to the sound of loud, shouted greetings from the servers and the chefs behind the glass chopping and cooking away. It’s a nice, warm welcome – one that makes you feel like your wait was worth it and that they really care about your visit.
Once in, the place filled up pretty quickly. Service too was snappy as a high turnover rate is no doubt the key to the lunch rush hour. Picking our dishes with a few suggestions and good input from our server, we sat back in anticipation. First up – the tako wasabi, in other words: raw baby octupus served with a good dollop of spicy Japanese wasabi. Cool and slippery, the chopped pieces had a great consistency – not too chewy but not completely limp either. Just the perfect amount of firmness. Sharing the small bowl among the three of us was madness. Definitely should have ordered more – too good.
We ordered the cucumbers as an easy side dish – thickly cut, the slices were seasoned with Ippudo’s own sesame oil dressing. It was refreshingly simple.
The tofu and nasu agedashi were classics, cooked to perfection. My parents – who have both had their fair share of authentic, quality Japanese food – called it one of the best versions they’ve ever had. I would have to agree. The light, flavorful dashi broth paired incredibly well with the flash fried tofu and eggplant – both silky and fine in texture. Mixing in the scallions and the wasabi made the entire thing just come together. It’s not only about the ingredients used – there isn’t much that’s new there – but the way that it was prepared that made all the difference.
Watching our neighbours receive a plate of steaming hirata buns, we couldn’t resist and added it to our order. They looked and smelled too good not to try. Steamed buns filled with tender, mouthwateringly delicious pork slathered with a spicy mayo based sauce came to us. Yeah, you drooling? Tastes as good as it looks.
The last of our appetizers – if you can even call it that at this point – was the grilled black cod marinated with miso. Achieving a texture somewhat oily yet delicate, the skin was probably one of my favourite parts of the fish. Dipping it in the sauce provided and drizzling a little lemon on top, this one hit it out of the park.
Finally – our mains. We each got one of their famous ramen bowls. Two of us got the special: black squid ink ramen noodles in original pork shoyu soup. A thicker, heavier sort of taste came from this bowl. It ended up being pretty filling as it came with pork bits and a good amount of cabbage. I liked it but after all of those amazing appetizers, I felt this one didn’t shine as much as the previous dishes.
The shiromaru hakata classic was the other ramen bowl. Comprising of original “silky” pork noodles with mushrooms, red pickled ginger and pork loin, this dish was lighter compared to the black squid ink bowl. Again, equally good but not as outstanding as the aforementioned plates.
If only we had room for dessert… To sum it up, Ippudo does Japanese and they do it well. They run like a well-oiled machine – from the seating to the service to the timing of the food, they know what’s up. Best of all: they’re very affordable. Pay them a visit and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
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