I recently reduced my “to eat” and “to revisit” ramen lists down to a short list as I’m running out of time here in NYC. Since I loved the wasabi shoyu ramen at Ippudo East, Ippudo West has earned a spot on my “must eat” list, but has always been a little out of the way for me.
Finally visited Ippudo West with fellow bloggers The Dishelin Guide and Johnny Prime. I feel like some joke about a vegan, an omnivore, and a carnivore walking into a ramen bar would be fitting, but I’m not feeling very witty right now so I’ll pass. You’re welcome to submit your jokes below. Here’s a behind the scenes shot from our lunch.
In typical Ippudo fashion, the westside location was packed. There was a wait for a table for three during peak lunch hours on a weekday, but it was reasonable. The bright interior of Ippudo West is quite a contrast to the cave-like feel of Ippudo East, but the energy and the noise level is the same.
Loved the vegetable hirata buns ($8) last time around, and I was happy to inhale an order of these by myself. As good as I remembered… actually, no, maybe better since I didn’t have breakfast that morning and was starving. The crunchy batter and the spicy sauce are what makes these so good.
When I was almost done with the buns, our waitress brought out a shot of seltzer water and explained that was meant to be my palate cleanser before diving into the shojin ramen. At $18, Ippudo’s shojin ramen is the most expensive bowl of ramen I’ve had. It’s vegan and gluten-free. This is Ippudo doing Zen Buddhist cuisine, which is known for its delicate flavors. (Think Kajitsu.)
The broth is made of dried vegetables, beans, and seaweed. Standard toppings include sansai mountain veggies, six-grain rice, and goji berries. It may be a light broth, but it’s flavorful and the goji berries add a nice sweetness. The seasonal topping in my bowl was thick slices of (braised?) bamboo which were tender and juicy. The rice noodles were slippery and softer than I would have liked. They also top it with rice noodle crackers for some crunch and texture.
Overall, elegant, refined, and balanced. If you’re looking for the typical ramen experience (read: rich, satisfying comfort food), this isn’t for you. If you’re open to trying something different and you’re down for a lighter bowl of noodles with clean, bright flavors, give it a go.
Here are the other bowls of ramen at our table. The karaka-men ($14) has a tonkotsu pork broth with a spicy kick. Comes topped with pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and garlic oil. This one has extra spicy paste (+$2), but that probably isn’t necessary unless you like your ramen hot, hot, hot.
The tori-shio ($15) is a lighter option with a “chintan” chicken and pork broth with pork loin chashu, minced sweet plum onion, shiso leaf, and a little dash of chili flakes. Johnny Prime’s got a nice noodle lift going on here!