At 10PM last night, Mika and I plus 3 Japanese friends walked out of Amsterdam Billiard Club absolutely starving. Instead of our usual sushi dinner at Shima, we decided that it was time, once and for all, to try the ramen at Ippudo just a block away. Mika and I have tried several times to come here for dinner, but every time we went we were told that the wait would be at least 45 minutes. Today we were told it would be 15 to 20 minutes (although it did end up being 45) so we patiently waited over mugs of Kirin draft.
When we finally sat, we were ready to eat the waiter's arm, we were so hungry. For starters we ordered crispy chicken karaage, crispy rock shrimp and an avocado-tofu tartare. The rock shrimp was fantastic. The shrimps were plump and juicy, and the batter crunchy and addictive. The avocado-tofu tartare was pleasantly sweet and refreshing. The karaage was good, I'm sure, but I was distracted because I tasted it just as a huge bowl of piping hot ramen was placed in front of me as I was chewing the deep fried chicken.
We ordered one bowl of the Shiomaru Moto Classic ramen and another of the Akamaru Modern just to compare tastes. Our Japanese friends all ordered the Akamaru Modern, and as soon as I took a slurp of soup, I understood why. The broth is deliciously creamy and thoroughly infused with the smoky flavor of Berkshire pork. The soup is laden with scallions, tender pork slices, al dente ramen, and sliced mushrooms. The classic version of the ramen was good, but our preference was for the stronger tasting broth.
Our server also brought a grinder filled with toasted sesame seeds, some sliced ginger, and some cloves of garlic with a garlic press. As our Japanese friends proceeded to liberally season their bowls with these spices, Mika whispered, "I think we're better off doing everything they do." So we did, and we were rewarded with ramen packed with a multitude of wonderful flavors.
Our friend Toyota opined that while Ippudo does serve very good, authentic ramen, it's expensive for what it is. I don't blame a Japanese guy who's used to slurping up delicious and oftentimes very inexpensive ramen at 3AM in Tokyo. For us New Yorkers who don't have the good fortune of making regular trips to Japan, however, I think $13 is a very reasonable price to pay for what is arguably the best ramen in the city.
Where: 65 Fourth Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets