I couldn't tell you a whole hell of a lot about ramen noodles, other than the fact that I really love the packaged, chicken-flavored variety that you can buy pretty much anywhere. Many times, for about 50 cents a pop.
But, when you live in NYC, there's no excuse not to venture out for "real" ramen. So, when I saw the look of horror on Stacey's face after having told her that "I've never been to Ippudo," she insisted upon being the first one to introduce me. ASAP.
While I was excited about my Ippudo date with Stacey, I was very trepidatious about the rumors that had haunted me about folks having to wait upwards of 2-hours on line just to be seated! Ain't *nobody* got time for that! I mean, come on, how good could a bowl of noodles be?
Stacey and I met at Ippudo at about 6:30pm on Monday and were quoted a 1.5 hour wait time. Yes, 1.5 hours on a Monday night! "Lindsay, calm down," Stacey said, chuckling. "Let's grab a couple of drinks at the bar and snack on a few orders of pork buns. If we end up getting a table, great. But if not, no biggie." Fair enough.
Stacey and I each ordered fruity, sake-based cocktails that were really fantastic: Sweet and tart, with the most precise balance of alcohol to mixer/juice. I was impressed. Shortly thereafter, we were presented with two orders of pork buns (two buns/order).
OK, so I like the pork buns over at Momofuku as much as the next guy. But Ippudo's version, my friends, blows Momofuku's out of the water. Sandwiched within a standard steamed bun is an abundant amount of charred pork belly slices that have been enveloped by a sweet and tangy BBQ-like sauce. A crunchy section of iceberg lettuce and a large dollop of mayonnaise (which, by the way, totally reminded me of the McChicken sandwich of yesteryear) completes the most transcendent pork bun that you have/will ever experience.
Just when we finished licking the sticky BBQ sauce off of our fingers..."Stacey, party of 2" was called. We got a table, by god! And it had only been about 45-minutes...
We were seated at a communal table, which was actually really fun. In addition to ordering another round of drinks - plum wine over ice, for me - Stacey and I chose to split a bowl of the 'Akamaru Modern' ramen: "The original silky "tonkotsu" (pork) soup noodles topped with Ippudo's secret "umami dama" miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil."
The drizzled garlic oil - which finished the dish - added the most intense flavor to the incredibly rich, savory pork broth that was anchored by a mound of long, tangled ramen noodles, slices of pork belly, crunchy scallions and green cabbage, earthy mushrooms, and salty miso paste. I could not stop myself from eating helping. After helping. After helping. And, once all of the noodles were devoured, I drank the remaining broth in my bowl as if it were a glass of water. It was that delicious.
And, although our waitress was kind of a bitch, she wasn't nasty enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Ippudo was - and I HATE to say this - worth every minute of our *only 45-minute* wait.
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle