Rainy, chilly days are made for ramen, so for lunch I finally made it over to Hakata Ippudo, the newest contender for the East Village ramen crown. While Setagaya, a fellow Japanese import, is known for its salt-based broth, Ippudo traffics in tonkotsu, a long-simmered pork broth.
I got the basic bowl, the Shiromaru ramen original recipe ($13). This is a serious, substantial broth. It’s the color of milky tea, and it tastes deeply of pork. The ramen is thin, like angel hair, and delicately wheaty. It’s topped with slices of stewed pork, green cabbage, a tangle of black mushrooms and scallions. It’s a contender, that’s for sure.
But what’s up with the pickles?
I can never stop myself from getting the pickles at Momofuku—they are just so freaking good, always. And since Momofuku and Ippudo are totally different spins on the ramen joint, it’s really not fair to compare their pickles. But!
I ordered Ippudo’s “special chef’s pickes” and received a bowl full of seasoned rice vinegar with a few batons of daikon, carrot, bell pepper, cucumber and a lemon slice floating in it. It was pleasant-tasting enough, but nothing I couldn’t have quick-pickled myself at home. And for seven dollars, it was pretty much a disgrace.
Also, the waitstaff are a little over excited for my taste. One waiter came over to ask me if everything was alright before I had gotten any food—which made me wonder if he was asking if I was okay in general. Then, when the waitress brought my check, she literally kneeled down at my feet and went over the bill with me, which I found alarming. Do they always do that?
But really, this place is all about the ramen, and it’s so good that everything else fades away. And Ippudo is bigger than the other ramen spots in the neighborhood, which means shorter wait times and more ramen for all.
64 4th Ave