It’s been over two years since international ramen empire Ippudo first announced it would open a second New York City location on West 51st Street in the former home of French restaurant René Pujol, and after seemingly endless construction delays, the spot’s finally pulled the paper off the windows of the garden-level space and set a debut date of July 13.
The staff blames the holdup, at least in part, on the extensive work that had to be done to turn the wine cellar into a noodle-making room. “We could ideally control the humidity and temperature, but the ceilings were too low,” a member of the team explained. “We had to dig into the ground to drop the floors.” It was important to get it right, though, because this restaurant will make all of the soup and noodles for this location and the original New York outlet in the East Village.
Ippudo Westside will offer a slightly different menu than its downtown sibling, and even the ramens listed on both boards won’t taste the same here, thanks to the addition of a dashi (bonito-and-kelp-infused) broth. Most notably, the spot will keep a seasonal vegan, gluten-free ramen on the list, an innovation inspired by a vegetarian customer at the Fourth Avenue location who was also sensitive to gluten. “Our ramen master’s vision is to have ramen for everyone,” explained a staffer. “So he made the first Shojin ramen in the whole world, which is gluten-free and vegan.” The dish is based on a 1,000-year-old Buddhist cuisine that promotes respect for animal life, raw ingredients, and cooking with soul. The initial version will be a chilled soup, but Ippudo Westside will also roll out a hot iteration of Shojin ramen in the colder months.
At a reception last night, Ippudo founder Shigemi Kawahara made a few remarks about the history of the chain–which has grown to 65 Japanese outlets and 20 international restaurants since the first Ippudo opened in 1985–and he made known his gratitude for New York’s embrace of the East Village restaurant. “Everything is thanks to you New Yorkers,” he said. “We will always be faithful to you. I’ve been in this business for 34 years. … What is important for everyone including myself is love, hope, and dream. We will do our best to convey that, so please support us.”
Ippudo Westside is located at 321 West 51st Street. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect once the doors open on July 13:
The Ippudo Westside dining room feels more intimate than that of its sibling, perhaps because of the low ceilings.
Counter seats extend out from an open kitchen.
Looking into the counter area from the dining room
The open kitchen
An upstairs alcove holds a private ramen counter.
When Ippudo Westside opens, it will offer this version of Shojin ramen, a chilled soup made with a base using gluten-free soy sauce and rice noodles. Shojin cuisine comes with a number of rules, one of which requires five colors (red, white, green, yellow, and black) to be included in each dish. That’s accomplished here via a chilled tomato marinated in yuzu jam and honey, white radish sprouts, a variety of marinated vegetables, Chinese wolfberry seeds, and six different types of whole grain rice. Gold flakes were added for the reception. Shojin cuisine also strives to highlight the flavor of each ingredient, so the sweetness of the berries and tomato pop against the savory-tartness of the broth, which is deepened with earthy wild mushrooms.
The shiromaru classic is similar to the same dish in the East Village, but it’s made with that dashi broth.
The karaka-men also gets the dashi treatment.
In addition to sake and cocktails, Ippudo will offer a Brooklyn Brewery ale made exclusively for the new restaurant.