As I mention in my blog intro, I LOVE ramen! Ippudo in NY was probably my true first love when it comes to falling for ramen restaurants. Sadly, I didn’t live in NY anymore but made sure it always was the one place I always went when in town. Often we would make it a girl’s dinner with all of us slurping noodles in manners unbecoming of a lady.
At that time, I lived in Vegas and thankfully ramen reached us eventually with the opening of Monta (http://www.montaramen.com/). It was our favorite “let’s be bad” and eat some perfect ramen in tasty broth (Stewart would always go Tonkotsu and I would go Miso).
When we moved to London one and a half years ago, the ramen fever was just starting and the only places were Bone Daddies and the first branch of Shoryu. And then, suddenly, ramen boomed and all sorts of different spots started opening to the point that I have still not yet even tried all of them. And then I heard that Ippudo was opening and began counting down the days. It was supposed to open end of September and we were going the night of Stewart’s birthday – I know, not birthday like but we had eaten at L’Enclume the day before and that was the real celebration. Then it got delayed and I remembered that a Japanese chef once told us to avoid ramen restaurants when they open and wait as the broth needs time to mature which happens as the pots and pans get seasoned with the porky juices and all – so, we obediently waited…….And he is so right, the new Ippudo NY for example, around Times Square pales in comparison to the original one – it has no soul or personality and the broth was not as good when we visited.
And on a cold February night, when we had to run an errand around Holborn, we decided it was time to try Ippudo London.
The vibe and setting are totally different from the original one in NY; this one is much larger and very modern. It does have some fun touches such as the bar with ramen noodles as the pattern and the ramen bowls on the walls. We waited 15-20 minutes for a table, nothing compared to the two-hour waits I have endured in NY. Kanada-Ya, the ramen spot across the street, had a line and it is supposed to be very good – next on our ramen list for sure!
What we ate:
We ordered a fried chicken skewer with a beer at the bar but then we got a text that our table was ready so by the time we sat down it was not as hot or crunchy which makes it unfair to accurately review on its crispiness. But the flavours were not the ones of a perfect fried chicken so I wouldn’t order again.
Cucumber salad: seasoned with their original sesame oil sauce. This is my favourite dish in NY and I couldn’t wait to have it but it was a total disappointment. The cucumber in NY is firm and extremely flavourful and this one was a bit mealy and the sauce was not as interesting. Maybe it was NY versus British cucumber but I don’t think so.
Ramen: they have a small variety, just six types plus a special. And actually it is really three types, with those same ones in a vegetarian version. They also don’t have different varieties of noodles like in NY and the only option is firmer versus softer on the cooking preparation (I think they did this after a lot of reviewers complained initially they were too soft).
Haraka spicy men: their original tonkotsu broth with thin noodles, topped with spicy miso paste, pork belly chasu, bean sprouts, mushrooms, spring onions and cashew nuts. This was solid – not as good as the original Ippudo in NY, not as weak as the one in Times Square and much better than Tonkotsu in London. One of the good ramen tests is how the egg is cooked. Some of the reviews when they opened scared me with overly cooked egg shots but they fixed it and they were perfect, soft inside but not too much – the right balance.
Haraka vegetarian: since I like miso, I had to order the same as Stewart but since we always like to try different things, I went vegetarian and loved it. I always order porky ramen and was surprised how flavorful and delicious this seaweed and mushroom broth was. I didn’t miss the pork and enjoyed the fried tofu slices. I removed the huge dollop of spicy miso and set it aside and it was spicy for me even that way. But it was delicious. When I had finished half the bowl, I told myself I would stop, but then I kept going till I finished. Maybe I was feeling like this was healthier and I could eat it all….yeah right, fool yourself girl! We found out later that these noodles are actually eggless, which we didn’t realize until we asked later why they were slightly different from the ones in the pork broth.
We are going to Japan in a little over a month and having some ramen reminded me of what we are in for, but better in Tokyo. Can’t wait!
Our waiter Jorge was also very thoughtful and nice and came to ask how it compared to NY. He was very interested in our feedback and truly seemed to care and that he wanted to give honest feedback to the chef (we didn’t discuss a blog or anything, just that we were Ippudo veterans).
In sum: not a good as the original Ippudo in NY but will likely improve with time like it happened with Monta, our Vegas spot we grew to love so much. Shoryu and Ippudo in London are our top choices but we haven’t tried Kanada-Ya. We would definitely give it a second go, plus the staff were very nice and friendly. My only comment is that Ippudo London is very high tech, orders on iPad and all. It makes it efficient but the modern vibe and high tech seems to take away some of the charm of the original tradition. I still love the more rustic smaller feel of the original NY restaurant.
Ippudo London http://www.ippudo.co.uk/
Central Saint Giles, London WC2H 8AG