For many, many years, the word “ramen” was synonymous with Mr. Noodle. Those dried noodle cups and MSG-filled flavour pouches were quick, easy and necessary sustenance for our college years. But we’ve grown-up, and thankfully ramen in North America has too. While the noodle itself is 330-years old and the soul food of Japan, the ramen rage hasn’t taken off in Toronto yet. So during a recent visit to New York, I made sure to stop by Ippudo NY, the first non-Japanese location of this famous Japanese chain.

All my research on Ippudo NY pointed to the fact that it gets very, very busy and there’s always a long line-up. To avoid this, I headed over at 11 a.m. for a very early lunch. When you walk in, the waitress yells a phrase in Japanese and all the cooks and wait staff yell a greeting to mark your arrival. The attention was surprising to say the least, causing me giggle as I took my seat directly infront of the kitchen at a round communal table made from several beautiful pieces of wood.


Listing a lot of ingredients I didn’t recognize, the menu was slightly intimidating and my waiter sensed my hesitation of what to order. He talked me through the options and it became obvious they’re used to a lot of first-time Mr. Noodle converts coming in for their rookie ramen experience. To their credit, the staff are extremely friendly, gracious and attentive.


I opted for the Shiromaru Hakata Classic which is the original tonkotsu soup with slices of berkshire pork, kikurage, red pickled ginger, menma, 1/2 seasoned hard-boiled egg, sesame and scallions ($13). This bowl was massive and featured fresh, al dente ramen noodles that are NOTHING like the dried kind. These are filling, slurp-worthy and the broth is so delicious it gives your insides a warm hug. For the full experience, I upgraded for the “set” ($16) which also includes a salad and a side rice bowl.


There are several choices for the rice bowl including Roast Pork, Chicken and Tororo (grated mountain yam) but I settled on Mentaiko (spicy cod roe). I must note that in terms of quantity of food, there is no need to shell out the extra $3 for the set. I barely finished 60% of my ramen soup. However, my greedy upsized choice was a happy accident. I absolutely fell in love with the mix of spicy and salty from the cod roe and seaweed, the crunch from delicately shredded lettuce which mixed into my perfectly cooked Japanese rice. I would happily eat bowl-after-bowl of this on any occasion.


Now, as you’ve noticed the price point of this “real” ramen is significantly more than the dried variety. But why relegate your ramen experience to a styrofoam cup, freeze-dried green onion bits and the strangely titled “Oriental” flavour? Since Ippudo NY sometimes closes early because they run out of broth, they’ve got to be doing something right. So head over (during an odd hour, of course), and enjoy the experience of watching a bowl of traditional ramen being made.

Ippudo NY / 65 Fourth Ave., New York
212 388 0088 / Mon-Thurs 11-3:30, 5-11:30, Fri & Sat 11-3:30, 5-12:30, Sun 11-10:30