Ippudo is a tasteful Japanese ramen restaurant on W 51st Street, tucked in slightly at a lower level than the street with a large Japanese sign that makes a passerby hesitantly trust that this is the correct restaurant.
The interior is stylish and comfortable, and the place gets packed immediately upon opening. We came on a weekday right at 5pm, which is when they open, so we were able to get a table for our large group. The first thing that was bothersome was that despite having a group of eleven, they don’t take reservations.
Even more so, despite getting seats for a group of eleven upon entry, they didn’t put our tables together. Our tables were consecutively lined up such that we were close enough to speak, but they refused to combine our tables with the logic that they needed room to weave in and out of the tables in order to deliver our dishes. This makes sense since the servers are presenting us with large ramen bowls of boiling hot soup, but this still makes for a more awkward dinner experience.
Nonetheless, I ordered the chicken Ippudo buns and a bowl of ramen — Karaka-Men with Nitamago — which is basically spicy ramen with an egg.
The chicken buns were INCREDIBLE — one of the greatest things I’ve honestly ever eaten. Only two come in one order and they cost $9, but they are so worth it. I remember I had them a year ago when I came here, and they were memorable. Well, wow — these are truly #1.
The ramen itself was… unfortunately… just okay. I got the spicy ramen, and it wasn’t really that spicy, and the flavors were sufficient, but not extraordinary. The noodles themselves weren’t bad, but didn’t seem to soak in any true flavor. The egg was good, though (I love eggs). I wouldn’t say the ramen was bad by any means, but rather it could’ve used more of a strong kick to make a memorable dish. The bowls were HUGE and appealing, and you could refill noodles for $2.00.
All in all, the true winner is… the chicken buns. If I was to come and make a highly educated and experienced decision, I would likely just order a whole lot of Ippudo buns. Sure, it’s not ramen… but it’s definitely better. The only downside is that the Ippudo buns are literally $9 for only two buns, when they couldn’t be simpler to make. Nonetheless, Ippudo buns are major key to happiness in this restaurant.