W Magazine article during the play ‘Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner’
I had my little joke on friend Joe Dee when I sent my restaurant spy into SaZa Pizza without warning. He got his comeuppance when I asked for a restaurant recommendation in New York. Don’t get me wrong – I will always entrust my taste buds to Joe, the man seriously knows food, but the TWO hour wait for a table at Ippudo definitely smacked of sweet revenge. Can any food really be worth that kind of wait? I wouldn’t normally find out, but Joe did leave several reminders on my facebook page, so I had a feeling the answer was “yes”, plus there were hoards of other people waiting too.

Chefs in action at Ippudo

Why Ippudo (downtown in New York’s East Village) will allow you to make a walk-in reservation a few hours in advance, but not a phone reservation still eludes me. Don’t they know how impossible it is to get a taxi in New York City when the UN is in session, let alone two? Perhaps not, since this is the first US location for the chain by Japan’s reigning king of ramen, Shigemi Kawahara, even though it has been open for two years now.

Hirata Chicken Wings with Ippudo Black Pepper Sauce
If looks could kill, I would be dead by way of the angry glare my best friend’s hungry husband shot me when (after the first hour of waiting) I stubbornly refused to go elsewhere. Feeling a little guilty, I sprang for Hirata chicken wing appetizers which proved to be a tasty offering from the culinary Gods piquing his oral curiosity enough to stay.

Tori Karaage: crispy marinated fried chicken serves with spicy chili & sweet mayo

Famished, therefore oblivious to the ceremonial Japanese phrase (most likely translated, “look, a few more chumps that waited for two hours”) shouted as we entered the dining room, we got a little carried away ordering numerous first courses. Ippudo is no ordinary ramen noodle palace. The first hint? Specialties like Philly Cheese Steak Spring Rolls (sorry, we gobbled them up too fast for a photo), Tori Karaage above,

Beni Imo Chips: homemade red sweet potato chips with Saiko miso and mascarpone cheese,

Hirata Buns: here with pork belly that melted in your mouth,


… and Angel Shrimp Isobeage: skewers of ground shrimp and scallops fried with a seaweed and sesame batter dipped in wasabi mayo sauce. My light weight friends were too full after all that, but I paced myself with just a small taste of everything, determined to experience the ramen noodles made fresh daily on the premises. After all, it is what the joint is famous for!

The waiters must secretly wet themselves laughing over the western patrons struggling to come to grips with the two gangly porcelain spoons and chop sticks that accompany the huge bowls of ramen filled soup. In theory you are meant to use the chopsticks to grab some of the noodles with a chunk of meat and vegetable, twirl the noodles around, and use the smaller of the two spoons to catch any drippings underneath. The larger porcelain spoon is meant to be a table rest for the used smaller spoon in between bites.

Akamura Modern: the original tonokotsu’ soup noodle with Ippudo’s special sauce, pork belly, chashu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, miso paste, and fragrant garlic oil

While great for parties, they have huge square tables available to accommodate large groups, Ippudo would not be my first choice for a romantic dinner for two. I couldn’t shove the rich flavorful broth, tender yet perfectly chewy noodles, and succulent Berkshire pork into my face fast enough while making a very unladylike spectacle of myself, refusing to concede chopstick defeat when the waiter politely offered me a fork.

A very full Jewels

I was too full for Kae-dama, ‘a system that offers you an extra serving of noodles. When you have almost finished your first serving of noodles, order by saying, “Kae-dama, please”. In a few minutes the server will bring you another ‘ball of noodles’, and put it in the soup. At that time, you must have enough amount of the soup in the bowl to accommodate the new noodles, that is, you shouldn’t drink much of the soup if you are going to order the Kae-dama.’ However, I did not have enough leftovers to ask for a doggy bag either, something that is apparently considered bad form in ramen noodle restaurants much to the dismay of American customers.

Matcha Brulee: green tea flavored creme brulee with gelato

Miraculously all three of us found room for dessert. My friend Swish and I were intrigued by the green tea creme brulee topped with green tea gelato. I’m sure somewhere in my twisted little brain I believed the green tea, known to aid in weight loss, would magically restrict the calories. It was excellently executed, but I remembered that I am not a big fan of green tea. The calorie restriction worked, albeit not as expected, since one bite was enough for me.

Lady M Mille Crepe Cake: crepe cake served with berry drizzle

On the other hand, I could have inhaled the Lady M mille crepe cake that Swish’s husband ordered. Still angry over my insisting we wait so long for dinner, I was thankfully only allotted one bite of the heavenly pillows of whipped cream billowing from very thin layers of moist cake with a hint of chocolate and burst of strawberry. Once satiated, he did return to his usual jovial self, and all was forgiven.

Moral of the story: Ippudo is well worth the effort, but not recommended during peak dinner hours unless you are an exceptionally patient person or live nearby so you can come in to reserve a table a few hours in advance. Dinner was delicious and very reasonably priced.

65 Fourth Avenue
(between 9th and 10th streets)
(212) 388-0088

What culinary adventures have you been on lately? Have you stepped outside your norm and tried something new?
« Previous PostNext Post »
  • October 7, 2010
    7:55 pm

    Bodacious food Jewels!

  • October 7, 2010
    8:54 pm

    hahaha! I loved the word "shoved" very graphic! :DHeliana Castelazo

  • October 7, 2010
    10:21 pm

    Haha! Looks good! :DIsabel Ortiz Bernad

  • October 7, 2010
    10:25 pm

    I'm still trying to work out if I was really that exceptional, or I was so hungry I would have eaten a shoe by that point? I think it really is that good, and it certainly was reasonably priced.I'm really getting into this peasant food kicked up a few notches concept.

  • October 8, 2010
    12:02 am

    I feel a bit guilty every time you call me your spy, but I did want to be Agent 99 when I grew up. Thanks for the opportunity! We didn't have a long wait at SaZa,(getting to the restaurant early is key) but it is still difficult to wait until photos are taken before digging in. All of the dishes you ordered at Ippudo look amazing.

  • October 8, 2010
    4:37 pm

    very nice photos too …Madeleine Gallay

  • October 8, 2010
    4:39 pm

    Oops, forgot to explain the Karma part – I waited patiently, and these were the only photos still on my camera at the end of the trip.

  • October 8, 2010
    4:39 pm

    Jewels, HAHAHA you kill me. I told you it was the place. I never wait on line, the name has privileges-hahaha, but there's no advance rez's which is bad for the public. If I was on a deserted Island and had 2 things to live on, Those Steamed Pork Buns and Any Ramen dish on their menu would do me just fine. Love Your Style!!!Bon Appetit,Chef Joe D

  • October 8, 2010
    4:40 pm

    Impossible for you not to be ladylike! OxDenise Vivaldo

  • October 8, 2010
    4:51 pm

    You da man when it comes to food. It was divine even if it was an insanely long wait. Proof that I trust your recommendations. Saw Marc on Wednesday, so jealous you all will be attending the We Are Family event without me. Sigh – next year.

  • October 8, 2010
    5:00 pm

    This is beyond delicious looking, fab. shotCarly Guerrero

  • October 8, 2010
    5:14 pm

    That looks amazing.Suzanne Voelker

  • October 8, 2010
    7:58 pm

    That looks sooo good!Lara Coker Hayes

  • October 8, 2010
    8:30 pm

    It WAS! I'm still savoring the memory.

  • October 8, 2010
    9:52 pm

    Mmmm looks good – was hoping for a recipe to go along but I'll have to try Ippudo next time I'm in town. Your description of the spoons sounds alot like the spoons shown in the video on Chow Hound for the Soup Dumplings which is the next major recipe I'm hoping to try next!JoAnne Patten Malanowski Gleason

  • October 8, 2010
    11:29 pm

    I love Japanese food. Love the pics and the food looks absoultely divine. Love the look of the Hirata Buns.I don't think I could have waited 2 hours though.Aussie Mum

  • October 9, 2010
    8:14 pm

    Tough noogies for him!Julie Spinoso

  • October 9, 2010
    8:14 pm

    Hahaha! He's a really great guy, they are both like family to me, he's just grumpy when he's hungry. I get it, and it was an absurd amount of time to wait.

  • October 9, 2010
    10:07 pm

    I loved the food images. Nice blog entry.Terry Munson

  • October 9, 2010
    10:56 pm

    Your a star!Marella Oppenheim

  • October 9, 2010
    10:56 pm

    Thank you dahlink!

  • October 10, 2010
    7:15 pm

    Holy cow, amazing!!!!!!Carly Guerrero

  • October 10, 2010
    7:16 pm

    Is that phylo dough? They probably don't have a recipe to share on this or the brulee do they?Carly Guerrero

  • October 10, 2010
    7:17 pm

    OH MY!! : )Ceri 'Mince' Nicholls

  • October 10, 2010
    7:18 pm

    Carly – it is layers of crepes in there, and no – I couldn't find a recipe for theirs, but I'm sure you can find Mille Crepe recipes online.

  • October 10, 2010
    7:23 pm

    I always wondered, did ever Nick composed any music just for you or Tatjana? And did it end up in any known Duran Duran song?Kostas Dorlis

  • October 10, 2010
    7:24 pm

    Very impressed by R&D kitchen on Montana. The waiting time was 30 minutes and she bought out fries for everyone on the pavement that wanted them! Made all the difference.Yassi Castilla

  • October 10, 2010
    11:26 pm

    The food looks amazing! I love any Asian food so this restaurant would be my version of heaven. Although the desserts look lovely, I'd be wanting more of the ramen noodle dishes. The hirata buns look like something I'd dive into. I think I've upped my food expectations, Kraft Dinner just isn't my perfect meal anymore. Thank goodness for that!

  • October 11, 2010
    2:01 am

    MMMMMM!Isabel Ortiz Bernad