I told you a while back that Hell’s Kitchen is quietly transforming into a little Ramen mecca. Even with the opening of Ippudo Westside, the lines at the previous lone Ramen king Totto 2 blocks away are not getting smaller.
Last week I went with my friend Sammy to a special event at Ippudo where I had the opportunity to meet Ramen king Shigemi Kawahara, founder of the Ippudo empire. An Empire that started in 1985 in Japan, and expended into 10 other cities around the world including 2 now in NYC. Ok, perhaps “10” and “Empire” don’t quite go together but you know what I mean. And stop questioning me, its very annoying.
Anyway, the event featured the Ippudo founder serving a traditional Shojin meal that can only be had for that day only. Shojin is a totally vegan cuisine. A Ramen dish consisted of non-meat based soup, whole wheat noodles and a delicious vegetable tempura that you dump into the soup for added aroma and flavor from the oil and veggies. I enjoyed this to the last drop. We then finished the traditional meal with Matcha Tea and sweets. Except I screwed up, and forgot to turn the Chawan (tea bowl) clockwise twice before drinking. I think it means I will not have any more children, or puppies. With the master watching you the tea has to be drank to the last drop to show respect.
That was upstairs, in a small and intimate sort of private looking room. On a previous visit, downstairs I really enjoyed the Akamaru Modern Ramen with egg and more spicy miso paste on the side. The rich and complex pork broth, along with hefty pieces of pork belly and veggies was a beautifully done pork medley. Highly recommend this one.
Ippudo westside has a new, modern, sort of Ramen World Epcot feel to it. “I love Ramen” t-shirts all around along with a plethora of chants. Whenever a new customer comes in, leaves, gets his Ramen, goes to the bathroom, etc, the staff chants something (eg “welcome”, “aim well”). You need to come early or late or be prepared to wait now that the word is out with the locals. They now text you when your table is ready.