It was part two of a birthday surprise. It was supposed to be part one, but it became part two because there was a three-hour wait. At first part one was going to be Momofuku, another trending spot, but the venue changed to Ippudo because of familiarity.
I am not sure when noodles became so hot, but they really are. Both of these restaurants, Momofuku, created by the now famous chef David Chang, and Ippudo, boasting traditional Japanese ramen, had incredibly long wait and were filled with passionate eaters.
Ippudo was a maze, dancing with lights and hot bowls, sprawling counters with low seats, and funky music of so many different genres, from elevator to the infamous MJ. Like a hipster paradise. Both light and dark; at first austere, but then really welcoming, as Japanese greetings were called all across the room as new guests entered.
The menu is an amazing list of appetizers with succinct descriptions, just enough to maintain mystery. There were combinations that us foreigners could hardly dream of and traditional items that bring them foreigners closer to home. Trendy.
And then, at the top of the last page, is a list of 6 different Japanese ramen bases, along with 7 different toppings. It does not sound like a lot but the possibilities are endless. Essentially, each ramen is just a base, a broth comprised of different ingredients (vegetarian or meatarian), along with other floating elements, to add flavors and different textures. Each ramen come with topping suggestions ranging from pork belly to soft-boiled eggs.
I forgot it was ramen, and what ramen entailed; broth, ingredients and a bunch of noodles. Basically soup. They were able to pack some flavor into the broth and even the noodles, that looked pale and non descript. There were different flavors dancing on the top of the bowl, just waiting to be stirred. A dollop of some mystery special sauce that comes with the Modern Ramen, a small heap of scallions, swirling black liquid, a few pieces of soft pork, and then that special topping from the side list.
I am not a soup person, so this was stepping out of my comfort zone. My mouth was looking for crunch, and refuge from the saltiness that it encountered. I was longing for more scallions to breathe freshness and contrast into the broth and the thin noodles. I enjoyed my extra topping of a soft-boiled egg, though it was not the most aesthetic of things. The chalky creaminess of the almost cooked yolk really added some smoothness and balanced some of the salt levels. To me it got really boring, slurping the same feeling over and over. There was little variety, not allowing me to forget that it was soup.
Our waiter pushed the authentic angle. So authentic, they do not offer take away or doggie bags, since it is not done in Japan. But that does not mean I have to be a fan. I repeat, I am not a soup person. I knew that walking into the place, but I went for my time with my friends, a birthday and the experience, not necessarily for broth and a pile of noodles. It was deffo a fun place and a fun night, an adventure of ambiance and conversation, and oodles of Japanese noodles.