Despite being open since December 2012, it has already gotten serious attention across the blogosphere. I wasn’t sure why at first until I saw a friend getting tagged at Ippudo in New York. It has originated in Japan and has since expanded to New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul and Taipei. And now it has finally made tracks into Australia. From walking past there many times since its opening, there were lengthy queues during peak lunch and dinner hours. One night, we were craving for ramen and we were nearby Westfield Sydney so we all gave this a go. From what we've ate, it seems that Ippudo Ramen is not your average Japanese ramen place. In fact, the ramen they serve is not your usual street ramen that you would get from Gumshara, Menya, Ramen Kan, Ryo etc.
Although we waited in line with the many other people there, we were able to get a table quite soon mainly because there is just three of us. I guess it is easier to get in if there is a smaller group. Another way to beat the queues is to get take away and sit at the tables outside of the restaurant in the food court. One thing I've noticed that distinguishes itself from other Japanese restaurants is the very noisy and very friendly staff either welcoming you or calling out that the food is ready. This is similar to what Chef Gallery does when you enter into that restaurant. It kinda makes you feel like a star when you get to your table. The interior decor does look fancy when you get inside and gaze at the curved wooden ceiling with dim lighting and a fancy selection of seating options.
I found Ippudo's pork buns to be lighter than I expected. The bun was light, soft and fluffy so you don't feel as bloated once you eat your bowl of ramen. It came with a thick and juicy slab of braised pork, a few slices of crunchy lettuce and a dab of the savoury Ippudo original sauce; which produced a burst of flavours on your taste buds. As you bite into the bun, the pork just melts in your mouth and before you know it, the pork bun was gone. So tantalising!
Ippudo Pork Buns ($4.00)
What makes Ippudo Noodles different from other ramen restaurants is their Hakata-style thin noodles. While the noodles are very thin, they still have that bite that you would usually get from ramen noodles. When ordering the ramen, the waiter asked if we would like the noodles to be soft, medium or hard. From my past visits, they usually recommend medium-hard which is fine for me.
The Shiromaru motoaji is basically your classic tonkotsu ramen with a tonkotsu broth, thin noodles, pork loin, cabbage, black mushroom and shallots. If you want the same ramen with egg, then the Shiromaru tamago is the one to try. On the menu, this is classified as a 'Classic Hakata-style' ramen While it is a bit creamy and slightly rich, the broth is still thinner and lighter than the tonkotsu ramen at most other ramen restaurants (especially Gumshara) as on this occasion, I ate the pork bun and wasn't struggling post-dinner. I'd definitely recommend the one with the flavoured egg as it does add a good amount of flavour to the dish.
Shiromaru tamago ramen ($17.00)
Shiromaru motoaji ramen ($15.00)
The Akamaru shinaji ramen is definitely something I don't see as much around the ramen restaurants. According to the menu, this is a 'refined modern-style ramen that has the tonkotsu broth with a special blended miso paste and fragrant garlic oil'. It's certainly an interesting one for those who are not familiar to ramens like this. When we were given this dish, the waiter suggested that we stir the miso paste into the noodles and broth to enhance into a colourful looking ramen dish. The pork loin was quite tender and easy to fall apart in the broth. Like the Shiromaru tamago ramen, this was also quite rich but not too heavy.
Collectively, the miso paste helped in delivering a vibrant image with a mouthful of flavours while mixing with the creamy textures from the tonkotsu broth so that the paste does not overpower the ramen. I enjoyed slurping up the whole bowl until the last drop.
Akamaru shinaji ramen ($16.00)
Akamaru tamago ($18.00)
You also have a choice of Karaka Men ramen, which is essentially the tonkotsu broth with spicy miso and ground beef. Definitely on my list to try next time.
If you prefer your dining experience more intimate and quiet, then this is probably not the best place. If you want a very social, crazy, jam-packed dining atmosphere then go ahead :P. While the ramen is more pricey than most other Japanese restaurants, it's still a different experience than you would normally get. The ramen is on a different par in terms of taste, texture and flavour. Plus, the staff was incredibly friendly and attentive to our needs. I will also recommend this for those who are not familiar or big fans of ramen. For example, CC was not a huge ramen fan (especially ramen with thick broths) before coming to Ippudo but after trying the Akamaru tamago, she was craving it for days! Definitely worth a try though I'd prefer if the prices are a tad cheaper given the many options for ramen in Sydney.
Level 5 Westfield, 188 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9573 0011