Ippudo’s heritage is long and storied, from Fukuoka Japan in 1985 to New York in 2008 and finally to Europe in 2014. They serve 50,000 bowls of ramen each and every day. As interesting as that may be, the food is better. At Ippudo TMM was taken through the classic range of a Japanese taste palette with dexterous ease by the brigade of highly skilled chefs in the open kitchen, and it was nothing short of delightful.
I feel I should warn you before we go further, dear reader, because in this review I shall say some lovely things about tofu. This is not in my nature, but events conspired against me and I was forced to reassess some of my most fundamental culinary beliefs. Now warned, please read on.
Sake and gin-based cocktails were the order of the day first up, with the tart crème de cassis lifting the concoction to crisp refreshing notes. Once seated, first up on our menu was a revelation in cream and green – chilled tofu with spring onion with anchovy and kelp. Soft and supple, it worked wonderfully with the salty and sharp notes offered from the toppings. If Ippudo can make me say nice things about tofu, then the battle is already won.
Tempura king prawns with crispy noodles and an Asian mayo followed, and then the best steam bun you’ve ever had, filled with meltingly soft and sticky pork with Japanese mayo and Ippudo’s original spicy bun sauce. TMM was not alone at the table in drawing comparisons between our steamed buns and “the best McDonald’s you’ve ever eaten”. The fried chicken with grated daikon and ponzu was a particular highlight, with all the best things about Japan meeting Southern hospitality, and getting on famously.
Delicious treats were arriving thick and fast, and each accompanied by its own sake pairing, from dry and crisp to sweet and heady matching the delicate balances of each dish. Finally, and not without a concerted albeit gluttonous effort to make our way through a range of delicacies, we arrived at our main course – and Ippudo’s specialty – the ramen. One half of the entire menu is given over to variations on the classic Pork bone broth with homemade noodles, thinly sliced pork belly, soft-boiled egg, mushrooms and radishes. Given, dear reader, that TMM is as greedy as he is indecisive, two “small” portions were ordered, one of the seasonal varieties and Ippudo’s classic. Although the seasonal Deep Tonkotsu’s broth was served to the side allowing for dipping and seasoning of the ingredients individually, the classic was lifted yet higher by Ippudo’s secret Umami Dama paste. Complex flavours simply delivered, happy customers, and a tofu convert to top it all off. Not a bad evening’s work from the boys in the kitchen.
Ippudo seeks to reclaim the energy and passion that has deserted Japanese cuisine in recent years. Hospitality staff and chefs are brimming with gusto, and the kitchen positively vibrates with passion and excitement. The event TMM attended was a small gathering of 20; the kitchen at full flow serving all covers would surely be a sight to behold, worth the trip itself. As when great British summer inevitably disappoints us and you need a clean, healthy, delightfully balanced bowl of the best ramen you’ve probably tasted, Google your nearest Ippudo (for you Londoners that’s St Giles Street WC2 or Canary Wharf) and head over pronto.
More information on Ippudo and book a table here.
Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, James Bomford.