Our First Look at Ippudo Westside (And Its Secret Upstairs Restaurant, Coming in October!)
We’ve been waiting a mere two and a half years for this event (remember when Eater dropped the news back in February 2011?), and though it might be 90+ degrees outside, that didn’t stop us from checking out Ippudo’s newest Midtown location, Ippudo Westside. Despite a discouraging first official lunch day this past Monday cut short by an emergency in the kitchen, I returned on Tuesday for an experience that proved to more than make up for my lunchless trip on Monday. Ippudo, we’re glad you’re here in Midtown!
Although I was totally excited to have Ippudo ramen for lunch this week, the thing I was dreading the most about it was the wait, especially on the second official lunch day that Ippudo Westside was open. In the East Village, it’s miraculous if you have a wait of 30 minutes or less; I’ve come to expect at least a two hour wait for dinner. Would I even have time to eat a bowl of ramen before heading back to my office? I decided to clock my lunch from the time I arrived from the time I left. I got to Ippudo Westside at 1:45pm and was out the door at 2:13pm. Fastest ramen lunch EVER. I think my ramen must have come out within 2 minutes of telling the waiter.
Upon arriving at Ippudo Westside, there are two rooms past the hostess counter with a bar in the front. The room right in front of the bar features a communal table (as seen in the first picture of the post), and the second room, pictured above, features a mix of booths, tables and chairs. Everything smells new, and the simple decor makes for a nice, clean, homey feeling compared to the East Village location. What I didn’t expect was to be taken through a secret side door in the wall to the right of the hostess booth and up a staircase to ANOTHER seating area upstairs with a separate kitchen, accommodating about 10-12 stools.
I found out from the staff that the upstairs will eventually become its own restaurant in October, with “produced by Ippudo” following the name of the upstairs restaurant. The menu of the upstairs restaurant will feature Vegan and vegetarian ramen, and chicken ramen, in addition to the regular pork ramen served downstairs. Looks like this separate restaurant will be directly competing with Totto Ramen, only one block away on 52nd Street (btw. 8th and 9th Ave), and specifically known for their chicken and vegetarian ramen.
As you can see from the lunch menu, Ippudo Westside is serving a bunch of different appetizers all in the $6-9 range (yes, our favorite hirata buns are on there), and three different kinds of pork ramen (all recipes from the East Village Ippudo), though it looks like the Shiromaru Hakata Classic features Ippudo Westside’s Signature Dashi (Japanese Soup Stock). They’re also featuring a lunch set for $18, which comes with your choice of ramen, a small salad, and your choice between a chicken, spicy pork, or eel rice bowl. Since I was already out of the price range of the usual Midtown Lunch, I went for the ramen bowl I’ve come to love from the East Village location: the Akamaru Modern ($14).
Described as “a more bold modern translation of the original pork broth,” there’s no joke that the broth of the Akamaru Modern is RICH. Combined with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, perfectly cooked thin noodles, and sesame kikurage mushrooms shredded like thin noodles, the soup is so delicious that you either drink the whole thing up at the end or are going to have to ask the waiter for an extra helping of noodles to finish it off.
The pork is tender, and there are three thin slices – my only regret here is that I wish there was more pork. The menu seems to encourage ordering an extra helping of pork chashu ($3); the guys sitting next to me were raving about Ippudo’s pork belly topping, which they added to their ramen, so maybe on my next splurge I’ll go for that.
When it was all said and done, including tax and tip, I ended up paying a little over $18 for a single bowl of ramen with no extra toppings. Is it worth it? To me, it totally is, as Totto and Ippudo are my hands down favorites in this city and I will no longer have to wait hours to get my fix in the Village. This obviously isn’t your typical $10 midtown lunch, but it is without a doubt a special treat.
I still remember way back in the day when there was no wait for dinner at Totto Ramen, so I’m not sure how long this will continue at Ippudo Westside, but needless to say, early adopters, enjoy it while it lasts!
Ippudo Westside, 321 West 51st Street (btw. 8th and 9th Ave)