There are many different versions of “Top lists for Ramen in NYC”, but Ippudo Ramen and Totto Ramen are the two names that appear on almost all of these lists. This week I tried out Ippudo Westside for the first time and had to say that I personally preferred Totto over Ippudo.
Getting ramen in NYC is always associated with long waiting time – and who wants to stand outside for half an hour in this extreme cold weather? The three times that I have been to Totto, I only successfully sat down once. Even at Jin Ramen, which is situated in a not-so-busy neighborhood, one still faces the high chance of having to wait for at least 15 minutes for a seat. I learned from experience that to get a seat in Totto’s tiny space, one MUST go on a weekday and preferably slightly before 5pm, so you can get a seat right after it opens. Applying this rule last week when I went to Ippudo Westside, I was shocked when I arrived right at 5pm on a Wednesday and realized that most of the seats were empty. It almost seemed surreal that getting ramen could be so easy in New York.
Besides the ease of finding a seat as compared to Totto, Ippudo Westside has completely different ambiance than Totto. While Ippudo is spacious and modern, Totto is cramped and homey. This is definitely more an issue of personal preference. But Totto ramen does resemble more the experience one gets in a ramen store in Japan. (I want to note that I’ve never been to the original Ippudo location, which may elicit more authentic Japanese feel than the newest Westside location.)
The restaurant is divided into two main areas. The bar seat areas and the table area. I definitely enjoyed the spacious bar seats at Ippudo. They are extremely comfortable and great for eating by oneself or with one other person.
Pork buns and chicken buns.
Overall, the food at Ippudo was satisfactory but a bit over-hyped.
A lot has been said about the buns here. In my opinion – while the bun shell was quite soft and tasty, the meat content of the pork buns and chicken buns was sweeter than anticipated. Out of the two kinds, the chicken buns tasted better as they were coated and fried. There were also a lot of mayo in both types of buns. For better buns, I suggest visiting the trendy Bauhaus specializing in buns near Union Square and trying their pork buns (they’re mindblowing)
The classic pork chashu ramen “Shiromaru Hakata Classic”
Clear soup “Torishio”
Now the most important part of the post – the ramen. I ordered Shiromaru Hakata Classic, the first on their list of ramen. While nothing was particularly wrong with any part of the ramen, it also did not stand out to me as much as I hoped. I thought the soup base was a tad too rich after eating for a while. However, the two thick pieces of pork chashu tasted quite amazing and did not contain too much fatty parts, which is always a plus.
Add-ons are always an integral part of ordering ramen. I personally love bamboo shoots – or Menma – as well as soft boiled eggs in my ramen. But I wasn’t aware that Shiromaru Hakata already came with some The smarter choice would be to order extra pork for 3 dollars.
I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of Torishio, which my friend ordered. It’s the same ramen noodles with pork chashu but in a clear soup. I always have been skeptical of “healthier alternatives” offered at places, Asian places in particular. But Torishio definitely exceeded my expectation. Even though the soup was clear, it was quite flavorful and tasty. So this option is definitely recommended.
The overall verdict: provided that you don’t have to wait for a long time to get a seat, hopping on the 1 train to get to Ippudo Westside might be something to try on a weekday. However, don’t set your expectations up too high as the ramen here is not as special as they say.