Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ippudo Ramen

Location: Ippudo Ramen

Rating: Very good
Meal:  Lunch for 2
Price:  2200 yen (I'm guessing)
Payment:  Cash only (ticket machine)
Dishes:  White Ramen, Spicy Ramen (with added charshu and extra noodles)
English Menu: No

Ippudo Ramen is one of the more famous ramen chains in Japan and around the world.  Amazingly, we had not tried them until a recent trip to Hiroshima when we stayed with some friends we met online.  They took us out to dinner at their local Ippudo Ramen and we were very impressed!  Since then, I hadn't had it again, but today my son and I went into Yokohama to visit the Pokemon Center (yeehaw) and so to work up the motivation to go I insisted we leave early enough to grab lunch.  It's a little hard to find, being in Yokohama Station out the East exit (the middle East one..there are several) and down into an underground area with tons of different restaurants.  You can google it and there is a map of the station that will hopefully help you find it.

Classic White
Ippudo Ramen specializes in tonkotsu (pork bone broth) hakata style ramen.  Now, there are lots of tonkotsu ramen places in this area, but the broth is usually very rich and salty, sometimes waaay too rich.  The hakata style version is much lighter, almost like a slightly milky broth, and the sodium is much less intense.  The noodles are different too, being thinner and shorter.  Honestly, the noodles themselves aren't my favorite, but Ippudo's are the best I've had.  Apparently, this style originated in Fukuoka, an area of Japan known for great food that we haven't had privilege of visiting yet.  Those who have been say that this style of ramen is served all over the place, including from street stalls.  But Ippudo is hardly to be seen there.  They got famous by bringing the style to the masses, and we are grateful.  If you check out their website, there are Ippudo Ramen stores all over the world.  Sure, they've got a ways to go to catch up to McDonald's, but for a Japanese restaurant brand, they are doing pretty good for themselves.

"Spicy" ramen
My son ordered the "classic" white ramen bowl, which I think is not the greatest option, but he liked it.  I went for the "spicy" ramen bowl (it isn't really), which has great flavors, including a smoky sesame thing going on.  I also added some roast pork (charshu).  One of the cool things about Hakata style ramen is that when you are done you can pay a little more (90 or 120 yen) to get more noodles with your broth.  This is something local tonkatsu places would probably never do as you can barely get the thick delicious noodles down before being full.  Also they usually offer several size options.  Ippudo has just one.

There is one other Ippudo closer(ish) to us in Kamakura, but it's faster to take the train or drive up to Yokohama than it is for us to get over there, despite it being closer.  So we'll probably end up going back to Yokohama for our next Hakata Ramen fix.

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