Thursday is our standing ‘Date Night’ of the week.
It’s generally an excuse to dress up and experience a trendy new spot in NYC. Thanks to recommendations by Immaculate Infatuation, our date nights have been nothing but extraordinary. So when Peter mentioned that he was taking me out for ramen near NYU … I was understandably disappointed. Ramen, on a college campus…did I really need to relive those days?
We walked up to Ippudo at about 8:30 pm, only to be greeted by a 60-90 minute wait. Great. Now not only were we eating ramen, but we would have to WAIT to eat ramen.
The waiting area was packed, so we put in our names and went around the corner to The Smith for a cocktail. Unfortunately, Ippudo overstated our wait time, and we got a text 20 minutes later (about two sips into our cocktails) that our table was ready. So, we chugged our $15 drinks (how college of us), and hurried back. Only to wait longer…
Frustrated and hungry, I sat down near the bar.
Peter, having been here before, knew just what to do. He ordered us two more cocktails, and an order of the Pork Hirata Buns, steamed buns filled with pork, served with Ippudo’s original spicy buns sauce and mayo.
OH MY GOSH. These were life changing. I quite honestly wanted to eat six more. If the rest of the food was as kick-ass as these pork buns, I was ready to be on Team Ramen! (Some of the staff even had I ‘Heart’ Ramen shirts)
We finally got seated at the kitchen bar, overlooking the chefs at work. It was at that moment, that I finally realized … this wasn’t just a your everyday, microwavable ramen. Mentioning Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup near the chefs’ ears would be blasphemy. On the contrary, these chefs were artists, creating mini masterpieces on every plate. I was witnessing a type of food art, thoughtfully crafted to please both sight and taste.
Per usual, I took Immaculate’s recommendation, and ordered the Akamaru Modern, the original silky “Tonkotsu” (pork) soup noodles topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t know what half of those things were, it was a bowl full of delicious.
Unlike most of my ramen experiences, this bowl of noodles was outstanding. The pork was incredibly tender, and the broth was rich and complex. The bright colors that filled my bowl each brought a complementary flavor to the overall dish. I felt no shame as I slurped away at my noodles, something I later learned is a compliment to the chef in Japanese culture! If I hadn’t been so full, I might have even entertained the idea of ordering a second helping of noodles for my remaining broth (only $2 more!!).
A little tipsy, eating a pork sandwich and salty ramen…it really was an homage to my college days, but one that was updated and magnified. The food was beyond anything I could have expected, and I now understand why Peter was so insistent we go — it was his third trip in two weeks. It was pork indulgence on a level that would make even the most ardent barbeque fans envious.
I was also beyond thrilled that we got the chance to watch the magic in the kitchen play out before us. Sitting at the bar as these chefs whizzed and whirred by each other, a fury of hands, pans, sauces and plates. It was machine-like, and yet you could tell that every plate had the same care and love poured into it. Every bite underscored the careful craftsmanship of the food in front of me.
No this wasn’t your everyday ramen, something to be eaten the morning after you chugged four-too-many beers. This was something to be savored as you devoured. The adult version of a college staple. It was, as one might say, “ramen for the grown and sexy crowd”. Ramen for the New York crowd — not something that brings you back to college, but something that moves you forward, pushing your culinary boundaries.
It was everything the New York food scene has to offer in a few wonderful slurps of pork-filled goodness. It may not be your everyday ramen, but it sure was the quintessential New York dining experience.