I went to Ippudo for some ramen today. I had been quite eager to test it out since I walked by in late January. To avoid a long wait I went alone and at noon (they open at 11). The place was about half full, and I was seated right away. I would definitely encourage any hounds to go then - even if you are in a group of 4 or more - there was ample seating available.
The decor reminds me a lot of Chinatown Brasserie - dark reds and blacks. The large booths are a bright white, and seemed to be awkwardly large. I saw a party of 6 struggling to share some appetizers - the tables are very very wide. I sat at one of the long communal tables (there was one circular communal table and one square as well) in the back. I had a great view of what they were doing in the kitchen.
I ordered the original the Shiomaru Moto Sji ramen. The menu listed it as " original recipe, ramen noodles, pork, soup, cabbage, scallions". I decided to try the original to determine if the hype was worth it. Also, I noticed every single person except two in the restaurant was eating out of the white bowl which is used for the Shiomaru Moto Sji ramen. It seems to be the gold standard. All of the ramens currently on the menu were $13 with $2 extra for additional noodles.
My server was very nice, and my ramen came out after about six or seven minutes. He kindly advised me it would be very hot. They give everyone a big white spoon as well as chopsticks. The broth is definitely regarded as "center stage" at Ippudo. The presentation was very sparse, two slices of pork, about a tablespoon of cabbage, and a healthy dose of scallions topped the noodles. The ramen noodles were very thin like angel hair pasta. They were flavorful and plentiful. I would definitely advise against ordering any extra noodles. I could not believe how much there was in the bowl!
I thought the dish was pretty bland ultimately.
There was no meat practically! Perhaps Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ramen Setagaya are exceptional, but I have always gotten a very healthy amount of pork (shredded or sliced) in my ramen. I also like the blending of flavors and textures in their ramen with the inclusion of eggs, seaweed, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. At Ippudo ramen there was really just noodles and broth - there was no contrasting or complimentary flavors . The noodles were cooked perfectly and the broth was very rich. It was almost hearty. Much has been said about the intensive cooking process used to prepare the broth for its strong pork-y taste. It was a very defined and pleasurable flavor, however it was almost like one loud note. There was no depth to it - no complexity. It was a filling broth ( it has to be since there is not much else besides noodles going on) but it was not filling in another sense. It wasn't very engaging. Its hard to describe.
In the end I could not believe that noodles and broth was $13. It felt like a huge rip off. $9 felt much more appropriate to me.
I would not discourage anyone from going per say, but I would definitely advise against believing the super hype - or waiting in line for 2 hours! I don't think I would even wait for 30 minutes. However, for a quick solo lunch Ippudo fits the bill - even if its quite a hefty one!