Friday, January 1, 2010

Ippudo: NYC and Think Coffee

As I mentioned in my last blog post, our first stop after arriving in Manhattan was a well known Japanese ramen shop over in the East Village called Ippudo. We weren't 100% sure of where we were going, not to mention the blisteringly cold weather, but we eventually got there, wind burnt and all. We didn't know much about the place, really, except that it got excellent reviews on many websites and was specifically recommended by someone my friend knows. Hence the trek to find this place.

Upon arriving, we were totally flabbergasted to find that the wait for a seat was an hour... at 1pm on a Tuesday afternoon. We decided that all these people must be waiting for a reason, so we put our names in and got the heck out of there because there wasn't even a place to sit for that time there were so many people waiting around. We walked down the street and found Think Coffee. Think Coffee is an environmentally friendly coffee shop that does its best to provide organic and fair trade products and serve their coffee in biodegradable products.

I ordered a delightful hot apple cider and my friend got an americano. The prices seemed very reasonable for NYC and we sat there killing an hour waiting for our table at Ippudo talking and relaxing from our 4 hour bus ride and our 1/2 hour trek through the cold.

Just before 2pm we headed back to the restaurant, just in time as the couple ahead of us that should have been seated were nowhere to be found and we were called next. We each ordered a set lunch, which was comprised of a big bowl of ramen, small side salad and a big bowl of rice with meat on top.

Now, the ramen tasted just like what I had eaten in Tokyo, so I didn't find any problem with the authenticity of this restaurant. It did seem a little overpriced to me, considering I paid $6.00 for that bowl of ramen in Tokyo, and I paid $16.00 for this set lunch here (13.00 if you choose not to get the set). But, this is New York, and this is America where they seem to think it's ok to jack up the price 4 times for anything "Asian", so I guess I should have expected this.

My ramen set

My friend's ramen set

The ambiance of the restaurant was great. Since it was just the two of us, we were just seated at a big table shared with many others. Not something that bothers me at all. Big groups were seated in half enclosed booths covered in tatami mats (no sitting on the floor, don't worry). The kitchen was big and open and you could hear them shouting in Japanese every time an order came up or whenever anyone passed them leaving. Granted, I doubt any of them were actually Japanese, I saw various races cooking in the kitchen, but it was still fun to hear Japanese being shouted on all sides.

When we went downstairs to find the bathroom, we found a little window to watch the man behind the noodles... a young guy was working the machine making fresh noodles for our consumption. Very cool, I guess they had to prove that their noodles really were fresh. Too bad I'm so darn short, I couldn't see in very well...

Anyway, I'd give this place 4/5 stars too. The wait was a bit long and the prices were a bit high, but despite that it was very authentic. Feel free to check out their website to find out how they "turned ramen into an art" and all their other bragging rights they feel they deserve.

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