Let’s start with the welcome to Ippudo. As the waitress walks you to the table you are greeted with a friendly welcome and a bellowing “Youkoso irasshai mashita”* from the staff in the kitchen. I’m down with any restaurant that cheers my arrival so this place is off to a tremendous start.
Which frankly we’re going to need because our first obstacle is that I don’t really like Ramen (Ippudo’s speciality and kind of the whole point of this joint). Of all the Asian broths it’s my least favourite. I am however a sucker for a queue and if you’ve spent anytime on Level 5 Westfield lately you would have noticed the hordes of people snaking into this restaurant, which is what has compelled me to find out what all the fuss is about.
With the cheering out of the way we are down to the business of getting our head around the menu. At the risk of sounding like I’ve never left the suburbs, I’m going to be leaning pretty heavily on the pictures before deciding on how to approach this one (no judgement).
Before we dive into the Ramen we are starting with some familiar territory – Pork Buns. These are those fabulous fold over style buns. Only idiots wouldn’t order a couple of these to get you started as they are awesome.
With all my being I want to order the light chicken ramen which is plainly for those of us who have their training wheels on, haven’t committed to ramen and want to pretend we’re eating Vietnamese pho. I force myself to select one of the more traditional ramens ordering the Akamaru Chasu ($20) more comfortably pronounced by me as “Menu item no. 6”. This particular ramen is original tonkotsu broth served with thin noodles, pork loin, cabbage, black mushroom and shallots.
Sous Chef selects the Karaka Men Chasu ($21) which has the tonkotsu broth prepared with ground pork mince and the addition of spicy miso added.
I think there is a lot of room for error with a dish like this. If the pork belly isn’t well braised it would be a fatty disaster, the stocks could be incorrectly balanced which be really unpleasant. None of these apply to these incredible soups.
The Akamaru Chasu is a hearty, slightly sweet broth. The addition of the garlic oil and miso paste is a divine. I love the noodle variety in this – fairly firm and not Maggi style. Very happy with my choice and very delighted at my reintroduction to ramen.
The Karaka Men Chasu has a completely different flavour with it’s spicy kick. The broth is not quite as sweet but the miso flavour of the broth is much stronger. It does have a Maggi style noodle, but it’s a far cry from your two minute job.
Ippudo also has a selection of Japanese craft beers which make the perfect compliment to this lunch.
All has gone quiet on the table. When I ask if everything is OK with my dining companion he responds with ‘my body is flat out processing the pork.’ Ordinarily I think of a miso soup is a cleansing experience, but these hearty bowls of ramen are a bit more of a physical challenge so come prepared – it’s worth it.
Though I don’t have a lot to compare this to, and I understand that Ippudo is pretty expensive compared to your average bowl of ramen. I think the quality and service is worth it and it’s a fun and delicious experience. I’m converted.
Level 5, Westfield Sydney, 188 Pitt Street | +61 2 9573 0011
* OK – I don’t know what they said, I googled that. I did ask the wait staff but to make them repeat for a third time or write it down was kinda awks.