So I’ll be honest: I didn’t really want to eat ramen in NYC. I mean, I’ve come to the land of burgers to eat ramen? That’s weird!
How stupid of me.
Because in Ippudo and Hide-chan, I had not just the best ramen ever, but one of the best noodle dishes ever, and when you’ve eaten some pretty great stuff in Malaysia, that’s pretty amazing.
Anyway to cover Ippudo first, we actually enjoyed the ramen so much we went back again. Considering we only spent 5 days in NYC, that says quite a lot. The first time, we arrived at 6pm for dinner and were told we needed to wait 60-75 minutes for a table. No biggie, we just walked around for 45 mins, came back and it was nearly time for food.
“Shiromaru Hakata Classic” with kakuni (Japanese braised pork). There are a couple different soup types available, but the one everyone raves about is the “tonkotsu” one. Specifically, it’s the Hakata style used, which is the region of Japan this broth originated from (for Malaysians, think Klang bah kut teh for example). The tonkotsu broth is essentially a very rich and meaty pork soup, helped in no small part by the slow disintegration of cartilage and fat from the pork pieces I’m sure. Anyway the ramen itself is pretty decent but it’s mainly the soup that’s brilliant.
“Akamaru Modern” with nitamago (seasoned soft-boiled egg). The newer version of the original recipe above has the addition of Ippudo's secret "Umami Dama" miso paste and this black charred fragrant garlic oil which adds an amazing smoky garlicky aroma on top of the pork soup. This is right up my alley so I prefer this over the Classic although the sweetness of the pork is more appreciable from the Classic bowl, as the burnt garlic taste isn’t so distracting.
“Tsukesoba shinpu” with onsen tamago (hot spring water poached egg). We decided to try this on our second lunchtime visit. The cold soba was to be dipped into some hot spicy tonkotsu soup. The soup was too salty to be drank alone, but with the soba and the added onsen tamago, it was perfectly well balanced and not too spicy for our tastes either. After about half the soba, the soup got diluted (since there will still be a bit of water in the soba) and we could drink it down.
We heard that it was just as good as Ippudo but without the queue so we were both pretty excited to try it out the day after our great dinner experience at Ippudo. We arrived at 6pm, just as they opened and got in despite not making any reservations. It looked more traditional compared to Ippudo and it felt more authentic, from the various specials on the wall (in Japanese) to the condiments on the table such as pickled ginger, sesame seeds. Also, it offers the ramen in different textures ranging from extra hard to soft.
“Hakata Kuro Ramen”. This should be analogous to the Akamaru Modern from Ippudo as it was essentially a tonkotsu ramen with the kuro mayu (charred black garlic) over it.
Hide-chan’s version had lots of the garlic though and the entire soup looked like an oil spill but was full of the wonderful burnt charred garlic aroma. While I did enjoy the garlic, it did overpower the tonkotsu soup so it felt a bit unbalanced. In that sense, I think Ippudo’s version is better. If you feel like something less meaty, rich but packed full of charred garlic flavour, go for this.
“Hakata Spicy Ramen”. This is a tonkotsu ramen but with some extra spiciness. Unfortunately it reminded me too much of my Maggi Mee instant noodles curry flavour.
We did both feel that the broths in the Hide-chan, while still pretty good and tasty, was a bit too salty for our taste and lacked the overall sweetness, porkiness and depth of flavour that Ippudo had. But we like the idea of being able to choose the doneness of noodles at Hide-Chan as we both prefer firmer noodles.
65 4th Ave
New York, NY 10003
248 E 52nd St
New York, NY 10022
13/07/2011 Edited: Also tried the Ippudo in Singapore last week. First impression was - a lot more oily! The soup stock also doesn't seem as porky and rich as NYC's but it felt saltier and had more MSG inside. Slightly disconcerting too was the blocks of fat floating around the soup (Akamaru Kasaneaji, should be analogous to the Akamaru Modern in NYC). However, Singapore's Ippudo did let us choose the firmness of the noodle (soft medium hard).