[Tokyo, Japan] First ramen shop that I rushed to when I went back Tokyo? Ippudo 博多一風堂. The choice was quite obvious because I have always been a fan of Hakata style ramen – the thin, non-curly straight paler yellow noodles, basked in rich milky tonkotsu pork bone broth.
An Ippudo ramen in Tokyo cost about 750 Japanese Yen, who works out to be $9.10. Having that in Singapore’s Mandarin Gallery would set you back double or more than price, and yet not as good.
Compared to the Singapore branches which have an upscale sleek New Yorkish interior and presentation, the branch I visited at Ebisu Tokyo is a return to the conventional old-fashioned ramen shop with a sit-down counter of rustic wooden finishing, attracting families and the occasional solo businessman. Ah yes, they have an English menu.
Ippudo 博多一風堂 was so named because the founder Shigemi Kawahara wanted to “blow wind” over the “dark clouds of the Kyushu ramen industry”, eventually reinventing the traditional style of Hakata ramen in 1985. He eventually won the “TV Champion Ramen Chef” 3 times consecutively between 1995 and 98.
With over 65 stores in Japan, Ippudo has successfully put itself on the world map gaining popularity in major cities of New York, Sydney, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Shanghai.
As a fan, I personally think its 3 factors of the winning formula is in thin yet firm straight noodles, retaining the bite even if it is soaked in the broth for some time; the creamy yet not too heavy and oily pork broth, and its very clean and minimalist presentation.
If you like the most basic flavour, get the ‘white’ Shiromaru Classic (750 Yen) or Special (1050 Yen) which comes with chashu, bean sprouts, scallions, tamago egg, tree mushrooms and wanton. My personal preference is the ‘red’ Akamaru (800 Yen or 1100 Yen for special) which has a more intense and memorable soup base.
The Hakata Gyoza (210 Yen) makes an excellent accompaniment, about a third smaller in size than the usual dumplings, still crispy and very juicy and moist on the inside, best eaten hot (in cool autumn Ebisu Tokyo.)
I have tried a few Japanese ramen in Tokyo. The truth is Ippudo did not blow me away, comparatively.
I should add that while the version at Tokyo is definitely better than Singapore’s, the taste is not too far off (compared to other brands where the Tokyo branches are loads and loads better it’s like two completely different tastes). It shows that Ippudo tries its best to maintain consistency no matter where they go.
Ippudo 博多一風堂 Ebisu
1-3-12 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, ハイネス恵比寿 Tokyo, Japan (along Meiji-dori towards Hiroo, past the post office) Tel: +81 3-5420-2225
Opening Hours: 11:00am-3:00am (Mon-Thurs), 11:00am-4:00am (Fri-Sat), 11:00am-2:00am (Sun)