One of the things I love about New York is all the variety of restaurants. You could literally spend your entire life trying to go to each and every restaurant and not be able to get them all in. Take Ippudo, for example, a Japanese ramen noodle bar. R was working late Saturday and I decided we should have date night closer to his office rather than come home and decide where to go from there. We met around 8:45pm, and were told we’d have to wait for 40 minutes for a table. This is how good their ramen is. People will almost starve waiting for a table just to have a bit of their ramen. (yes ramen – like the cups of noodles you at for 2 cents a package in college).
We were actually lucky – we didn’t even have time to order a drink at the bar and they found a seat for the two of us. Now, we weren’t in the dining area where all the staff greets each new customer by yelling something in Japanese. But we were actually upstairs with only a few other couples seated at a bar area that was actually pretty cozy and cute.
Since the menu is quite pork-heavy, we decided to order a bunch of appetizers and share the vegan ramen. The waitress convinced us we should both have our own ramen, so we ended up with a ton of food. R was still hungry after, but I was more than stuffed. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not grill the waitress on everything we ordered. I did the best I could by guessing what we could leave out and order, but ultimately whatever tempura batter they used on some of the food, I can not be 100% sure it was vegan. Perhaps I’ll make another trip to investigate.
We started with the Yamitsuki Goma Kyuri – cucumbers with a sesame oil. For just a row of cucumbers, these things are absolutely delicious.
Next up was my absolute favorite can’t-stop-dreaming-about appetizer – the Hirata vegetable buns (without mayo). I think there’s crack in there. I have not been able to stop salivating over these buns. The bun part itself is so soft and light, and then the crunchy fried eggplant and mushroom with spicy sauce and crunchy lettuce. I can’t even put into words how amazing this is. The couple next to us was raving about the pork version of these buns, so my assumption is they’re insanely good no matter what you put in them.
We then had the Shitake and Avocado Pagoda-Age, which is a fancy way of saying tempura veggies that comes stacked up like art. Served with green tea and citrus yuzu salt, this is a so delicious but soooo not healthy dish that makes you happy you worked out that morning before going to dinner.
And our final course was the SHO-JIN vegetarian cold ramen (all other ramen has pork broth), which I’m sure would be fantastic on its own merit, but was vastly overshadowed by the buns and tempura appetizers. However, I know for a fact these are absolutely vegan. The noodles were great – and gluten-free – and the combination of flavors was light and refreshing. The yuzu marinated tomato was a crazy citrus explosion in your mouth that was not quite expected, but yummy nonetheless.
All in all, I’m already dying to go back here. The service was impeccable, the food was blow-your-mind fantastic and the shochu with fresh grapefruit juice I ordered came with as fresh grapefruit as you can get – I squeezed it myself. Being seated at the counter and the quite of the upstairs made this a cozy and appropriate date night. I’ll be back as soon as i can, even if it was a pretty unhealthy meal. Sometimes you just need a good splurge. And this was definitely worth every single calorie.