They Take Their Ramen Very Seriously!
Talk about choices today, we are constantly being updated in our culinary world with more and more international food chains. Seriously, one doesn’t really need to travel to other countries to savor other cuisines as entrepreneurs and mega conglomerate are bringing in big food chains to Malaysia today. They must have heard we love food so much! Wink!!
Getting down to the noodling business, Ippudo Ramen has landed in Malaysia finally. After much hoo-ha all over the world, this giant ramen player with over 65 stores all over in Japan, New York, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Shanghai has finally opened its first branch here in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. Founded by Shigemi Kawahara, dubbed Ramen King, Ippudo is his stage in the culinary world. He developed his ‘Tao’ way of perfecting his own ramen recipe from the over 300 year-old dish and thus Ippudo was born in 1985. A lucky me got an invite to preview this Hakata-style ramen a few days before its grand opening.
Hakata-style ramen is defined by its signature broth Tonkotsu made from pork bones with other ingredients and boiled long hours to expel a cloudy milky precious broth. The long cooking time allows the porky bone marrow goodness to flavor the broth and add body to it. After the broth has reached its peak stage, then it can be further enhanced by various additions of extra flavors like salt, miso, soy sauce and more.
Ippudo is designed with a Japanese distinctive ambience of using lots of wood for a zen feel. The light wood is enhanced with red, white and black furniture, wall panels and other display items in the restaurant. Even the bowls and cutlery are coordinated into the theme of red, white, black and light wood. Echoing sleek and simple throughout the restaurant, one can also enjoy slurping at the long bar that faces the kitchen. Oh course we were also greeted in the Japanese way of shouting greetings by the staff every time someone walks in!
Keeping it fairly simple, Ippudo has three signature Tonkotsu broth categorized into white, red and spicy. One gets several variations at its sidekicks. Choose from Shiro (White), Aka (Red) and Karaka (Spicy) to your fancy. As it is Hakata-style ramen, the ramen is thin and served in four stages of textures from super hard, hard, medium to soft. Recommended is hard which is equivalent to al dente. A bowl of ramen starts from RM26 to RM36 depending on your choice of sidekicks.
Prior to the noodling affair, we started off with several appetizers and drinks. I had Iced Green Tea (RM2.50 per glass). Good news for alcohol fans, Ippudo has a list of beverages from beers, wines, liquors and sakes to keep you happy!
Served chilled, this artfully arranged cucumber sliced is marinated in salt before dressed in sesame sauce and paprika powder. Crispy and crunchy with a hint of garlic essence, this healthy cucumber appetizer will set one back at the hefty price tag of RM9.
CURRY CHEESE HARU MAKI
My first thought on this hot appetizer was looks are deceiving. The thin spring rolls packed quite a power punch in flavors of creamy curry filling, resembling our local Malaysian favorite of murtabak. Its salty spicy finish is deliciously addictive, thus a beer in hand would partner this well. Price tag RM10 each.
FRIED YOUNG CORN
Corn will always be my favorite and I personally don’t think anyone can go wrong with corn. Lightly flavored with garlic, the corn is sectioned and coated with light thin batter before being deep fried and sprinkled with seaweed seasoning. For RM8, you get four quarters of corn. It’s delicate in flavor with my favorite corn sweetness and a light note of seaweed.
Imagine a slice of layered of pork belly, braised to tender perfection, snugly wrapped between soft fluffy bun. First taste hit one’s senses with sweetness, not cloying but just enough to shout out beautifully with hints of savory taste. The soft layers of lean and fat of the swine is simply drool worthy and could be perfection if it was a wee bit thicker. It’s a mouthful of umami goodness but I wished for a worthy cut of pork for the price tag of RM7 each. Other than that, it’s still yummy!!
SPICY SHRIMP MAYO
This was the only one that didn’t leave much impression in my books. Simply lightly battered shrimps and topped with spicy mayonnaise dip. The shrimps are faultless but not enough to make me reorder this again at RM15 for three shrimps.
HAKATA-STYLE SOUP GYOZA
It came piping hot and bubbled for a good few seconds before we could dive in. I like the rustic and comfortable flavors of the soup that had bits of soft onions and ginger. Every spoonful was soothing and delicious. The soft gyoza had a good filling of minced pork. Its wholesome and lovely, especially if one is seeking comfort food. My little one would love this! RM15 for one portion.
As original as it gets, the tonkotsu broth made from simmering bones of hours had a medium density of flavors. It is not as thick as some that I had but it has sufficient goodness to lightly coat one’s lips and mouth. The creamy savory broth should be savored piping hot as it tends to get a little cloying when it is cool. Flavor is not overly heavy like some others allowing a more pleasurable savory taste. This version is served with belly chashu, bean sprouts, black wood ear and lots of spring onions for RM26.
I will rave about one thing here and that is the multi-layered belly chashu. Gloriously sumptuous, the pork belly is indeed truly unctuously beautiful on taste. It melts-in-the-mouth sensation is tributed to the long hours of braising and also the layers of fats and lean meat. I am wishing for a slightly thicker cut to get a better bite of the meat. If possible, I can even do away will all other condiments and just savor the belly with the ramen alone!
Ippudo takes every customer preference into account, therefore serving four choices of noodle textures. Choose from super hard, hard to medium and soft noodles and your wish shall be granted. Hakata ramen is thin and slightly curly. I personally prefer a firm texture and the hard texture at Ippudo was really satisfying with a good bite. I concluded that this is my second favorite ramen compared to another one that I had at One Utama. Ippudo also practiced the kae-dama system when one can order extra ramen alone to be added into one’s broth.
From the original, we graduated to the next level of Ippudo’s original tonkotsu broth amped up with a special blend of miso past and aromatic garlic oil for the price of RM28. It was unanimous that this one rocks that night. A tad oily, the broth is absolutely robust and full of umami notes. The miso paste laced the broth with much creamy salty flavors while the slight piquant chili oil jazzed up the broth spicy hints. Everything in this bowl worked beautifully countering the oil and heavy flavors of the pork and miso paste. This one also has the same condiments as the first ramen. One can add egg or more pork belly in other versions of this broth. Just gimme the pork belly!!
We were warned that this would be spicy but strangely I thought it was as spicy as the Akamaru. Using a special spicy miso, this version was served with spicy minced pork, belly chashu and spring onions. It has the same creaminess from the original tonkotsu broth and the spicy bits of minced is drool worthy, lending textures and flavors to the ramen. Price RM28.
Ippudo has its own character when it comes to ramen. Overall was satisfying but price is on the hefty side for portion and cut of meat. It is still one of the top few that really makes a mean bowl of ramen and offers a little more than just ramen with quite a few appetizers. Slurping noodles at Ippudo does wonders when one craves for some piping hot noodling action, especially on rainy weathers!
Lot C4.07.00, Connection Level 4,
No 168, Jalan Bukit Bintang.
55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603 2110 6233
Business Hours: 11am to 11pm Daily
*More photos at my Facebook: ChasingFoodDreams