8th March 2013.
Ever since I read Mu Yao’s lackluster post about Ippudo, I am hesitant to pay this ramen legend in Singapore a visit until a friend insisted on going a few days ago as both him (a real food enthusiast) and a couple of other friends praised it to the gates of heaven.
Ippudo is one of the more expensive ramen eateries in Singapore, the Hakata based ramen restaurant chain has not lost its popularity among Singaporeans ever since it set up shop at Mandarin Gallery. Queues remained long during lunch hours and it must have certain standards to have even Japanese diners dining at Ippudo in search of some familiar taste from home right?
Mu Yao was right about the communal style dining atmosphere and the pressure to clear asap when there is a long queue. Thankfully the queue cleared quickly and it wasn’t crowded during our visit. If not, it would be pretty much like an upscale food court.
Instead of going for the fanciful “modern” ramen or seasonal variations, I decided to head straight for its simplest and original (and also the cheapest). The Shiromaru Motoaji (15.00++ SGD), Ippudo’s original tonkotsu broth served with thin noodles, rosu chashu (pork loin), cabbage, kikurage and spring onions. Classic Hakata-style ramen (and no-nonsense ramen for me). You could add an egg for an additional 3-4 SGD.
To be honest, the Shiromaru Motoaji was rather decent. It wasn’t oily, the broth was flavorful and noodles were springy with the right texture. However, while it was good, it wasn’t mind-blowingly impressive to warrant the hype it has gathered. It was just good ramen, but if there is a consolation for dining at Ippudo, then it’s the promise of a simple Hakata-ramen that is unlikely to come out wrong.
I also tried the Akamaru Shinaji and I could understand why Mu Yao was rather distraught by his previous Ippudo experience, it was significantly more oily than Shiromaru Motoaji for a start and tastewise, the Akamaru Shinaji is heavier and stronger. It then comes down to personal preference, my friend enjoyed this while I don’t, I would be happy to opt for the milder Akamaru Shinaji instead.
If the ramen wasn’t bad, then why the anger over it? Perhaps it was the hype that send expectations beyond reality and its price, a Shiromaru Motoaji is 15.00++ SGD while its Akamaru Shinaji cost about 18.00++ SGD….without the usual tamago. Ippudo is comparatively more expensive than Santouka, Marutama, Bari-Uma, Ramen Bar Suzuki, Ramen Keisuke Tonkotsu King or Uma-Uma, just to name a few. Having tried Ippudo now, I think it is probably one of those restaurants that you could trust that the ramen is of certain standard, and that peace of mind cost a slight premium.
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