This sleek outpost of a Japanese ramen chain is packed mostly with Nippon natives who queue up for a taste of “Ramen King” Shigemi Kawahara’s tonkotsu—a pork-based broth. The house special, Akamaru Modern, is a smooth, buttery soup topped with scallions, cabbage, a slice of roasted pork and pleasantly elastic noodles. Avoid nonsoup dishes, like the oily fried-chicken nuggets coated in a sweet batter. Long live the Ramen King—just don’t ask him to move beyond his specialty.
(Shiromaru Hakata Classic) Pork bone broth highly emulsified, and a shade of beige that simply didn't exist before. Noodles slightly firmer than most and thinner, and pickled ginger is an important component of the flavor package. But the premises threaten to overwhelm the noodles, and the Valley of Blackened Trees and Wall of Bowls have become bona fide East Village landmarks.
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My karaka miso ramen was a sea of red, plopped with an almost golf ball-sized lump of minced ginger. The special blend of spices had a nice depth of flavor, but maybe a bit too much ginger after all. The akamaru ramen, first on the menu, did not disappoint either. The broth possibly a bit salty for some, but I’m sure not overly so for most. I would have preferred the pork belly topping to be a bit somewhat more tender, but the flavor is definitely there.
The $15 Miso ramen is "Soybean paste and pork noodle soup topped with pork chashu, cabbage, kaiware radish, menma, fresh grated ginger, and scallions." The dominating taste in this bowl is miso and ginger. They pack on a good deal of grated ginger, therefore if you're not a ginger fan, skip past this bowl of ramen noodles. Being a good chink, I happen to love the taste of ginger. It makes me want to grow my hair long in the back for braids, bow to an emperor, and maybe build railroads for white people. No but I really do like ginger and it brightens the soup, which is pork based. If I were the noodle slurping sound type of person, you'd probably hear a lot of sounds if you sat next to me, but good thing I'm not. It's still delicious though, even without slurping sounds.
(On The House Special Ramen; Ippudo Kasane-Aji) The ramen was great; it was one of the favorites for the entire party. The broth was as porky as it could get (although it had chicken and miso in it). There was a very strong garlic influence as well as a citrusy feel. The citrus, I later found out, came from a Japanese citrus fruit called yuzu. The overall feeling that this ramen gave was ‘classic.’ The flavor was deep as ramen can get while at the same time not being overpowering, I wish I had ordered this one. Ranking: 9+
The Akamaru Modern’s soup was pleasantly tasteful without falling back on the harsh saltiness one usually expects from instant noodles, and Ippudo’s perfectly soft-boiled eggs literally melt in your mouth, releasing hints of the soup flavor in the process. The portions of meat were likewise appropriate for the size of the dish, but the dish price seemed to imply nothing less than a satisfying bite of soft pork belly or pork loin in every bite. The noodles themselves were well-cooked and tender, but as noodles go, pretty standard and unimpressive.
I already knew what I wanted: the Akamaru Modern ($13). After reading countless reviews about how amazing this dish is, I thought it would be foolish to pass it up. The Akamaru Modern, dubbed ‘the original tonkatsu’ (pork cutlet), contains soup noodles with Ippudo’s special sauce, spicy miso paste, fragrant garlic oil, slabs of simmered Berkshire pork, onions, scallions, cabbage and kikurage. The milky, light brown broth had a distinct pork flavor containing nutty, roasted notes, and the fatty pork slices were the epitome of melt-in-your-mouth, effortless eating. Not too greasy, though definitely on the salty side (but what’s ramen without salt?). The noodles were cooked firm and al dente – perfection. Ask for extra crushed ninniku (garlic) to mix in with your ramen.
I appreciated Ippudo’s slender, springy house-made noodles, which manage the trick of having presence and delicacy at the same time. I loved the vaguely and not-so-vaguely cloudy broths of the shiromaru ramen — with its slices of fat-stippled Berkshire pork and its hints of mushroom and its nutty whispers of sesame — and of the akamaru modern ramen, which takes much of the shiromaru template and adds miso paste and garlic oil, among other accents.
The akamaru is thick, almost creamy and altogether sublime. Also worth trying is the kogashi miso ramen, darker, oilier and arguably too intense. The ramen dishes that incorporated chicken stock, on the other hand, weren’t intense enough. If you want chicken soup, don’t enter the rightful kingdom of pork.
Pork is a useful compass for navigating Ippudo’s menu, which goes beyond ramen to an array of small and medium-size plates. If a dish centers or pivots on pork — the meaty, fatty, glorious Samurai ribs, for example — consider it. If it doesn’t, beware. There’s remarkable unevenness here, exemplified by the shockingly fishy black cod I had one night.
There’s unevenness even to the ramen, in which the slices of pork can be tender or tough, and in which the noodles can be just a tad too soft. With the turnover and bustle at Ippudo, consistency is clearly a challenge.
(on Akamaru Shin) The soup usually comes with the smell of pork. This is too clean, which is on purpose. However, it was supported by the toppings: red-pepper paste, red-sesame oil. I can play with them while eating. The noodles are thin and straight in the traditional Kyushu [Southern-Island] style, and arrive nicely al dente.