Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Ippudo, Ippudo, I love ya, Ippudo, you're only a bowl away*
When I arrived in Fukuoka it was already past dinnertime and my first order of business was to hit the streets and find myself a bowl of ramen. I was staying in an inconveniently placed hostel, and I wandered down empty, industrial blocks for a good ten minutes before I saw anything that was open.
Like an oasis, Ippudo appeared before me, a giant restaurant (by Japan standards) serving nothing but ramen. The menu was short, three types of ramen. Tonkotsu, tonkotsu with a special ball of something in the middle that dissolves as you eat (didn't really grasp the nuances of this one) and some sort of tonkotsu karamiso action with a spicy twist.
Shigema Kawahara, a Fukuoka native and the man behind Ippudo, has opened 34 stores in Japan and one in New York. It was at the New York branch of Ippudo that I had some sort of sodium-induced life revelation where I decided that I should dedicate a considerable amount of energy to eating ramen as often as possible. I even dragged my mother and grandmother--who both seemed confused as to why I was making them wait in line for an hour for a bowl of soup--there a few months ago. Serious business.
Now I must point out that I had no idea I was at the famed Ippudo. I thought I was just at the random local ramen joint most convenient to my hostel (and oddly, a motorcycle shop). I sat down and ordered and was promptly presented with a bowl of perfect, life-changing ramen.
Trying to describe an amazing bowl of ramen is impossible. It's like trying to describe an orgasm or taking heroin. You'll never do it justice and will just sound cliched in the process. So I won't bother, other to say that there were bits of what appeared to be bacon floating in it and it came with the soft-boiled, seasoned egg (perfect of course) on the side, with a piece of nori and a ball of rice. The broth was like angel tears. Suffice to say, I was flushed and radiant when I finished, and forgave the fact that they brought the bowl to me accompanied by a fork. (I should have brought a recommendation from the Hiroshima okonomiyaki-man about my chopstick precision—I could take out splinters with those things.)
When I got to the counter I saw a flyer that read “Ippudo.” Wait, this is the Ippudo? I jabbered away at the poor counterman who seemed delighted when I pantomimed that I had eaten in their New York shop with both my mother and grandmother and that we all had thought it was delicious. Ippudo is hot stuff in New York but I don't know if it's the same in Japan or if it's just another chain. I don't know but I don't care, that was some flippin' great ramen.
Oh Ippudo, I love you.
*Sung to the tune of “Tomorrow” from the Annie score.