Monday 20 January 2014

Ippudo, Pavillion, Kuala Lumpur

An old favourite of ours from Tokyo is Ippudo, a Japanese ramen restaurant.

Ippudo is still fairly new in KL but can be found in various Asian countries and even has a store in New York. The direct translation of the word 'Ippudo' is 'one wind hall' but this restaurant is not a windy hall, which is unfortunate because it would break the heat of KL nicely.... It is simply a chain restaurant selling Japanese noodles.

Apparently 'one wind hall' was chosen as a name because when the first Ippudo opened in Fukuoka in 1985, there were 'dark clouds' over the ramen industry in Kyushu, and Ippudo was designed to blow wind and revolutionise the area. It's amazing the crap you can find on Wikipedia; if I find out anything else about these 'dark clouds' over the ramen industry, I'll be sure to let you know...

I've been to branches of Ippudo in KL, Tokyo, Seoul, New York (we tried anyway - the queue was huge) and one thing they all have in common in is funky black, red and white decor.

They also have another thing in common - the food on offer is almost identical wherever you happen to eat it.

We started by ordering some gyoza RM 12 (approx $4), which in case you didn't know are Japanese dumplings.

Although not as tasty as their Chinese equivalents, Japanese pan-fried gyoza stuffed with pork and herbs are almost always quite a satisfying snack, whether you eat them in a restaurant or in an Izakaya, washing them down with sake.

Overall - Nothing too sophisticated but tasty nonetheless - 3 / 5

Erin ordered bakuretsu tofu RM18 (approx $6) , which is spicy tofu and minced pork with crispy noodles in a hot stone pot.

The fact that Erin went for this dish is somewhat unfortunate for me as I have an unwavering dislike for all things tofu, and stubbornly refuse to eat it. I've tried my best (kind of...) to like the stuff and just can't get past the texture, but to be fair it doesn't taste of much. 

I did however, try a bit of the spicy soup and minced pork, and these were good. Erin liked the tofu too.

Overall - On the basis of my wife's (excellent) judgement - 3.5 / 5

I ordered the Akamaru Shinaji ramen RM30 (approx $10) which is the signature Tonkotsu broth, created using pork bones which have been simmering for over 12 hours. 

This specific take on the broth comes enhanced with miso paste and garlic oil topped with kikurage (Japanese black mushrooms), spring onion and slices of chashu (marinated pork belly).

Above is a picture of what everything looked like before I gave it a good stir. The home made noodles underneath looked like this:

The pork belly was deliciously tender and fell apart when I picked it up on the spoon. I tried to get a closer picture of it but it kept breaking up and falling back into the soup. The broth was salty with a heavy garlic and pepper taste. For me, this is a winning combination and the noodles soaked up the flavours really nicely. 

I will add that I went to this outlet of Ippudo a few months ago and back then the pork itself was not very good. Today was a different story, maybe they were still having teething problems at that time..

Overall - On the basis that it is still my favourite example of Tonkotsu ramen - 4 / 5

Ippudo is perhaps not the best place if you're looking for something healthy or if you are looking for a quiet dinner; the chefs are constantly yelling greetings/orders/goodbyes in Japanese. It does however, remain a very reliable chain for good quality ramen, and is an easy introduction to anyone curious to try some Japanese comfort food.

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