I remember the time I moved to America, in July of 1985, flying with Japan Airlines into San Francisco after a couple of nights in Tokyo. Little did I know that three months later, a popular Japanese ramen chain restaurant Ippudo (一風堂) landed on the other side of the continent, in New York. It was to be the Ramen King Shigemi Kawahara’s Ippudo’s first flagship outside of Japan, and it has stayed open serving to satiate the customers’ hunger for ramen.
I was forewarned by food reviews that the wait could be a long one, so I made effort to arrive long before dinner; but that was not to be. Instead, by the time I reached Ippudo, I saw a swelling crowd at the outside of the store; and my body slumped upon entering and found a packed room full of people waiting to be seated. The person standing before me was informed by the host that it would be an hour wait, so I’ve resigned to that fact by the time it was my turn and I submitted my name. When he asked how many people, I said, “Just one.” Suddenly the cloud parted and the trumpet sounded, as I heard him say, “Oh, I can get you seated within five minutes. Stay there!” Wow, there is something to be said about dining solo.
Much has been written about Ippudo, chief among which is the famed pork-based broth of Tonkotsu, very rich and smooth, and most important of all, extremely delicious. Upon being seated and given the menu, it took me but a few seconds to spot the night’s special, Ippudo Kasane Aji (一風堂かさね味) or the Ippudo Refining Taste, which was defined as ramen noodle in “Tori-Paitan:” Silky chicken and rich tonkotsu layered soup with pork chashu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, topped with original Yuzu dressing.
I did not eat up the bowl of ramen, because I felt I had to try something else. People around me tried the Pork Bun (the Hirata Buns, 2 pieces: Steamed buns filled with your choice of pork or chicken, served with Ippudo original spicy buns sauce); but I was craving for chicken wings, so I ordered the Hirata Chicken Wings (3 pieces), fried chicken wings glazed with Ippudo special black pepper sauce. Even that I could not eat up, so I just took one, and alerted my neighbors to welcome themselves for the two other wings. They happily partook the meal.