Culinaring Through NYC: Day 5 – Tasty Ramen, Sour Service
Once again we found ourselves eating more Asian food. Ippudo’s interior is cramped, dark, loud and full of servers who shout Japanese at haphazard moments. The place is famous for their pork buns and bowls of ramen, foods which David Chang has laid claim to in NYC. Ippudo though is still extremely popular and very busy. Question of the Night: How do the two compare?
One bite in, I knew Chang’s pork buns were far superior to Ippudo’s. Chang is king of all things pork and his juicy, fatty pork belly was an experience in itself. Ippudo’s pork belly was a tougher, cheaper bite that didn’t have nearly enough umami. Where Chang uses a cucumber to undercut the meat, Ippudo uses iceberg lettuce with mayonnaise. Don’t get me wrong, Ippudo has some delicious pork buns but between the two Ippudo comes in a very distant fourth.
What of the ramen? Ippudo takes the prize in this category with its miso-inspired broth and slurpy noodles. Chang’s broth relied too much on pork for depth (which never came). Ippudo’s is just so appropriate for a winter night. The soft-boiled egg might have been my favorite part of the entire bowl. But as far as the best soup broth on this culinaring trip, Lam Zhou’s beats everybody.
Now I would to take this moment to wail about Ippudo’s inept service. When the first half of our party arrived and gave the hostess our name, she told us the wait would probably be 30 to 45 minutes and to tell her when our entire party is here because she might be able to seat us earlier. When the rest of the party arrived, we told her. Response: The wait is going to be 45 minutes to 1 hour now because your party wasn’t inside the room so I just pushed you down on the list. It didn’t help that her tone was a condescending and accusing one.
Service Fail #2: I understand that splitting checks can be difficult, but let’s not get hostile over the process. When we tried to split the check 5 ways, our server, whose English throughout the entire was sounding like Japanese, explained that she could only (…Japanese… Japanese…) split check (…Japanese…Japanese…) 3 ways (…Japanese… Japanese…) accept 4 credit cards.
Maybe it was the language barrier but between the three economics majors at the table, they couldn’t figure out what she meant. 3 ways? 4 cards? She repeated herself several times. Eyes looked to the ceiling. I drank some tea just to calm down. Eventually we figured it — and by figure it out I mean oh-damnit-just-put-everything-on-one-card-I-just-want-to-go-home — but while we were discussing how to balance the check, servers and managers came by our table to see if we were ready to pay. They were pushy and on edge for our payment as if Godzilla were knocking on the door demanding our table and a bowl of ramen too. Please, Ippudo staff, drink some tea.
As we walked out the entire staff, as they had when we first walked in, shouted something in Japanese and threw us a few smiles and bows. The charm this had in the beginning had worn off by the end. Just get me home.
65 4th Ave
New York, NY 10003