Ippudo was established in Hakata, Japan, opening its doors in at Westfield Sydney in 2012. The popular ramen franchise is due to open at Central Park in Chippendale at the end of October. But in the lead-up to the opening next month, I took a gander at the original store at Westfield.
The first few pages of the Ippudo menu conveniently outline a brief history of ramen. Ramen dates back to 1665 in Japan, but it was in fact a dish that was influenced by Chinese noodles. Now there are thousands of different types of ramen in various regions of Japan. The way to enjoy ramen is characterised by making a sound as you slurp the noodles. Japanese people call this 'zuzotto', which indicates how much you're enjoying your ramen. So next time you find yourself eating ramen and loving it, you should be slurping it loudly to show your appreciation.
We're seated at the bar near the open ramen kitchen, where we can see all the ramen cooking in action. Before we have our ramen though, we start with a few entrees. The pork bun ($4) is even better than I remember. This is my second visit to Ippudo, and I'm seriously impressed. The steamed bun is so pillowy that when you touch it, it leaves finger indents behind. The braised pork is juicy and tasty. We also try the deep-fried shrimp bun ($5) but the pork bun is the winner by far. Both are made with Ippudo's original sauce, which is a delicious flavoured kewpie mayo.
Next up is a plate of Ippudo gyoza, which are Hakata-style pan-fried dumplings ($6 for 5 pieces or $11 for 10 pieces). They're delicate parcels that I wolf down in seconds. The skin is perfectly thin. There's also a small dot of what we think is wasabi next to the gyoza. But it's not just straight up wasabi - there's a hint of ginger throughout, too.
The yasai tempura ($11) is larger than expected. For $11 it's great value for a vegetable tempura. Tonight it's a selection of red onion, pumpkin, eggplant, carrot, sweet potato and asparagus. I find the batter is a bit on the thick side, but otherwise it's a great way to start your meal at Ippudo.
For the ramen, you can choose how your noodles are cooked, which I love. I choose to have them cooked to medium, but I love that there's the option for those who like their noodles softer or chewier.
The tori shoyu chashu ramen ($20) has a delicate, clear broth that soothes the soul. It's a delicious chicken broth blended with bonito extract. The noodles are the wavy kind, which are actually my preference because I find them springier in texture. Soft, delicious chicken chashu sits atop the noodles. This is the perfect ramen for you if you like lighter broths.
The spicy miso tonkotsu ramen is a seasonal special on the menu ($17). Topped with pork belly chashu, bamboo shoots, spring onions, spicy fragrant oil, spicy miso, half a flavoured egg, bean sprouts and cabbage, it's bursting with flavour. The pork broth is a spicy version of the original miso tonkotsu ramen, amped up with black garlic oil. Featuring straight noodles, this ramen is a must-order if you love it spicy.