Ippudo, Berkeley report w/ PICS

I stood in line for 1.5hrs on the 2nd day Sat 7/29/17. It’s off Shattuck Ave but the one behind 85C Bakery, next to Blue Bottle Coffee shop & Venus Cafe, not off the main Shattuck Ave, still close to Downtown Berkeley Bart so you don’t need to drive.

One of the waitress gave us FREE Japanese Ito-En green tea in a can while we waited, I was happy for that. Once inside I ordered the Shiromaru Classic ramen $14 and didn’t read the description closely once I sat down. It doesn’t come with egg, that’s extra if I wanted it, no thanks since I wasn’t too hungry. You can pick how you want the noodles done, I picked medium and they were ok. Japanese chefs told me in Japan they like the noodles Firm so do that.

They have appetizers, rice dishes, sake, etc. I need to go back to try all the other stuff.

One waitress said at 3pm Sat 7/29/17 there was no line.

They take credit cards and there are 2 unisex bathrooms on the left side in the back. No take-out boxes so bring your own containers, finish your food, or just leave it.

I will go back but hopefully in a month or two when the hype has died down and try to eat earlier.

Hrs:
M-Thurs 11am-11pm
Fri & Sun 11am-12AM
Sun 11am-10pm

Ippudo
2015 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704

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You have much more choice in Berkeley than Ippudo in Paris, here was my review a few months back. There was no queues for us.

Thanks for the report! How did you like the broth and the toppings?

I thought the broth was nice and not super salty, what little toppings I got were average, meat was nice and tender.

I went on Monday at 3:30 PM and waited 20 minutes for a table. There is no waiting list - everyone waits in the same line. As you near the front of the line, someone comes out to ask how many people are in your party. Parties of 1 and 2 were usually seated once they reached the front of the line, but bigger parties were ushered inside to wait on a bench until a table opened up for them.

The tables for two are packed close together (I had diners on either side of me less than a foot away) and have stools for seats, plus a basket underneath the table for belongings. Once we were in, we noticed at least 6 empty tables, but there weren’t enough staff so maybe that is why they were only letting a few people in at a time. Service was fairly slow, but I’m chalking that up to opening week.

We had the chicken kara-age to start. The chicken was marinated, moist, and had a crunchy batter. It was served with a spring mix salad with a miso dressing. Although good, I’ll skip an appetizer next time because the ramen bowls are filling. I also ordered the IKEZO berry, a sparkling sake with jelly (yes, jelly) that is served in a champaign flute.

I had the karaoke spicy tamago. If the egg was seasoned, I couldn’t tell. It tasted plain and wasn’t marinated - the egg white was still white, so it wasn’t soaked in a soy/mirin seasoning. The plain broth was porky and had a rich mouthfeel, but it was the spicy topping and the garlic oil that made this dish fantastic. The broth paired with the firm, thin noodles were what made the dish. The chashu was a dry, but flavorful. Note that they don’t have take out containers - I brought my own.

I live really close to this place, so I’ll go again when the weather cools down along with the hype and they get some service kinks worked out.

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I queued on a weeknight arriving around 8:45 pm at the request of my wife and a friend. Was seated about one hour later. About 9:20 or so the guy told people in line behind me that the kitchen closes at 10 pm and they might only be able to order ramen. By kitchen closing they mean the other cooked/prepped foods like buns and what not.

I was prepared to be underwhelmed since I’ve visited Ippudo in Sydney and Hong Kong within the past year, and found it serviceable. Perhaps it is this style of tonkotsu, from what I gather more or less the traditional style, that I only enjoy but don’t think is particularly great. For instance, I’ve had Shin Sen Gumi in SoCal as well and didn’t fall in love with it. That said, I enjoy it well enough. I like the versions at Ramen Dojo and Santa better, and derivative soups like tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen better too.

Berkeley branch was better than the other two I visited. I had the regular version with egg, my wife and friend had the other two, modified with flavoring pastes. The spicy one was strong with seaweed flavor- I didn’t quite understand what was going on with the other, non-spicy one. It looked red too but had some kind of distinct flavor- like some kind of fermented bean paste but not miso. At any rate, I like the two flavored ones better, at least they were more interesting.

Eggs were cooked firm though not hard, and not marinated. Not sure if this is intentional but I prefer soft, marinated style.

The appetizer wings were tasty and I liked the peppery sauce. Kara-Age was fine. I liked the cold cucumber appetizer.

All in all, I much prefer Ramen Shop in Oakland. I’m not a ramen expert, but I’ve been to a number of highly rated places in Tokyo and in general have not liked them better than Ramen Shop, though sometimes I like them as well, and they’re generally much cheaper. Ippudo is not much cheaper than Ramen Shop, if at all.

Would go again if lines weren’t much of an issue (<30 min or so). But that doesn’t seem likely and in general I avoid central Berkeley.

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“Karaoke Spicy Tamago”? I think spellcheck made your bowl of ramen sing.

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Just to add my 2¢, I had the Akamaru Modern bowl at the first NY Ippudo location back in 2010. I wasn’t particularly impressed with Ippudo then, but I tend to be an iconoclast when it comes to ramen cultism.

I was impressed by one thing: IIRC the Akamaru Modern was $14 back then, and has only gone up $1 in seven years of hype, based on the Berkeley menu. Perhaps, in view of their piggybacking on Panda Express’s site location analyses, they are keeping prices down in hopes of becoming the new Ajisen.

My experience is similar, though I liked the bowl, just not the fuss. But I’ve eaten a few times at Ippudo locations in Japan, for half the price, without overdesigned interiors and having to line up forever. Food is better too.

Can people who have been to other East Bay ramen places compare Ippudo with them? I’ve had great ramen at Yuzu (65th St. in Emeryville), Shiba (Emeryville public market), and the pop-up Ippo, and acceptable ramen at Kaze (Shattuck at Berkeley Way). Is Ippudo worth the trouble?

It’s worth a 20 minute wait in my opinion. There is no way I would wait more than that for the place because standing outside in line wears thin. The noodles are what makes this place stand apart. Out of the list you posted, I’ve been to every one except Yuzu, and I’ll throw Ramen Shop into consideration. The soup at all those other ramen places are good, but their noodles don’t have the same bite.

For my part, I’ll say that based on single, recent experiences that I like the ramen at Shiba in downtown Oakland better than Ippudo, and spicy tonkotsu at Yuzu about the same. Yuzu offers the similar thin noodle to Ippudo and shin sen gumi. Shiba offers a more conventional, apparently commercial yellow curly ramen noodle, but I really enjoyed the spicy tonkotsu soup, as well as my wife’s clear dark soup. Also their chicken wings were outstanding. It’s also the cheapest of the three at $13-14, accounting for the included egg, which was easily the best of the three. Soft boiled and lightly marinated.

We went to Ippuddo for a late lunch today. Showed up at 2:50 and got on line. We were seated about 3:22 PM. Our feeling about the experience was that it was fine but not exemplary. We were just in Japan this spring where we gorged on Ramen and Soba so the bar is set high for us when it comes to Ramen. Here is what we ate:

Appetizer:

Mentaiko- a rice bowl with salted roe and shiso. This was good. It would have been a little better if there was more roe and less rice. The rice itself was good but not the best quality. We might order this again because we are huge fans of Roe, but probably not.

Ramen:

My husband got the Modern Ramen and I had the spicy Ramen.

Karaka-men Spicy Ramen. This was mediocre. There were off flavors in the broth. My husband described it as a tomato paste like off flavor that ruined the broth. In addition there was a harsh garlic flavor (Cooking at home I have noticed that there is a batch of garlic currently being sold in the Bay Area has a harsh dreadful flavor even if you use the tiniest amount) that overpowered the Ramen. Would definitely NOT order this again. In Japan we had such off the chartts phenomenal spicy Ramen this was a huge disappointment. Not even as good as the Spicy Ramen at the place in 99 Ranch market in Richmond.

Akamaru modern Ramen. This was excellent. Complex rich flavored broth. Overall as good as the better Ramen we have had at Ramen Shop. Would definitely order this again.

A few comments about the Ramen: we ordered the noodles firm and they were perfect in terms of doneness. We were a bit perplexed by their thinness. In Japan the Ramen noodles we had were always thicker. The overall flavor of the noodles was good. We each got a Ramen with a soft boiled egg. In my Ramen the egg was perfect but in my husbands it was overdone. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Ramen was the Charshu(pork). It tasted underseasoned, dry and just wasn’t cooked well.

My husband has been to the one in New York and thought it was a little better. All in all the visit was somewhat disappointing, though I did really enjoy the Akamuru Modern Ramen. I would go back if the wait was not as long and would order the Akamuru Ramen again.

I was at the original NYC Ippudo in 2008 (had the Akamaru Modern too) and the wait for a table was long enough to chill out with a twofer at McSorley’s down the street. I’d hate to have to program an in between wait time.

I think Ippudo’s reputation is over-inflated because it was the first polished big name player in town and thus a revelation to people who didn’t know from Dave Chang’s salt-and-fat bombs.

Now this is spicy Ramen:

http://kikanbo.co.jp/

If they opened up a restaurant in the Bay Area I would be there even if there was a long wait.

There are variations on noodle size, colour, and waviness, some being originally regional (though chefs move around and patrons enjoy a change now and then). Ippudo started in Fukuoka, on the southwest island of Kyushu, and the original style of Hakata ramen was served with tonkotsu broth and thin, straight, white noodles. In contrast, Sapporo-style ramen from the northeast island typically uses miso broth and medium-weight, wavy, yellow noodles.

I was in between running errands and work in Berkeley today when I drove by Ippudo at noon. I wasn’t planning on eating lunch there but noticed there was no line at all. So I found parking and went for lunch. I ordered the Akamaru modern Ramen which I enjoyed on a previous visit with my husband. When I started eating the ramen it had a very musty taste. After some inspecting and sampling I realized the culprit was the bean sprouts. They had that horrible musty fungal flavor (what my winemaker husband calls TCA) that sprouts and other packaged veggies sometimes get. I thought about sending it back but there weren’t that many sprouts so I picked them all out. I forgot to specify how I wanted the noodles. The last time we order them firm and they were perfect. This time I didn’t specify and they seemed too firm. There was no satisfying chew and the noodles just didn’t taste as good as the last visit. The broth was bland and lacked the complexity of our last visit when there were interesting citrus (yuzu?) and other flavor notes. The pieces of pork were fatty, bland and un-enjoyable. Going into lunch I was looking forward to a decent bowl of ramen but ended up being surprised at how mediocre the Ramen ended up being. I can only surmise that this place has gone downhill since opening or they have extremely bad QC. Perhaps that’s the reason why there is no longer a crazy long line? In any case I won’t be returning.

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LOL!

’You have probably met one of these ramen-obsessed people at some point in your life. They happily wait in line for two hours at Mensho Tokyo SF and drive all the way to San Mateo when the craving calls. They log onto Hungry Onion to share their opinions on every ramen house from here to San Jose. And they were alarmingly stoked when Ippudo finally came to Berkeley.’

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