[San Francisco, SoMa] Ippudo


#1

Japan based ramen chain Ippudo opened up it’s first location in SF recently, on Yerba Buena Lane just off Market street, next to Press Club. This is their second location in the Bay Area along with a location in Berkeley. I’ve been to one of the Manhattan Ippudo locations once before but it was too long to ago to really remember how it tasted. I remember that I liked it. I went to Ippudo SF for a bowl of ramen late on a Sunday night about an hour before closing. You put your name down with the host and wait to be called. The line wasn’t very long when I went, and I was able get a seat within about 15 minutes. There’s a standing bar in the front of the restaurant where you can get a drink while waiting.

I ordered the shiromaru special ramen ($18), which has their classic tonkotsu broth and comes with crunchy kikurage mushrooms, scallions, boiled seasoned egg, extra chashu, and a few pieces of nori. For comparison, their basic “classic” shiromaru bowl ($14) omits the extra chashu, nori (kind of cheap to not include a few pieces of seaweed in the basic bowl), and egg. I also added menma for an extra $3.

The creamy white broth tasted pretty good, porky and rich but perhaps a little one note. Maybe I should have gotten the “akamaru modern” bowl which adds garlic oil and a spicy miso paste. If you are hungry I recommend getting the special because the chashu slices, while tasty, were quite thin. The “seasoned egg” didn’t appear to be very seasoned unfortunately. It lacked the brownish color of a soy sauce marinated egg and tasted like a regular soft boiled egg. Maybe they ran out of the marinated ones? At least the yolk was still somewhat runny. My menma add-on came on the side and was sprinkled with scallions. It was crunchy and a good portion, though it probably should be for the extra $3.

They have 4 firmness levels (soft to very firm) to choose for your noodles, which for the shiromaru are of the thin and straight variety typically used for Hakata tonkotsu broth based ramen. I chose the firmest level, and if the noodles that I got in my bowl were any indication, I probably wouldn’t order anything lower. They were just firm enough for me, but I like al dente noodles.

This was a decent tonkotsu bowl, though expensive at $18 and I personally wouldn’t wait in a long line for it. For a recent comparison, the tonkotsu bowl I had at Marufuku in Japantown a little while ago was better tasting IMHO and was more generous in toppings.



#2

Do they have apps, sake, etc, like in Berkeley?


#3

They have a full sake bar, all the appetizers. The bar serves bar food minus the ramen bowls.

The alcoholic beverages include draft beer, cocktails, whiskey (Toki on tap), and a vast selection of sake from very affordable options to the ridiculous Dassai Beyond for those looking to splurge. I believe the bar is unique in that it’s the only location that has an extensive sake lineup (at least for California).


#4

I went there a couple days ago. I ordered the karaka special which is a bit more spicy. I don’t usually get spicy ramen but I liked this broth. The flavor was deep but not too salty which is a problem I’ve had with the last few ramen bowls I’ve tried. I thought the amount of toppings was just right but if you want a lot of meat you can always order extra. The chashu was soft which was nice. I thought the egg was cooked correctly.

To me the best part of their ramen is their noodles. They are thin and they let you specify firmness, for me their firm (“kata”) noodles are perfect.

The ramen is very similar to the one you would get in their Manhattan location.

For me this is among the best ramen bowls in San Francisco, maybe not quite as good as Mensho but different and very close in quality.

They have a pretty good sake selection. Also they a few appetizers including chicken kara-age (which I didn’t try), and rice bowls. I got a chashu rice bowl and for some reason I was expecting fried rice but it was actually a mix of cut up chashu pork and a miso flavoring, mixed into white rice. It was unexpectedly good, perhaps because of the quality of the white rice.


#5

Just to preface everything, I have gone to the NYC location once, but that was … quite a while back but I did enjoy their ramen. I have gone to the Berkeley location roughly 2/3 months ago and found their ramen to be quite good and I just went to Ippudo SF location during lunch hours for a quick comparison. Price wise, I felt that the Berkeley one might have been a little less (I went during lunch hours and they had a lunch set pricing while the SF one did not). There is a little more variety in terms of some food items and beverages though at the SF restaurant.

I tried their pork buns to see how the little appetizers tasted. The bun was pillowy soft and had a good texture. The pork was relatively thick but was not overcooked and tough to chew through but relatively moist (I was actually hoping for something similar in size in the ramen, alas, they are thin cut). The sauce was mayo with the lettuce at the bottom to give a crisp texture and well, moisture management I guess.

At both the Berkeley and SF locations, I have tried their Akamaru Modern version and I was satisfied both times. Pictured below, I had the special version with the soft boiled egg and extra chasu pieces. As @Mr_Happy noted, the egg really wasn’t marinated so if you’re expecting that extra hint of marination, the version at Ippudo does not have that. Broth wise, it had a good pork flavor and was not super salty but it seemed to give a thinner viscosity – lacking the lip smacking, extra gelatin . The miso paste added a little bit of spice and the garlic oil does add some notes of garlic.

Noodle wise, I chose medium at the SF location and firm at Berkeley. I think I prefer the firm texture wise as it gives it a good bite. But the thin noodles definitely helped as a broth delivery device. Chasu as @Mr_Happy noted is on the thinner side but had a good marination.

Though after @hyperbowler’s latest link:

I like to think that Ippudo didn’t have their broth there… but kinda curious where Wakou’s broths are served now.


#6

We had a shiromaru classic, akamaru modern and a karaka spicy. Of the three, I liked the akamaru the most, as the miso ball imparted a dash of umami and brightly savory flavors to the broth. The shiromaru was pretty good. Rich broth.

Their very firm in noodle texture ranged from kind of firm to almost raw in the same meal. Consistency was an issue.

So even though the noodles were pretty good, Ippudo almost made me quit ramen altogether. Understand its an expensive location and a comfortable seating space, but $14-$16 for a bowl of noodles without addons with just a couple of pieces of chashu and some bean sprouts and kikurage, albeit with nice broth. And its another $1 for nori, $1 for scallions, $3 for more kikurage, etc. They only had one person at the noodle station, not cooking, but just assembling! I just have a hard time justifying why ramen is much more expensive than other noodle soups like pho, bun bo hue, wonton noodle soups, Taiwanese beef noodle soups, etc.

Overall, Ippudo is fine and I genuinely like their akamaru modern despite the price. There wasn’t a wait for us during weekend lunch, but its hard to justify standing in line if there is one at Ippudo, given the price they are charging.

shiromaru classic:

akamaru modern:

karaka spicy:


#7

At least the extra noodles are somewhat cheap… lol.

I presume its just the extra restaurant decor polish…? Though yes, I’ve often have some reservations on that. In general I find Japanese and Korean (though maybe due to its banchan) more expensive than other Asian cuisines.


#8

I am sure the fidi rent/ decor is expensive. And I am getting cheaper too.


#9

When I am making my own meat broth for noodle, I find it quite expensive with all the meat, and I wonder how those restaurants could sell it at that price and still make money.


#10

_>