Ippudo, London


The day I failed to get a table at Bone Daddies' new pop up Shackfuyu and seeing the insane queue next door for Eat Tokyo, it was only a weekday's night and it was hard to get a table for two. My friend Calvin suggested ramen, knowing Denmark Street area had some delicious dining offers we thought we may try our luck. 45 minutes wait for Flat Iron, 1 hour wait for Smoking Goat and Kanada-Ya was impossible to get in. We crossed the road and went for Ippudo, the only place that had no wait and had a table immediately.

Ippudo is the latest addition of the ramen craze hitting London, with a plan to open a second branch already. An already phenomenal global ramen chain, from Japan, to East Asia to Australia to New York and beyond. I've been to the Hong Kong branch few years ago, it was a disappointment. I remembered I ordered their seasonal special ramen, the bowl was full of spring onion garnish only and the broth had no depth. I was hoping the London branch would change my view on Ippudo.

Spanning two floors at Central St. Giles with a modern décor, we were greeted by loud shouts of "irasshaimase". The place was buzzing, a mixture of club music and Japanese/Korean music playing in the background, sort of impossible to have a conversation without raising your voice. Maybe too attentive with the service, it felt as though the staff was in your face all the time.

Hirata Bun

The menu consisted of large selections of starters, a la carte and 6 different ramens. To start, me and Calvin had a hirata bun each. Somewhere I read before, the New York branch came up with the name "hirata bun" which is just re-branding of the Taiwanese "gua bao". I will not believe in the story that they invented it. The whole thing looked lifeless, flat bun filled with thin slices of uninteresting pork and slimy lettuce. Easily the worst "gua bao" in London.

Akamaru Modern

More of disappointment continues, the akamaru modern. A bolder translation of the original pork broth topped with Ipuudo's secret Umami Dama paste, a piece of bland pork belly chashu (let me emphasised again, ONE piece of thinly slice pork chashu), and a few garnishes of bean sprouts, sesame kikurage mushrooms, and spring onions. The broth arrived boiling hot, but bland, greasy and salty. The taste of the broth sort of reminisced old-fashion Cantonese soup and then you realised the amount of water you drank whilst slurping this bowl of ramen. The egg was an additional item, not too sure if Ippudo is greedy or what but the ramen came with very little toppings and everything else cost extra for a tonkotsu.

It left me wondering how did Ippudo become so successful with such humiliating food and over the face service? Next time, I will just stay in the queue for Kanada-Ya and do not tempt to go for the no wait ramen joint with such average food and silly portions that is not worth the money.

Score Rating: 1.5/5
Price: £15-20/head

Ippudo London on Urbanspoon
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