No. 85, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 1, Taipei City
MRT: Taipei Main Station
hours: 11:30AM - 12midnight
$-$$ (cash only, about NT$250-400/person)
Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted
Visit reviewed: 10/23/2012
If you spot lines in front of Ippudo, don't be intimidated by them, nor by the way they organize the line, with a solitary machine offering numbers. Opened last spring, the Taipei branch of the popular Japanese ramen shop (also with a branch in NY) had up to 2 hour waits when it first opened. Yes, TWO HOURS! I didn't want to wait that long, so I waited until the crowds died down to go. Taipei is crazy about ramen, as we saw openings of both Ippudo and Santouka in Taipei last spring about the same time.
But when I went, months after the opening, there was still a bit of crowd. There was no formal line, so I wandered closer to the bright red machine to see what the deal was. Numbers differ for parties of 1, 2-3 or 4+ and after a bit of navigating, guessing what the mostly Chinese directions were and button pushing, I got a ticket with a number.
I punched the number "2" and then "ok" and there was another screen after this to push confirm.
Luckily that day, everyone got seated fairly quickly... I think we were seated in less than 5 minutes. They won't seat you until everyone in your party is there, so either have everyone be on time, or eat with only a few people.
Once inside, the ramen shop is visually stimulating, using red and white ramen bowls and spoons as pop art deco along the walls and above the bar seating. There's actually a lot of seats in the dining room, with different sections of booths, large tables and a long bar. If you're looking for more in the area, after your ramen, you can walk a few blocks to Taipei's MOCA, or Museum of Modern Art.
There's a handy basket underneath each stool/chair for storing your purse or manbag or umbrella.
The English/Chinese/Japanese menu has four main ramen choices- Shiomaru Classic, Akamaru Modern, Ippudo karaka and a brothless vegetarian. The Shiomaru focuses on the classic white pork broth, while Modern adds spicy miso, while Ippudo Karaka adds spicy meat sauce. Vegetarian should be self explanatory.
When I visited Ippudo Taipei for the first time last fall, they also offered a tsukemen for a limited time which I should have tried, but I wanted to try the classic first.
There are small plates of cold dishes and hot appetizers to fill you up. My favorites out of the bunch were the Japanese fried chicken and the Ippudo Spicy Tofu in stone pot.
Ippudo also offers up a fusion gua bao style bun, giving Taiwan credit for the fatty pork sandwich concept, but making their own twist on it, stating on the menu that the collection is "born in Taiwan, reborn in New York." Yup, you'd better recognize!
Check out the spices and garlic press while you wait for your food to see if you want to add some sesame seeds or crushed garlic to your ramen.
If you want to add some veggies to your meal, you can add a couple of small cold dish appetizers to your meal. I liked the chili bamboo with mentaiko (NT$55) over the chili oil sprouts (NT$55). During my second visit, I noticed they added some dishes to the menu.
Ippudo's bowl is just the right size, and if you add an egg (for NT$30), the soft boiled egg comes whole. The meat is sliced fairly thinly, but is melt in your mouth tender. Everything in the bowl is hot, so it doesn't taste like some ramen shops where they dump cold ingredients in and assume it will be warmed up by the broth.
The shiromaru classic (NT$200 + NT$30) is a milky white pork broth and pure deliciousness. The ramen is on the thinner side and is ordered either "regular" or "firmer," but I thought "regular" was just the right amount of al dente chewiness.
The red bowl is the Akamaru Modern (NT$230 + NT$30) and comes with some secret sauces (chili, sesame, miso) to mix into the pork broth to give a richer, layered spoonful.
Love how perfect the soft boiled egg is, gooey egg yolk, but not too runny.
I don't always drink all the broth, but when it's this good...
There's quite a list of ramen shops growing for Taipei eats, so I wouldn't wait an hour for it, but if you're looking for a good bowl of noodles, you can be sure Ippudo is on it.
No. 165, DunHua S. Rd, Sec. 1
11:30 AM - 12AM (last order: 23:30)