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Monday, February 18, 2013

japanese/ramen: i strongly recommend IPPUDO

No. 85, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 1, Taipei City 
(02) 2562-9222

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.

Oh yeah.

Love how perfect the soft boiled egg is, gooey egg yolk, but not too runny. 

I had to try the buns and the roast beef with wasabi (NT$90) was more interesting than the pork belly.. it was good, but not amazing. Skip this and go to the night market and get the real thing for half the price.

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. 

OTHER LOCATIONS: (Just opened 2/4/2013)

No. 165, DunHua S. Rd, Sec. 1
(02) 2772-9222
11:30 AM - 12AM (last order: 23:30)


condimentality said...

I think you should rethink the tags on this post. Anyone who goes to Taipei Main Station to get there is in for a long walk. Likewise, its really not in Da'an but in Zhongshan district. Its a great place to get ramen, though, and one of the only places to get good food by Zhongshan station open past 10pm. The fried beef tongue is well worth trying if you haven't already.

condimentality said...

Also, before CNY it looked like a branch was going to open on Dunhua north of Zhongxiao by the Haagen Dazs

joanh said...

condimentality- thanks for the comment! the daan label was for the new location.. and i will add the Zhongshan station as it is def closer. but i did walk from ippudo to taipei main station, so it isn't too bad. fried beef tongue sounds good!

Anonymous said...

I went to Ippudo so many times during my stay in Taipei! It was so delicious! I was on Huayin street so it was a really short walk. The Ippudo in New York City has Shiromaru for $14 and I think in Taipei, it was only around $8 for the same dish!

Unknown said...

I have tried it and it is delicious! :)


stephanie said...

oh my goodness!! I can't believe there is an Ippudo in Taiwan! Thank you for posting this! This is one of my favorite restaurants in New York! I can't wait to try it the next time I go back to Taiwan! Love your blog by the way. Thank you for introducing so many scrumptious restaurants in Taiwan I've never been to!!

Weili & Candy said...

Hi Joan,I will be traveling to Taipei with my wheelchair friends. Can you recommend some wheelchair friendly restaurants near Taipei main station area? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

If you're ever in Danshui, there's a really good (and cheap) ramen shop I really recommend called 彩. It's in one of those tiny side streets next to a 7-eleven that you'd never think of going into. Here's the address : 台灣新北市淡水區英專路2巷5-2號. They're opened from 12-2:30pm and 4pm-9:30pm and closed on Thursdays.

domwells said...

Wasn't really a fan of this place. The first time I went I had to take a ticket and when my number was called, it was just to join another queue of 10 people inside. A Queue for a queue! Anyway, kinda used to that sort of thing in Taipei.

The second time I went there was no queue and I walked right in. The food was "good" (nothing special) and the experience was nice, but the portions weren't large enough or good enough quality to justify the prices. Cost nearly $1,000 for 2 medium sized portions. You could get much better value at a ton of Japanese restaurants.

Worth visiting once only.

joanh said...

anonymous- yes i heard prices in NY are really high!

taipei style- thanks for commenting! i like it too!

stephanie- thanks so much for your comment! hope you get to visit taiwan soon!

weili and candy- ah, it's tough to say. i'm not as familiar with main station, but you could try Q Square, Palais de Chine and Breeze food court at Taipei Main Station for starters.. some places are unfortunately still not entirely wheel chair or stroller friendly

anonymous- thanks!

domwells- i hear you. sometimes the way a restaurant arranges its queue can be annoying. i don't like to go to places that have long lines either