Entries in Ippudo (2)


Review Recap: Ippudo

BruniBetting was put to pasture just in time. Our once-fabled ability to foretell Frank Bruni’s restaurant ratings has gone astray. For the second week in a row, the lame-duck critic has confounded us—this time with a one-star review of Ippudo.

The review finds our critic “Worshipping at the Altar of Ramen.” At first, it reads distinctly like the two-star rave we were expecting:

At Ippudo in the East Village, which is where many of the most devoted ramen fans practice their devotion, I would sometimes look up from my ramen and realize that I hadn’t acknowledged my companions for several minutes, and had in fact forgotten that they were there.

With ramen like Ippudo’s at its finest, who needs conversation? For that matter, who needs company?

Ippudo opened early last year, but seems to become even more popular and fashionable every month. Ippudo, Ippudo, Ippudo: lately, acquaintances mention it all the time, usually in order to crow that they’ve just been. It’s an insider’s favorite, enjoying its gastronome-darling moment.

In the end, he has just enough complaints to take Ippudo into the Land of the One:

Ippudo doesn’t take reservations, and that’s one of several annoyances. In the end there are challenges to the ramen bliss here. There are complications and compromises that you have to edit out of the experience…

Pork is a useful compass for navigating Ippudo’s menu, which goes beyond ramen to an array of small and medium-size plates. If a dish centers or pivots on pork — the meaty, fatty, glorious Samurai ribs, for example — consider it. If it doesn’t, beware. There’s remarkable unevenness here, exemplified by the shockingly fishy black cod I had one night…

There’s unevenness even to the ramen, in which the slices of pork can be tender or tough, and in which the noodles can be just a tad too soft. With the turnover and bustle at Ippudo, consistency is clearly a challenge.

The crowd management could be better — warmer. During lunch on a recent day, nearly a dozen of us waited around the bar up front for an open table, but Ippudo hadn’t bothered to deploy a single bartender or dispatch a single server to see if we wanted a drink or, say, a glass of water. Service on the whole varies, alternately relaxed and rushed, friendly and aloof.

On the whole, though, this is one of those infrequent one-star reviews that is actually meant as a compliment. The trouble with Bruni is that, at least 2/3rds of the time, a star by itself is an insult. In Bruni’s starry universe, it’s tough to find the one-star reviews that are actually positive recommendations—like this one—because they get lost in a sea of mediocrity.


Review Preview: Ippudo

[Kreiger via Eater]

Tomorrow, lame-duck Frank reviews Ippudo NY, the Japanese Ramen Noodle Brasserie. BruniBetting is defunct, but we offer our sense of what the departing critic will do.

The Skinny: Peter Meehan reviewed Ippudo for the Times a scant thirteen months ago. He loved the place, a verdict repeated in most of the other reliable reviews we’ve found. We haven’t been there ourselves, but the Internet consensus is that Ippudo is pretty damned good. That fact alone would seem to guarantee two stars.

On top of that, it’s hard to see any journalistic purpose in reviewing Ippudo again so soon, unless Bruni feels that it deserves another shout-out. Of course, shout-outs can be negative sometimes, but mediocre Asian restaurants are a dime a dozen. The only conceivable purpose of the review is to hand out another rave. We’ll assume that outrageous, indefensible three-star reviews don’t come very often, and as he did that last week, we aren’t going to see another trifecta.

Frank Bruni has a history of promoting $25 & Under Asian restaurants to two fine-dining stars. Sripraphai, Spicy & Tasty, and Momofuku Ssäm Bar have been among the beneficiaries (the latter since bumped up to three stars). Given his lame-duck status, we figure that Bruni just wants to have fun. He doesn’t have to review Ippudo. We assume, therefore, that he wants to review Ippudo.

The Prediction: We predict that Frank Bruni will award two stars to Ippudo.