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Mid-Week Lunch At Ippudo

February 11, 2013

Akamaru Modern Ramen at Ippudo NYC

Ever since I moved to New York, I have heard about Ippudo.

I have what I like to call a bucket list of places to eat in New York. The list is far longer than it is possible for me to conquer, given how often I read of new places I want to try and how much restaurant turnover there is in New York. The list began in my very first summer in New York, when I was an intern at Michelin Red Guides.

When I worked at Michelin, my first task was to call every single restaurant that would be listed in the New York guide and verify its hours of operation. I was given an Excel spreadsheet of restaurants and phone numbers and instructed to find out whether the restaurant was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; if so, what hours; what time the kitchen closed in the evening; and if it served a separate brunch menu on weekends.

It was somewhat of a rough culture shock, as I had just moved to New York.

Akamaru Modern Ramen at Ippudo NYC

Akamaru Modern

Of course, many of the hostesses and reservationists who answered the phone were polite. In fact, all of the restaurants classy enough to have reservationists were a pleasure to call. Many of them invited me to drop by soon for a bite.

But, after hours on end of calling, there were certain restaurants I feared to call. These were the ethnic ones, tiny Korean or Chinese spots where it seemed no one who spoke English could be found to answer the phone, and those who did answer couldn’t understand why I was calling at all. Imagine calling a Chinese restaurant and asking if they serve breakfast. And then, of course, there were the trendy restaurants, where the hostesses felt entitled to an attitude. “All of our hours are listed on our website,” they would say. Subtext: You know what the internet is, right?

But I was not allowed to refer to the website. As an intern, my instructions were very clear: only a human being could qualify as proper verification of the information to be included in the Guide. I also could not reveal that I was calling from Michelin. I had to remain anonymous.

Those who (at first patiently) answered my litany of questions usually became curious by the end. A few even became suspicious. “Who is this? Why do you have a blocked number? Where are you calling from? We’re not going to buy anything from you.”

Tori Ramen at Ippudo NYC

Tori Ramen

The most memorable phone call cracked me up. Transcript as follows:

Man on other line: Hello?

Me: What are your hours of operation, please?

Man: Ummm…24 hours a day. Until I die, I guess.

Me: Pause. Oh. Isn’t this a restaurant?

Man: No, it’s not.

That is the only instance I can remember in which I misdialed.

Anyway, as I called each restaurant (and checked their websites as secondary sources), I noted the ones that interested me on yellow sticky notes. I don’t know where those sticky notes are now, but they metamorphosed into little notes on my iPhone, in various notebooks, and in my head.

Ippudo was one of them. Long lines, communal tables, all part of the fun, according to bloggers and Yelp. I met up with my friend Kate for a lunch date at Ippudo a few weeks ago. As I expected, we waited about 30 minutes for a table, but since I arrived first, I put my name down and then walked over to a grocery store in Union Square to pick up some gluten-free gingersnaps for $1 a box (what a sale!)

When we sat down to eat, it was almost 2:15 P.M., and the restaurant had quieted down. I ordered the Akamaru Modern; Kate selected the Tori Ramen (both pictured above.) The broth was rich and delicious. I really liked the decor inside; shimmering wall hangings, a huge bamboo tree sculpture, and varied styles of seating. Our waitress was very sweet, too.

Ippudo was definitely worth the trip, and the wait. Now, on to my next gastronomic New York City adventure…

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