7 Jan 2015


London, UK

Ippudo is a big, Japanese chain that recently opened their first restaurant in London. We have previously reviewed the East Village branch in New York on the Food Grid, which we liked a lot. Our expectations were thus high, and we were excited to finally go try out their place in Central Saint Giles, the colourful building by Renzo Piano Building Workshop near Tottenham Court Road. Just before heading over for a Saturday lunch, I did a quick google of reviews, and found that most people were negative towards the service there. We entered the restaurant, and were told that there was a 45 minute wait. This annoying fact isn't even that unusual in London, as more and more restaurants have no booking system. We sat down at the bar to wait. There were some nice touches to the interior, such as the timber pattern over the bar making out the shape of Mount Fuji, whereas other aspects were less successful. The huge chandeliers that are noticeable through the double height glass facade from the street look a little bit cheapo, as do some of the detailing on the glass staircase up to the second level of the restaurant. The restaurants in the St Giles development are quite corporate, and this Ippudo was definitely a lot less atmospheric than the one in NYC.

Following some back and forth, we got a table after 10 minutes, so the wait was not bad in the end. We had already studied the menu, and proceeded to order a lot of it right away. The first dish to arrive was the Tako Wasabi, raw baby octopus in wasabi sauce. I had been suspicious of ordering this, and it turns out I was right. It had a slimy texture with a crunch in the middle of the bites, and none of us liked it. I ate a few more bites of it because the wasabi sauce was so tasty, but the texture was just really strange. This is not just us being picky, as both of my friends had previously eaten raw octopus so fresh that it was still moving when going down their throats. Even looking at the photo now while uploading this blogpost is making me feel a bit queasy. The rest of the starters turned out to be a lot better. The fried chicken Hirata Buns were really tasty, with just the right amount of spice. The chicken and vegetable Gyozas were well prepared; grilled on one side and soft on the other, however the flavour of the filling could not compete with that of Tonkotsu. We also had the Ippudo Salad with crispy noodles on top. The dressing had an interesting flavour, but the actual vegetables were so normal (cucmber, lettuce, peppers) that it tasted a bit boring.  It was freezing outside, so I asked for a glass of hot sake, but I was told that during lunch they only serve two types of sake, neither of which could be served hot. Instead I went for a Sencha Tea, which was delicious next to such a heavy meal, but it was sadly taken away from the table before I had a chance to finish it.  Despite having lots of starters, we were very hungry when the main dishes arrived. I went for the Shiro Vegetarian with a seasoned boiled egg, and I also tried some of my friend's Shiromaru Hakata Classic with pork. Both dishes were perfectly tasty, and the noodles had a good bite to them, but I felt like the bowls were lacking something. Neither the flavour of the broth or the toppings were punchy enough. Considering the eggs were an additional topping, the dish could have been even more standard if we hadn't chosen to add to it. I overall enjoyed eating it, and finished my portion, but it was not a spectacular bowl of ramen. I have to agree with other online reviews in that the service was quite annoying. They were attentive in that they kept coming up to us and asking if things were ok and taking our plates, but they were not particularly helpful. Ippudo is a decent place, but as London now has plenty of ramen restaurants I expect more than just 'good' if I am to visit a place twice. Next time I would try Kanada Ya across the street instead. 
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