It starts as soon as you enter the restaurant. Dozens of waiters turn and chorus “Irasshaimase!” in a rolling sonic wave. Even some of the chefs seem to get on-board. You haven’t slurped a single noodle yet, but you’re already part of the family.
It’s a good way to start your IPPUDO experience. A lot gets written about the ramen in this place, but not a lot about the friendly service. We’re happy to report that both are delicious.
If you’ve let your international ramen studies slide, you might not know how big a deal IPPUDO really is. The brand started up back in Japan in 1985, and it’s exploded since then. The first international branch popped up in New York in 2008, and both Sydney and Perth boast IPPUDO ramen houses already. Now it’s Melbourne’s turn (no more suffer-in-your-ramen-jocks emails from you, Sydney).
IPPUDO has opened as part of the QV complex in the CBD—98 seats in a red-popping ramen bar on Artemis Lane, just near the corner of Russell and Lonsdale.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” our waiter says. “We’re averaging about 1000 bowls of ramen on Friday night and Saturday night. Maybe 800 on weekdays.”
That’s a lot of ramen in anyone’s books. But why all the social frenzy? Melbourne’s got a few good ramen bars already, right? Fukuryu Ramen and Shujinko spring to mind. Well partly it’s the international star-power of IPPUDO (both Jessica Alba and Anne Hathaway are big fans). But partly it’s the quality of the actual ramen. Hands down, some of the best we’ve ever slurped.
You’re gonna want to start with either the Shiromaru Motoaji ramen, or the Akamaru. Both are signature bowls, built from creamy tonkotsu broth, but each one’s got something different to recommend it. The thinly sliced pork loin in the Shiromaru is delicious, but Akamaru has that miso-garlic blend that takes the broth to the next level (the pork belly ain’t bad either). Our tip? Take a friend and get one of each.
You can pick your noodle density here too: soft (yawa), medium (futsu), hard (kata) or very hard (bari kata). Don’t go bari kata unless you’ve got a weird affinity for rare Maggi 2-minute noodles, crunched right out of the pack. We found futsu to be pretty much perfect—soft enough to slurp, but with a toothy al dente bite.
The Melbourne menu has evolved a bit from the Sydney and Perth iterations, and the crew has already noticed a few differences in dining habits.
Sydney apparently can’t get enough of the pork and karaage bao buns (the philistines), but Melbournians are more interested in seared salmon sushi, flamed and served with spicy cod row mayo. We can confirm the gyoza are solid too—smaller than average, but cooked just right. You can sex them up with chilli oil, black vinegar and crushed sesame seeds—the standard condiments on every table.
And for drinks? A frosty glass of Asahi Super Dry usually does the trick, but there's a range of soft drinks, teas and wine if you're vibing something different. Keep an eye out too for their daily Happy Hour too (cheap Asahi Black? We're there.)
The IPPUDO fit-out is kind of what you want from a giant-killing ramen juggernaut: contemporary, fun an colourful. Patterned paper lanterns hang above a huge communal table, or there’s red bench seating down the right-hand wall. You can even sit up near the kitchen and watch the chefs slicing and dicing close-up (our favourite spot). Sculptured timber ceilings, artwork and pendant lights round-out the aesthetic nicely.
Any ramen pro knows the mark of a good venue is the angle of your bowl at the end. If you tip it 45-degrees to catch every last drop of tonkotsu broth on your spoon, you’ve found a keeper. When it comes to IPPUDO, we were one degree away from tipping the dregs into our open mouths (we have no shame when it comes to ramen).
Bring on the meat sweats. We’ve found our new happy place. Irasshaimase!
Want to find out more about IPPUDO? Check out our Directory page.
Image credit: Simon Shiff