RAMEN: NOTHING LIKE COLLEGE
March 7, 2014
THE HUNGER JAMES OFFICIAL RATING:
One night on the way to happy hour, my friend and I were walking the streets of the East Village trying very carefully to step over the puddles of slush and, more importantly, to find a place to eat dinner. We knew that even a drop of Bud Light was going to make me extremely intoxicated, so finding food before getting drunk seemed necessary.
The East Village is an area of the city I am starting to become familiar with and develop a strong liking to. I always hated it because of how far it was from my home in good ole New Jersey and how inundated it was with NYU freshmen. But where it lacks in convenience and people over 21, it is filled with stylish bars and trendy restaurants.
While crossing 10th street, my friend exclaimed “There’s my favorite restaurant in the city! We need to go! Please say we’ll go?!” Having no opinion on where we ate, I shrugged and said “Sure” thinking I could at least find a cheeseburger on the menu.
Nope. The restaurant –her favorite restaurant – is called Ippudo and it specializes in Ramen.
“Ramen? Like the cheap bags of food we would eat in college?” I asked, desperate to find a different restaurant.
“NO!” she shouted at my in the middle of the road. “It is nothing like ramen noodles. It’s the best. You need to try it. Now!”
Confused, and fearful of what my friend would say if I said no, I decided to give it a chance.
We walked in and the place was swarmed with people dying to sit down and eat this infamous meal. We only had to wait a few minutes, and before I knew it we were being taken to the back of the restaurant and were greeted by eleven Asian men screaming “Welcome” in their native language.
“I don’t get this sort of greeting at the Outback” I said.
Before I had a chance to look at the menu, let alone take off my coat, the waiter came over to us and asked if we were ready to order. I gave a look to my friend, giving her total control over ordering the entire meal for us, since she was an expert.
“Can we have the pork buns to start and some green tea?”
When the waiter walked away, I leaned in and asked “What’s a pork bun?”
“It’s the most amazing thing you will ever eat. Trust me.”
And I did.
I couldn’t even have time to snap a picture; they were gone in three seconds. I can’t really explain what exactly a pork bun is without saying it’s pork in a bun, but it was delicious. (On the menu, it is called a Hirata Bun). When it came time to order our meal – the ramen – I didn’t understand any of the ingredients listed on the menu. “But wait…Is it soup? Or noodles?”
“It’s both! You eat the noodles and then drink the soup.”
“How convenient” I replied. I ended up choosing the Modern while my friend chose the Classic. “Just give me what that person over there is having and I’ll be good.”
The Ramen Modern is pork soup noodles topped with “Umami Dama” miso paste (whatever the hell that is) pork chashu(huh?), cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms (like portabella?), scallions, and fragrant garlic oil (does it smell?)
Taking my first bite, I was pleasantly surprised at how flavorful this dish was. I am glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a totally different cuisine – one I never would have tried without the push of a friend.
I suggest if you are ever in the mood to try Ramen that you go to Ippudo. But, please, make sure you get an order of the pork buns. You will NOT be disappointed.