For decades, Ippudo has been regarded as the bastion of quality tonkotsu ramen (ramen typically made up of a rich, milky pork broth made by boiling pork bones). The chain restaurant was established by Shigemi Kawahara in Fukuoka, Japan in 1985 as a tiny 10-seater eatery and has been going strong since.
It is so ubiquitous in Japan that it is often regarded as one of the most famous tonkotsu ramen shops there and has bagged numerous awards on television shows throughout the country.
In Malaysia, the brand has earned a stellar reputation as well since it was first introduced in 2013. Late last year, Ippudo went against the grain when it opened its very first Ippudo Express in the busy enclave of Damansara Uptown in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Incidentally, this is also its first outlet to be entirely self-service and cashless.
“This outlet is very different, our original concept is all about hospitality. But this one is the very first to be self-service and cash-free.
“People have been asking why we opened an Ippudo Express here. And the reason is because this area is all about quick, fast meals for busy office workers. Also we wanted to offer a cheaper range here,” says Nicole Chin, the marketing manager of Ippudo Malaysia.
At this fuss-free new outlet, diners can choose to either takeaway their meals or sit down, order through a kiosk, pick up food at a counter, eat quickly and leave. This makes for an ideal fast lunch for urbanites on-the-go looking for fast, nourishing meals.
The ordering process is also fairly seamless – a kiosk at the entrance lists out all the options available, and then it is a matter of clicking, choosing and paying. The eatery also provides the option of ordering via QR code at the tables or paying through an in-house app.
At this outlet, you can also expect cheaper meals than the full-service restaurants, with prices for ramen starting from RM21.90, as opposed to RM32 in the conventional eateries.
There are also some menu options that are exclusive to this particular eatery, and of this, you would do well to try the Shiro Bomb Ramen (RM24.90). This turns the classic tonkotsu broth on its head and elevates its further with a miso paste that completely transforms the flavour profile of this dish. The miso paste options vary dramatically, with options like black sesame and Japanese curry.
“Once you add the shiro bomb into your ramen, it completely morphs into another flavour and you can’t get this at any other outlet,” says Chin.
Of the options on offer, the black sesame miso paste delivers a potent hit of umami that really drastically alters the meat-nuanced broth, giving it a sharper, more potent kick that deliver instant satisfaction. The Japanese curry option meanwhile is a great treat for the senses if you are looking for a fiery, fiendish addition to your regular old tonkotsu ramen.
Speaking of regular old tonkotsu ramen, if you simply want to stick to a time-treasured favourite, do yourself a favour and opt for the perennially popular (and relatively affordable) Egao Shiromaru Motoaji (RM21.90) which features the rich, pork-laced tonkotsu ramen broth that put Ippudo on the map, alongside noodles, pork belly, bean sprouts, kikurage and spring onions. This is for the purists angling after the spirit of familiarity and the essence of pure, unadulterated tonkotsu ramen without any additional fancy frills.
The eatery also has a range of appetisers on offer, like the Gyoza with Lasagna Sauce (RM15), which sounds odd in theory but actually works pretty well in reality, so long as you eat it while it’s hot and before the sauce starts to clot. The handmade gyoza (dumpling) has a crispy outer layer which segues into tender innards and the sauce coats all this goodness in a rich, tomatoey veneer that is surprisingly addictive.
If you’re after a more conventional option, definitely try the Boiled Gyoza with Ponzu Sauce (RM14), which features petal soft gyoza amidst the backdrop of a tart, slightly acerbic sauce that provides a great counterpoint to the meal.
The Ippudo Pork Bun (RM9) meanwhile offers deliciously velvety soft, unctuous pork belly sandwiched between cottony soft bread in what proves to be a winning combination that doesn’t really veer away from familiar territory but delivers comfort in spades.
If you’re after something from the crunchy persuasion, you’ll enjoy the Tori Karaage (RM13), which features bite-sized morsels of chicken that crackle and crunch at the slightest inclination and give way to succulent, oh-so juicy meat inside.
All in all, Ippudo Express delivers fast, high-quality meals that are still fashioned after the culinary heart and soul that have helped shape the brand’s legacy. The fact that the meals are put together in record time is just the icing on the cake.
37-G, Ground floor
47400 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7613 6998
Open daily: 12pm to 12am