Ippudo (LAB Concept)

Eastern Promises 12: Shockingly Good Ramen at Ippudo

easternpromises

Ippudo, at 93 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong; call them at 2527 3526.

Ippudo Ext

One of my first meals out in Hong Kong was at Ippudo, a hyper-popular and quickly expanding ramen chain. I tried the location at the LAB Concept, a mall next door to the building where my classes are held. This night, Eric, Melanie and I stopped by after class one evening prior to heading to our respective homes via the MTR.

After having some extremely good ramen back in Vancouver during its ramen renaissance of 2008-2010, I was dubious of this chain. And to be honest, I’ve always felt there is really only room for one East-Asian soup in my life (Pho, natch) and have never been over the moon about ramen generally.

Long story short (too late), Ippudo changed my view on both of the above notions and was the best ramen I’d ever tried up until a few weeks later when I had the legendary Butao. Who knew Hong Kong would do ramen so well?

Ippudo Ramen LAB Concept

I tried the shiromaru ramen, Ippudo’s signature, which is a deep and cloudy pork-based ramen. I opted to add the recommended toppings including seaweed, egg and pork slices. This combination rang in at $88 HKD or about $12 CAD, so not not cheap by any means but also not unsustainable as a dinner option. We also availed ourselves of their 2-for-1 beer promotion, which offered a bit more bang for the buck.

Ippudo condiments

But as for the ramen, it was a nearly perfect harmony of rich pork flavor, salt and spice. The noodles, egg, pork and seaweed were similarly well-executed and served as excellent grace notes for the broth. I also greatly enjoyed the wide array of condiments including whole bulbs of garlic that could be pressed, via hand presses provided at each table, directly into the soup. Being something of a garlic-fiend I left the restaurant absolutely reeking, but also invulnerable to Hong Kong’s sizable vampire population. Interactivity – the joy in seeking the perfect combination of condiments and sauces – is one of the reasons I love pho, and the combinations possible at Ippudo are similarly exhilarating.

This is a rather simple tale. Ippudo, although a chain, has seemingly maintained an extremely high level of quality and its success is well deserved. I should add that although we showed up thirty minutes prior to closing (and nearly made it out before it shut its doors), the staff was friendly if a bit hesitant.

Genki Sushi (Admiralty, Hong Kong)

Eastern Promises 9: Conveyer Belt Sushi with New Friends at Genki

easternpromises

Genki Sushi, at 16 Harcourt, Admiralty, Hong Kong; call them at 2865 2933.

One of the first pieces of marketing I was exposed to in Hong Kong (a place where marketing is paramount) was a series of posters displayed on the wall as one ascends the escalators from the subway stations. Each one simply portrays an attractive young East Asian woman on the verge of consuming a single piece of sushi. Unfortunately, the name of the restaurant wasn’t written in English, so there was little chance of me ever figuring out what this place was.

That all changed when I made some friends, PCLL students at the school here, who suggested we get sushi for lunch. It sounded like they said Gangy (aka Lucille Bluth), but it turns out was Genki, and indeed the mysterious sushi restaurant with the aggressive marketing campaign (although a Gangy-themed restaurant – just martinis and cigarettes, I guess – would have been cool too)

Turns out it’s also one of those sushi places that employs a conveyor belt to get the sushi from the chefs to the customers, with different color plates connoting different price levels. I’ve always seen this is a bit of gimmick, and indeed one that seems vulnerable to freshness issues.

HK dreams 009

That wasn’t really a problem here as I found the sushi quite fresh. I had about five plates, ranging from tamago, to tuna to hamachi. It was nothing special, but for the price (about $10 CAD all in) it was well executed sushi with appropriately vinegared and packed rice.

HK dreams 010

Outshining the conveyer belt in my eyes was the tea system.  There was a small container of powdered green tea at the table. Combined with a spigot of hot water, it gave access to unlimited self-serve green tea. The tea wasn’t of the highest quality (it was powdered, after all) but the process was fun.

And I suppose that’s what I would say about Genki. The sushi is good for the money, and it’s a just a fun place to eat.