Ippudo at Central Park, Chippendale

Sunday, December 07, 2014

I'd like to confess that I'm no Ramen connoisseur. I'm not one to religiously scope out Ramen eateries and rave about their broth intensity or collagen factor. My palette is not accustomed to the pork-rich flavour of Tonkostsu, nor the full, complexity of Miso Ramen. But, nevertheless, I do love noodles of any sort and will willingly pursue any noodle restaurant to seek out some squiggly goodness. And when a Japanese restaurant by the name of Ippudo extends its branch out to the reasonably new Central Park Complex, you'll bet I'll be there in a heartbeat.

Westfield's Ippudo restaurant in its high-class food court is renowned for it's authentic, full-bodied Ramen. The restaurant in Central Park is located in the ground level Dining District, across the path from Ribs and Burgers, a chic cafe called Autolyse, and next door to the dessert-lover's paradise, Max Brenner. The interior space is not as big as the Westfield branch, but large enough for a comfy space that doesn't feel like you're one in a hundred hungry noodle-slurpers. And, unlike the Westfield flagship, there's little wait (if any at all), at least in the early months since its opening in early October.

The entrance is flagged by a traditional signature ramen curtain banner that brandishes the Ippudo name. An inside wall is lined with white soup spoons and the ceiling is home to an arrangement of blue, red and grey lampshades, stacked in rows above long communal wooden tables. Along one side is a banquette with smaller tables, and the decor is similar to, but not as traditional as, the larger flagship restaurant.

Part of the entree menu - look! Japanese fish and chips!

You are still greeted with the hearty 'Irrashaimase!' welcome call upon entering, and service is reasonably fast. When we visit the dinner menu is being served, with an expansion of their original lunch menu in the form of dishes such as the special 'bare' Shiromaru base, which offers the essence of their traditional Tonkotsu broth, and entrees such as Ippudo Fish and Chips (which includes a fried boiled egg!) and Chasu Croquette. That's not to mention the tempting Blue Mountains dessert that is a parfait of green tea ice cream, red bean, mandarins and apricots.

Pork Bun (choice of 3 $11, one for $4)

Everybody who's everybody loves steamed pork buns. Ippudo offers a choice of three fillings - chicken, pork and shrimp.The pork bun is fatty and melts in the mouth, with a tickling tingle of chilli flourishing the thick slice of braised pork. The buns are fluffy and light, the perfect pillow upon which each filling rests on.

Chicken Bun (choice of 3 $11, one for $5)

 The chicken bun is dolloped with mayonnaise and a leaf of crunchy iceberg lettuce, enveloping a piece of tender braised chicken that reminds me of chicken teriyaki. The chicken is thick and oval-shaped, making for a slightly out of proportion bun to filling ratio.

Pan-fried Gyoza ($11)

Gyoza arrive with a beautiful golden stain of crunchiness stamped on to their bottom, flecked with little charred bits, with ten to serving. They're generously stuffed and impeccably pan-fried Hakata-style, with a tasty pork filling that surprisingly fills us up quite a bit.

Gyoza in Chilli Oil ($8)

These boiled gyoza were served in a puddle of chilli oil and topped with finely julienned shards of leek and thin rings of shallot. They were delicate and slippery; the crunch providing a wonderful contrasting texture to the spicy parcels.

Shorimaru Motoaji ($15, extra seaweed serving $2)

So with all those entrees eaten we musn't forget that next comes the Ramen! Shiromaru Motoaji is the signature Ippudo Tonkotsu (pork) broth. Underneath the pale, cloudy broth swims a nest of thin noodles, sliced woody ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, shallots and circular slices of flavoursome pork loin. I prefer these thin noodles to the thicker, wavy noodles, as the latter reminds me of the two minute variety; we were asked upon ordering whether we'd like our noodles soft, medium or hard. Toppings can be ordered if you like to spice up your Ramen a little bit more, we ordered seaweed which had 5 pieces to a serve for an extra $2. I have a tendency to like to eat things altogether, piling a little bit of noodle, pork, bean sprout, mushroom and broth into my spoon and eating it all by the mouthful. Everything tastes so much better together!

Tori Shoyu Ramen ($13)

This Ramen has a Tokyo-style, chicken-based broth with pieces of chicken Chasu, leek, Menma (dried, fermented bamboo shoots) and naturo (cured fish 'cake') alongside wavy-style noodles. The clear broth has an intense chicken flavour that comes with lots of chicken. It is a simpler soup base that packs a punch, ideal you're not really a fan of the heavier, traditional broth bases.

Ippudo Central Park offers the best of ramen in a secluded, out-of-the-way setting that is much more relaxing than the busier, larger Westfield Sydney Ippudo restaurant. It recently gained a liquor licence and also offers lunch specials, appealing to Ramen-lovers and students (its located across from UTS) everywhere with it's Japanese charm and lure of authentic Japanese food that extends far beyond the traditional Ramen-and-Gyoza restaurant. Other Ramen styles on the menu unclide Akamaru Shinaji (tonkotsu with special miso paste and a lick of strong, dark garlic oil) and Shojin (vegetable-based ramen cooked according to Buddhist principles, with whole grain noodles and vegatable kakiage). With so many delightful and appealing dishes on the menu, it's more than likely we'll be visiting again to sample more of the wonderful Japanese fare.


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