NYC Ramen Wars: Ippudo vs. momofuku noodle bar

momofuku noodle bar vs. Ippudo Ramen

All this talk of it being the coldest and snowiest January in NYC history and a mercury-dropping forecast on the horizon, beckons the need for a piping hot bowl of really good ramen. Not the kind you buy for $0.25 and live on as a college kid, but true to Japanese blood ramen. Having already gone to momofuku noodle bar and written about it recently {here}, I went back to another favorite, Ippudo for comparison. Instead of giving you a recap of each drop of broth and the flavors you missed by not being there, I thought I would pit one against the other and see which would come out victorious in 8.ate@eight’s Ramen War.

My evaluation criteria:

  • Wait {inevitable}
  • Music {necessary for the wait}
  • Bar {also necessary for the wait}
  • Atmosphere
  • Service {the Japanese are known for it, afterall}
  • Steamed Buns {who doesn’t love a good set of buns}
  • Ramen {what really matters}
  • Overall Winner

WAIT: 90 minutes @Ippudo vs 30 minutes @momofuku
In all fairness, and an important disclaimer to the entire evaluation, I went to momofuku noodle bar at lunchtime and Ippudo for dinner, so there should be an expected difference in the amount of time.  That said, when both of these places are open they enjoy a constant stream of patrons, so I would expect them to be equally as popular for lunch or for dinner.
Wait Winner: momofuku

BAR: Yes @Ippudo vs No @momofuku
If you’re going to make me wait, you’ve got to give me a place to rest my elbow and quench my thirst. And while bigger isn’t always better, Ippudo’s sake, beer and cocktail menu is more extensive than the more focused selections at momofuku. Plus you can’t really beat the 2:1 happy hour special during the week.
Bar Winner: Ippudo

Ippudo Bar


MUSIC: House @Ippudo vs Rock & Hip-Hop @momofuku
I liked the music at both places, so it all depends on your mood. I have to give a slight edge to momofuku for the range of toe-tapping tunes that make you move in your seat {once you finally get there}.
Music Winner: momofuku

ATMOSPHERE: Dark @Ippudo vs Bright @momofuku
Momofuku has a clean, bright space with light, blond wood tables and stools lining the narrow restaurant. It’s simple and all about the food. Whereas Ippudo welcomes you with a cozy, dark bar that does not let on as to how much room actually exists beyond the hostess stand {perhaps adding to the mystery of the wait}. When your number is finally called at Ippudo you are guided to the back and welcomed with the traditional shouting of “irasshaimase” from all of the staff, making you feel a little important and excited about what’s to come. Both places have open kitchens to entice the hungry diner with the bowls of genius Japanese goodness you are about to be served. There are other great pieces of eye-catching art at Ippudo that lend to the tipping of the scales in this face-off.
Atmosphere Winner: Ippudo

SERVICE: Traditional Japanese @Ippudo vs American @momofuku
Having recently been to Japan, I will say one of the most noteworthy elements of my dining memories was the service — attentive, instantaneous and discreet. At Ippudo the service lived up to traditional Japanese expectations – a welcoming shout of “irasshaimase” to start the dining experience off with a feeling that the entire staff has just personally invited you to their table. Water glasses were filled before they were even a quarter empty and often without even noticing it had been done. Plates were cleared the instant the last scrap was devoured. And after a complimentary cup of tea to end the meal, the bill was promptly delivered after our server made sure there was no additional food or drink we wished to order. While the service was not bad at momofuku, it was only as good as you would expect at any American restaurant.
Service Winner: Ippudo

STEAMED BUNS:  Pork @Ippudo vs Shiitake @momofuku
Yeah, yeah, so they shouted something indecipherable at you — who cares? All that really matters here is the steamed buns you stuffed in your mouth and the ramen you slurped with satisfaction. True, and who doesn’t love a good steamed bun? Light, pillowy and slightly sticky, these are the wonder bread of the Japanese sandwich. In Ippudo’s case, a tender and a somewhat sweet and spicy pork treasure, and in momofuku’s case, an earthy and generously portioned stack of sautéed shiitakes with thin slices of Japanese cucumber.  If I could say this was a tie, I would, but that’s a cop-out I’m not willing to take. It might have something to do with how hungry I was after a 90-minute wait, or that all things pork are Godly, but I had a strong urge to double down on my Ippudo pork buns, and would have if my bowl of ramen didn’t come out so quickly — giving Ippudo the edge over my momofuku order.
Steamed Buns Winner: Ippudo

Ippudo Pork Steamed Buns


RAMEN: Brothy @Ippudo vs Substantial @momofuku
This, of course, is seemingly the most important of all categories. We are talking about Ramen Wars afterall.
  • At momofuku I ordered the momofuku ramen — pork belly, pork shoulder, poached egg.
  • At Ippudo I ordered the Karaka Kogashi Miso Ramen — ‘Ippudo chintan’ based noodle soup, a dark, rich broth made from charred miso with Ippudo special blended hot spice, topped with pork belly chashu, 1/2 boiled egg, cabbage, spinach, naruto. I have also had the more directly comparable Shiromaru Hakata Classic — pork loin chashu, kikurage, menma, 1/2 boiled egg, red pickled ginger, sesame & scallions.

I think by just reading the description, you can image that there is so much ‘yum’ swimming around in each bowl, you will never again enjoy that orange package of instant ramen. The clear deciding factor for me, however, was that momofuku showcased these ingredients, only pouring a small amount of the broth into the bottom of the bowl, whereas Ippudo generously filled the bowl to the brim with soup. My preference was for momofuku’s balance in favor of the delicious pork belly, mushrooms, runny poached egg that are the main attraction to this dish and only complemented by the broth and ramen. But let’s be clear – both bowls were empty by the time I was done.

Ramen Winner: momofuku

momofuku ramen w/ eggy goodness

Ippudo Karaka Kogashi Miso Ramen


It’s like never winning a tennis major, but still being ranked number one. I never exactly understood how that happened, but when you evaluate the overall performance in all match-ups large and small, you don’t have to win the ramen crown to come out as my favorite NYC Japanese ramen player. You will very likely come away from both Ippudo or momofuku noodle bar feeling warm and full of Japanese goodness, but you might as well enjoy a 2 for 1 happy happy hour while you wait! I’ve also nominated Ippudo as one of 8.ate@eight’s Favor8 — congratulations!

8.ate@eight Favor8
Seal of Approval

Arigatou. More Things Japanese Kudasai:
NYC Best: Momofuku That Noodle Bar is Good Too!
Behind Bohemian
Love, Love Shabu Shabu: Fun to Say and Eat
Sensational Summer Sushi @ Geisha

1 Comment

Filed under Eat Here!, NYC Best, {Drink Me}

One response to “NYC Ramen Wars: Ippudo vs. momofuku noodle bar

  1. KR

    I bet these noodle dishes would be so good with a glass of Ramona pinot.

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