Ippudo Malaysia - the local chapter of Japan's renown ramen chain unveiled its new grand menu recently at Pavilion KL. Regional operations consultant Tomo Kudo (below pix) said the new items will give local diners a taste of modern Japan while staying true to founder Shigemi Kawahara's philosophy to innovate continuously.
It was love at first bite the minute we sampled the Dashimaki Egg Roll (RM9). Ethereally fluffy, the Japanese omelette roll dotted with mayo and spicy cod roe was a definitive crowd-pleaser; priming us up for other goodies to come.
Suffice to say, we weren't disappointed. The lustrously rich briny flavour of marinated pollock roe and cod roe spread luxuriantly on the palate as we bit into the lightly Seared Salmon Rolls with Mentaiko (RM19), transporting us to culinary heaven.
It was splendid when you chase it with sips of Ippudo's Matcha Smoothie (RM9.90) - the fresh, faintly astringent green tea helps to cut any cloying aftertaste that linger. Coupled with some red bean mash and cream, the drink is refreshing to the last drop.
Simpler but no less yummy is Spicy Boiled Gyoza (RM13). The dumplings are generously stuffed with minced pork. Some shredded leek, light soya sauce and hot chilli oil are the pared-down condiments that lift them to delightful gustatory heights.
Passion about pork? Ah, then you mustn't miss savouring the Pork Grill (RM16) - a slab of tender, juicy pork loin served on hot plate with beansprouts, sweet corn and teppan sauce. Slivers of fried garlic flakes lend it a coyly smoky-sweetness that should leave you smacking your lips with great satisfaction.
Trust me, the biggest surefire crowd-pleaser would be Teppan Garlic Rice with Chicken (RM20). I really can't foresee any young adult weaned on a diet of pizza, pasta and mod Japanese food refusing this mound of garlic-fried rice and diced chicken amidst a moat of eggy, cheesy and creamy sauce speckled with chopped capsicum and sweet corn kernels...
Also unveiled at the preview were two new ramen variants - Shoyu Ramen and Kakuni Ramen, joining Ippudo's quintessential noodle repertoire. The nice thing about Ippudo is you can dictate how hard or soft you like the noodles to be...most ramen shops usually overcook their noodles (based on my own experiences) so such attention to detail is highly laudable.
A special clear chicken broth and shoyu stock forms the base for Shoyu Ramen (RM24.90) - its delicate accent just the platform to showcase thin springy noodles complemented by sliced pork loin, bamboo shoots, seaweed, leeks and naturomaki (sliced fish paste roll with a pink swirl).
The Shiromaru Kakuni (pix above, RM27.90) is supremely hearty in which ramen and a thick slab of belly pork simmered in Ippudo's special soy sauce come immersed in the chain's trademark tonkotsu broth, garnished with kikurage (shredded cloud ear fungus), spring onion and beansprouts. Other variants available are Karaka Kakuni (RM30.90). Akamaru Kakuni (RM29.90).
The special spicy miso, cashew & ground pork really bestows much character and complex flavour to the Karaka-Men (RM25.90). You can also enjoy it with additional salted soft-boiled egg as in Karaka Tamago (RM27.90) while the luxe Karaka Special (RM33.90) throws in sliced belly pork, seaweed and salted soft-boiled egg as well.
We also slurped up Shiromaru Motoaji (RM22.90) - a classic Hakata-style ramen. The ultra-thin noodles with Ippudo's tonkotsu broth are accompanied by pork loin slices, beansprouts, kikurage and spring onion.
Special blended miso paste and fragrant garlic oil infuse big, bold flavour dimensions to Akamaru Shinaji (RM24.90) - a refined, modern-style ramen that consists of thin noodles with pork belly slices, spring onion and kikurage.
Simplicity rules the evening's dessert offerings. Mochi fans would probably love Daifuku (RM9) as the sweet treat features vanilla ice-cream enrobed in a thin layer of silky, stretchy mochi skin, placed on a slice of lemon and served with a fresh strawberry.
Mild, subtly flavoured creamy cheese atop soft cookie base makes up our second dessert of Cheese Stick. Its light, almost whimsy sweetness is comparable to eating ice-cream crossed with marshmallow. What a befittingly lovely end to mark the launch of Ippudo's grand new menu.
For reservations, call Ippudo Malaysia - Pavilion KL (Tel: 03 2110 6233), The Gardens Mall (Tel: 03 2201 6238) & Bangsar Shopping Centre (Tel: 03 2011 6238). More info & details available from: http://www.ippudo.com.my