We’re usually quite slow to jump on the bandwagon of any new establishment. We prefer to give them a while for any kinks and teething problems to be ironed out, and to wait for queues to abate somewhat. Case in point – Ippudo, the ramen joint at Mandarin Gallery where queues of over an hour were par for the course when they first opened.
I’m not sure if the Mandarin Gallery branch still attracts long lines, but they’ve opened a branch called Ippudo Tao at UE Square. This outlet serves ramen as well as yakitori, but the ramen menu isn’t as varied as the one at Mandarin Gallery. Still, I’ll happily trade fewer ramen options for some grilled skewers and most importantly, no queues. We called on Sunday evening and easily got a reservation (I’m not sure if the Mandarin outlet accepts reservations).
We started with a deep fried young corn, since you don’t see that on menus very often. The corn was very lightly battered and topped with some herbed garlic. Interesting but not something we’ll order again, at least not before trying other things on the menu.
As for the yakitori, we tried the tsukune and the pork belly. The pork belly was nice and juicy; as for the tsukune, it was a bit too refined for me. I like my tsukune to have some texture from the chicken cartilage and stuff, but this was too smooth and didn’t have any bite.
We tried the original Ippudo Shiro, which was tonkotsu broth and Hakata-style noodles (thin and straight), and one of the Ippudo Tao specials – the Tao Kuro, with thick chewy noodles served in tonkotsu broth with added miso paste and fragrant garlic oil. I preferred the Shiro, which was lighter yet had a more complex flavour. The Tao Kuro packed more of a flavour punch, but was more one dimensional.
I remembered reading that they serve fresh garlic, but didn’t see any on the table. I asked them about it and sure enough, they brought a dish of garlic cloves and a garlic press. Choose one, stick it into the press and squeeze directly onto your ramen. The fresh garlic really packs a punch so use sparingly. And maybe not on a first date.
Because the ramen here was pretty light, we didn’t feel ramen-ed out the way we sometimes do after a particularly rich bowl of ramen. In fact, I think our ramen fatigue, which has plagued us since Hokkaido, has been somewhat lifted, and now I feel like venturing to Iluma to try the Ramen Champion stalls.
Great service and very good food. What I especially like is that the ramen isn’t overwhelmingly salty or thick like other places. This is probably going to be my favourite ramen place for a while.
207 River Valley Road
#01-55/56 UE Square
Mon to Thurs: 11.30 am to 3 pm; 5.30 pm to midnight
Fri and Sat: Mon to Thurs: 11.30 am to 3 pm; 5.30 pm to 2 am
Sun: 11.30 am to 11 pm