Ippudo (New York) - Interrupt

>> Sunday, October 28, 2012

Date of Dining: 10/5/2012
Price: $14-25 per ramen bowl
Location: 65 Fourth Ave, New York, NY

The Quick Bit:

+ great selection of different tonkotsu styled ramen
+ authentic ramen flavors outside of Japan
Δ wait times can be long
Δ price makes it a huge luxury

While ramen is normally considered a fast food item in Japan, the American attitude towards ramen is very different. Most people probably consider is a cheap yet filling meal enjoyed by "poor" college students. However, some other places have decided to enhance ramen to the point where it is a luxury food made from the best ingredients. One such establishment representing the latter philosophy is Ippudo.
When I visited New York, I knew the city was great for its diverse ethnic foods; one of the foods I wanted to try was the city's best ramen. After several people pointed out that Ippudo was considered the city's "best" I decided to visit during lunchtime to avoid the large crowds.
Inside Ippudo, the restaurant is much more the atmosphere of a trendy New York restaurant with Japanese influences than the Ramen-ya. While this didn't take away anything from the taste of the food, I did feel a bit out of place eating my ramen in such a swanky environment.
shiromaru hakata classic ramen - tonkotsu, pork loin, kikurage mushrooms, menma, red pickled ginger
As one of the bowls we sampled, we decided to go for the classic. This would give us the pure flavor of the tonkotsu broth without any added ingredients. As expected, the broth had a full a rich flavor; unexpected, the broth had a deep complexity capped by the delicate sweetness. Overall, this was a great bowl of ramen.
akamaru chashu ramen - tonkotsu, pork loin, "umami dama", cabbage, sesame, kikurage mushrooms,
black garlic oil, nitamago (soft boiled egg) (extra)
This preparation was widely considered the favorite of many who recommended Ippudo. The black garlic is very similar to the kotteri from Ramen Yamadaya. While I found this bowl of ramen to be very enjoyable as well, I felt that it did not hit the highs as well as other comparable ramens of the same style - namely this type of ramen goes for the strong, in your face, umami kick flavor profile.
While the shiromaru ramen had its own unique style, the akamaru ramen was very similar to the signature ramen from Yamadaya and Tsujita. While I felt that overall this ramen was better than Yamadaya's, I would probably rather eat at Yamadaya 19 times out of 20 due to the price difference. I also felt that it lagged a bit behind Tsujita's ramen in every category.


New York's best ramen was definitely a very enjoyable destination; the ramen served is as good if not better than most places in Japan. However, the price ultimately factors into the equation. Before you go to Ippudo, you should ask yourself the question of just how much you're willing to spend for "great plus" ramen rather than just great ramen. 
Ultimately, Ippudo still delivers as New York's best ramen restaurant, but I will rank it in the higher category of awards due to its price. Thus, Ippudo is given the megabyte award.



>> Thursday, October 25, 2012

Date of Dining: 8/20/2012
Price: $26-42 entrees, AYCE market price
Location: 8990 University Center Lane, San Diego, CA 92122

The Quick Bit:

+ great preparation of seafood dishes
+ nice happy hour options
+ wine flights are interesting and well-priced
Δ atmosphere could feel more modern
Δ pricing could be cheaper

Truluck's is a seafood chain restaurant with 11 locations nationwide. However, that has not stopped affected the quality of the food served at the restaurant. While I'm not usually a fan of chain establishments, there is a lot of good press about Truluck's by many local San Diegans.
I decided to check out Truluck's because of their all you can eat stone crab claws. For a market price on Monday evenings, you can order an all you can eat stone crab claws that also comes with unlimited soups and salads.
Another great part of Truluck's is their high quality wine list and their program of getting a flight of wines.
chardonnay showdown wine flight
I chose to try the Chardonnay showdown, and I was very impressed by the wines that were poured; they were both of high quality and a great value. 


lobster bisque
The lobster bisque was a well executed standard bisque. It was perfectly seasoned and contained some chunks of lobster as well. 
tomato and watermelon gazpacho
This soup was the highlight for me. I ordered this after having several crab claws and the acidity and balance enabled me to down a few extra plates. There was an excellent balance of sweet and sour along with the herbs to really bring a refreshing quality to the plate.
mesclun greens salad
The salad was a nice mix of several elements including olives, pecans and goat cheese. All of these elements combined to enhance the salad into an enjoyable one.


miso-glazed chilean sea bass
This dish was really pushed by the wait staff and is probably their signature dish. For clarification, the sea bass was a sustainable version from a farm in Georgia. However, being farmed did not take away any of the flavor of the sea bass as this was excellently prepared. The fish was cooked perfectly and had a great balance of miso flavor to really bring in that umami punch. While I didn't think I would like the fried rice, I surprisingly enjoyed it. This was definitely a well-executed dish that even surpasses some of the entrees of celebrated local chefs.
stone crab claws
To start, a plate of nine claws is brought out. The stone crab claws are all pre-cracked so they are easy to eat. Lemons and dipping sauce are also brought, but I didn't waste any time with the sauce. While the crab claws are the the really big claws that you can order a la carte, they still contained a great flavor. 
additional plates
After the initial plate, all subsequent plates contain three additional claws. We queried the waiter and he said that he believed the record was 93 claws in one sitting.
Overall, I was very impressed by the quality of the claws, but for the price, you will definitely need to come prepared to feel that you got your value out of the purchase.


chocolate cake
To drive home the old fashioned restaurant vibe, plastic desserts are brought out on a tray with each dessert a humongouse portion. We elected for the chocolate cake, which was rich and a nice end to the meal.


Although Truluck's is a chain restaurant, it is an easy recommendation for a great seafood restaurant. The dishes are prepared extremely well, and they execution is consistent. There is also a great wine list to accompany the meal. Perhaps the only problem with Truluck's is that being the chain restaurant restrains the heights to which can be achieved.
For the great execution of seafood dishes, Trulucks gets the megabyte award.


Voltage Coffee and Art - Interrupt

>> Sunday, October 21, 2012

Date of Dining: 10/1/2012
Price: $2.50 for pour over
Location: 295 3rd St, Cambridge, MA

The Quick Bit:

+ great atmosphere of an art gallery with a coffee shop
+ high quality coffee beans
+ convenient location
Δ Ordering can be difficult when there is a line

Voltage Coffee and Art is owned by Lucy Valena. Valena's premise is that coffee acts as a fuel for artistic innovation; by providing coffee in an art gallery ambiance, Valena hopes to jump-start creative works. Interestingly, Voltage was founded through a microloan program. Valena used this loan to establish a reputation to eventually secure venture capital for establishing a brick and mortar storefront.
The espresso drinks served at Voltage contain added flavors to take them to the next level such a the vanilla and burnt sugar in the Atticus Finch drink. However, the draw for me was the the Madcap pour over. I knew Madcap was an up and coming coffee roaster and I jumped at the opportunity to enjoy their coffee in the pour over method - a process that unlocks more acidity and floral notes in the coffee leading to greater body and balance in flavor.
madcap ethiopian pour over
When I sipped the Ethiopian Kochere, I knew I had made the correct choice as it had a great balance of acidity and floral notes to complement the toffee undertones. Even without added milk or sugar, the cup was extremely balanced, and more reminiscent of a strong yet balanced tea.


With its great variety of espresso and pour over coffees and excellent ambiance, I was extremely happy with my visit to Voltage. Even with a single visit, I am confident in awarding Voltage the bit award.


Dae Jang Keum Korean BBQ

Date of Dining: 10/13/2012
Price: ~ $40 per person, but depends on amount ordered
Location: 7905 Engineer Rd, San Diego, CA 92111

The Quick Bit

+ high quality and varied selection of meat
+ great banchan
+ free coffee and peanuts while waiting
Δ all around service issues marred the meal
Δ parking can be difficult
You're probably wondering why I haven't been posting recently. One of the reasons is that I went on vacation, but the other reason is simply posting twice a week had caught up to me and I needed a bit of a break. I believe that I have had enough of that break, and will try to update a little extra (especially about my vacation) for a week or two to make up for my absence.

I've long heard that Dae Jang Keum (DJK) was the best Korean BBQ restaurant in San Diego, but didn't have a chance to investigate until recently. While it is not the cheapest restaurant, DJK is supposedly better based on the quality of meat, marinade, and banchan.
With quite the spread of banchan, I was extremely happy with the quality of preparation in these dishes. Each dish was well seasoned and full of flavor. They served as the perfect appetizer for the coming onslaught of meat.
While I'm not sure that these were binchotan charcoals, they did seem to have many similar properties in how they cooked the meat. The use of coals in a korean bbq restaurant was quite the surprise to me as most places simply resort to a gas grill. However, the use of coals is welcome as they add a nice smoky and mesquite flavor to the meat.
To start, we were given a grill cover to cook the first few courses. This would serve to cook the tongue and brisket cuts.
combination A (minus the brisket)
It was about at this time where I started having problems with the service. I asked the waitress to allow me to take photos, but she seemed in an awful rush. It was rushed to the point that the brisket was unceremoniously dumped on the grill plate before it had adequate time to heat. As most experts will tell you, one of the secrets to good barbecue is getting a nice sear on the meat from a hot grill. The grill was also filled with more meat than should have been present to allow air flow to develop a nice caramelization.
 The problem was exasperated later as before we had even finished cooking the brisket, the waitress returned and served the remaining portion of meat on the grill and placed the pork belly to grill.
pork belly
As the grill was nowhere near the correct heat, our pork belly began the slow process of boiling. It was at this point where I decided that enough was enough and took over the grill entirely. As such, I was mainly unable to get further photos as I had to fight off the waitress from intruding against my wishes.
I believe that the rush was due to the amount of meat we ordered - normally one round of coals would not be enough to cook that quantity of meat, but she tried to rush us through the cooking process so that an entire round of meat could be cooked using one set of coals. When I asked for the coals to be changed out, I was initially refused, and our party had to wait for 20 minutes before the waitress gave in.
rib eye
After the coals were changed, I managed to get one more photo before having to man the grill again. To cook the thicker meats, the pan was changed out for a grill so that the charcoals could directly infuse the smoky flavor into the meat.
While I generally had a favorable impression of the meal, it was severely marred by the service. Having to concentrate entirely on fighting off the waitress is not how I like to enjoy my meal. I did think the meat was of higher quality than the other all you can eat restaurants.


While the quality of the meat at Dae Jung Keum was great, I had many problems with the service on a Saturday night. My feeling of the meal was so mixed that really all I can say was that the whole meal was inconclusive. I really did enjoy the preparation of the banchan along with the quality of the meat - it was not on the same level as Totoraku, but it was comparable for a much cheaper price. I guess this is a good thing as it means I will have to visit again before making a final determination.


About This Blog

gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

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