Bangkok’s hunger for ramen seemingly knows no bounds, as we welcome chain after well-loved Japanese chain each claiming to use only the very best produce. Arguably, the most high-profile of recent times is Ippudo, led by three-time ramen champion of Japan chef Shigemi Kawahara, from Fukuoka, which now has two branches in the premium malls Central Embassy and Emporium.
With its oversized kanji calligraphy screen and backlit logo, the Central Embassy branch looks like a glam, high-end clothing store. While ramen is very much the centerpiece, the menu here also branches out to straight soups, salads and fusion appetizers—with much success. The Bataniku Bun (pork bun, B80) is aromatic and sweet; it’s just a shame that the mayonnaise overpowers most of the good things about the tender, juicy braised pork belly. The fried Hakatastyle gyoza (B90), however, are a total success, with crisp, thin flour encasing full flavors, while the spicy shrimp mayo (B150) packs a surprisingly spicy kick.
Onto the main attraction, the signature Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen comes in three variations—the traditional and delicate Shiromaru Motoaji (B220), the intense miso-and-garlic-flavored Akamaru Shinaji (B220) and the spicy Karaka-men (B260)—in which you can choose the level of doneness of your noodles. Both the shiromaru (ultra-thin straight noodles, pork loin and tamago) and karaka-men (curly noodles and tender pork cubes simmered in Ippudo’s special soy sauce) are less greasy than the offerings at Bankara and Kio, but still contain enough fat to deter anyone dieting.
Ultimately, we feel the salty broth here falls slightly short of these two benchmarks. But on the plus side, the menu offers more variety, including desserts and cocktails. The shochu-based drinks are surprisingly cheap yet strong—we recommend the Shochu Night (shochu, grapefruit juice, triple sec liqueur, B165). Dessert goes well beyond matcha ice cream too, with items like Itachoco Monaka (crunchy chocolate sandwich with vanilla ice cream and wafer, B90). The Daifuku (Japanese mochi filled with vanilla ice cream with sliced lemon and strawberry, B90), in particular, offers a nice, sour kick to wash down all the fatty ramen goodness. With a prime but quiet location and relatively cheap prices, Ippudo justifies the hype that saw long queues mark its arrival in Bangkok.
This review took place in May 2015 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.