The food: ramen in New York, pho in Toronto
The staff at Ippudo do the big enthusiastic greeting thing that is done at restaurants in Japan – when E and I walked in, a host-type person enthusiastically exclaimed something to us in Japanese, and when we were shown to a (communal) table, all the waiters and staff in the open kitchen yelled out something that could have been “Welcome suckers,” or, “My name is name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” but was most likely a Japanese version of Hey or Bon appetit.
After our young, Asian-American, English-was-her-only-language waitress (who confessed she’d had to learn and memorize the Japanese phrases being bandied about and spoke no others) explained what the lunch special set was (for $3 more, get a small bowl of rice with, for example, spicy fried chicken, alongside a ramen), we ordered one of those, and one ramen only, both ramen of the Shiromaru Hakata Classic variety.
The chicken, a version of torikaraage with spicy mayo, was very good – and the pieces didn’t, in real life, look quite so penis-like as they do in the pic above (!). It was tender, not greasy, the mayo added a nice kick, and the rice was hot, fluffy and moist, the way Japanese rice should be. The ramen was also worth a return trip – the ton katsu broth had a lovely depth of (not spicy) flavor, and the noodles were thin and delicate (and made fresh on the premises), though I wished they’d been a bit more chewy and curly.
Back home in Toronto, after seeing a so funny scene that referenced pho in an episode of my new favourite sitcom Modern Family – see the scene here – I decided to try some takeout pho from Golden Turtle, a popular spot on Ossington Avenue.
I usually find rice noodles boring but the pho broth they were in was light, golden and fragrant (and again, not brackishly spicy or garlicky like the BAD broth like I’ve had at some other places – cough, KENZO RAMEN, cough). Though the beef had a tenderized quality that was a little weird, it slid easily and tastily down the throat, and the fresh garnishes of a lime wedge, bean sprouts, and branch of Thai basil (I think) made the meal in a bowl soothing and refreshing at once.