Home Arts & Leisure Ippudo: Going beyond ramen

Ippudo: Going beyond ramen

AS part of its plan to set itself apart from the ramen shops that are soaking the city, Ippudo is releasing limited edition dishes every quarter, with the theme “Great Ramen, Great Sides.” BusinessWorld got to try their new bun trio, with the signature Pork Bun, Fried Chicken Bun, and the new Yakiniku Bun; as well as the matching Yakiniku Ramen on Feb. 16 at the Ippudo branch in Greenbelt 5.

The Yakiniku Ramen and Yakiniku Bun will be available from Feb. 19 to April 30 at all Ippudo locations.

Ippudo was brought to the Philippines by former ice cream chief executive officer John Concepcion through the Standard Hospitality Group, which includes franchises for Ippudo, Yabu, and Elephant Grounds; among others. In turn, Ippudo in Japan originated with Shigemi Kawahara (a three-time Ramen Master Chef Hall of Famer) in 1985.

According to Seraiah Del Rosario, Brand Manger for Ippudo, Mr. Concepcion brought the brand to the Philippines in the middle of the 2010s on the strength of the buns. The Fried Chicken bun was good, and the Yakinuku Bun was better.

Yakiniku” in Japanese means “grilled meat,” so this soft, steamed, sweetish bun was filled with beef slices marinated in a secret sauce, then grilled, then dipped again in the sauce, resulting in a sweet and savory saturated bite. This is coupled with crisp lettuce, and kara mayo, a combination of Japanese mayonnaise and mustard to balance out the flavor of the Yakiniku meat.

Even this new dish paled in comparison to Mr. Concepcion’s personal favorite (according to Ms. Del Rosario), the Pork Bun, with a single, very thick slice of grilled pork that had a great contrast with the soft bread, and by itself had a great texture. We now understand Mr. Concepcion’s decision to bring the restaurant here: we’d love to have this bun every day.

The Yakiniku Ramen, meanwhile, is made with Ippudo’s signature creamy 15-hour pork bone broth (imported from Japan) and Hakata-style noodles. This was topped with a serving of thinly sliced grilled pork in a mix of teriyaki and spicy miso sauce, accented with koyu oil (black garlic oil), a bold fresh nori, and a perfectly boiled ramen egg. The result was a very bold, forward, and masculine flavor, perfect for someone who really likes meat, since the yakinuku slices and their smoky flavor permeate the broth almost completely.

“Ippudo can still innovate,” said Ms. Del Rosario about these quarterly releases. “We’re not just innovative through the ramen, but also through our side dishes.”

She also said that their Japanese counterparts come here to the Philippines regularly for audits and to train the staff, ensuring quality matching that of the Japanese parent brand.

In a previous statement, the Standard Hospitality Group said that they aim to open 100 stores in three years. It looks like they are on track: they have two Elephant Grounds branches, nine Ippudo branches, and 17 Yabu branches at present. While they’re planning to open a couple more Yabu branches this year, they’re also renovating their branches for a refreshed look. Ippudo, meanwhile, will continue to grow within their Kiwami branches (a restaurant concept which has all their brands under a single roof), two of which will open this year, in Greenhills and UP Town Center.

Asked how their katsu brand Yabu has managed to become their fastest growing brand, Ms. Del Rosario said, “Yabu’s really loved by kids and oldies. Sino ba iyong nasusunod (who makes the decision) when you go out to eat?”

Ippudo can be found in SM Megamall, Robinsons Place Manila, Uptown BGC, Eastwood Mall, Ayala Vertis North, Powerplant Mall, Greenbelt 5, Ayala 30th, Robinsons Magnolia, Kiwami BGC, and Kiwami Alabang Town Center. — Joseph L. Garcia