A Lighter Hakata Ramen Arrives on the Westside - Japan's Famous Ippudo Ramen (Santa Monica) [Thoughts + Pics]

I remember the first time I heard about Ippudo from a friend of mine who just got back from Japan. It was years ago, and he was still jet lagged and giddy from the vacation, but spouted off a list of restaurants to try. Ippudo was one of them. As time went on, I heard more about Ippudo (whether it was winning some Ramen competition or opening up its first U.S. shop in New York).

It was only in recent years that we realized that this much-talked about Ramen shop from Fukuoka, Japan, has turned into a massive chain, with a bunch of branches across Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, France, U.K. and slowly growing in North America.

We had finally gotten a chance to try Ippudo SF during a recent trip to San Francisco and it was a pleasant surprise (given the amount of hype surrounding it that we’d been hearing for so long). So when they finally announced the Grand Opening of Ippudo in Santa Monica, finally landing here in So Cal, we were hopeful this branch might be just as good, if not better.

Beautiful flowers from various well-wishers on Ippudo Santa Monica’s Grand Opening.

It turns out Ippudo Santa Monica opened up along 2nd Street (just 1 block away from Uovo and Hiho Cheeseburger (and right next to 3rd Street Promenade)).

Walking inside, the space feels very “Santa Monica / Westside” but also retains a Japanese aesthetic. It’s clean, bright and welcoming, and the whole staff shouts out to greet you when you walk in and thank you when you leave (similar to what Shin Sen Gumi Ramen was doing for years). :slight_smile:

Currently, Ippudo Santa Monica is being overseen by Ramen Master (that’s literally what his business card says!) :sweat_smile: and Chef, Fumihiro Kanegae, who’s overseen the opening of Ippudo Paris, Ippudo New York. This sounded promising. :slight_smile: (We later found out he’ll be leaving eventually and is personally making sure the remaining staff are well-trained enough to carry on.)

Iced Green Tea:

Simple, refreshing. Moderately steeped in Tea Leaves flavor.

Glancing over the menu, there are a large number of other offerings besides Ramen, which makes it potentially standout from the crowd. We started with:

Shishito (Flash-Fried Japanese Peppers with Shichimi and Lemon):

Delicious. Perfectly fried, blistered Japanese Shishito Peppers, fragrant, lightly spicy from the Shichimi seasoning and the squeeze of Lemon added enough brightness. :slight_smile:

Chicken Karaage (Ippudo-style Japanese Crispy Fried Chicken):

Lightly crispy, perfectly fried, moist, juicy chunks of Japanese Fried Chicken. This was a shock (because we were expecting to be letdown given how many average to mediocre iterations of Karaage and Fried Chicken we’ve had recently). Definitely a nice starter and much better than Karayama (@bulavinaka @TheCookie @PorkyBelly and others). :blush:

Ippudo Buns - Pork Bun (Pork Belly with Special BBQ Sauce and Mayo):

One menu item that has gotten a fair share of chatter are the “Ippudo Buns,” which basically take the thicker, white, steamed buns you might find at a Cantonese / HK Seafood restaurant for its Peking Duck preparation, and it’s stuffed with a variety of proteins.

We had bad results with Ippudo SF’s Chicken Bun, but hoped this new location and a new flavor might help.

It was only mildly better. :frowning: The Steamed Bun itself is thankfully fluffier than the Ippudo SF offering, but ultimately the Pork Belly inside tasted dried out, old(!), and their Sweet BBQ Sauce and Mayo combination just felt like something made for an “American palate.” It was too sweet, gloppy and not appealing. :frowning:

Ippudo specializes in Hakata-style Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Ramen. It is the style that some of you might know from Shin Sen Gumi when it debuted years ago.

Shiromaru Classic Ramen (The Original Tonkotsu Pork Broth with our Signature Dashi, Thin Noodles Topped with Pork Belly Chashu, Bean Sprouts, Kikurage Mushrooms and Scallions):

Taking a sip, it seems very light. A few more sips and we both felt that this core Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Broth was a bit diluted and watery, not as good as Ippudo SF. It wasn’t bad, but definitely seemed a touch below the light, but more flavorful version we had at Ippudo SF.

Their Ramen Noodles are made in Ippudo Berkeley and shipped to Santa Monica. The nice pairing of straight, thin Noodles with the Tonkotsu Broth works well. Be sure to order it with “Firm Noodles” and you’ll have a good toothsome experience. :slight_smile:

The Pork Belly Chashu was tender, but tasted slightly old (like maybe a one day refrigerated funk), but still relatively fresh. Nicely seasoned, but nowhere near as good as the best Chashu we have at other standout Ramen joints.

Poached Egg:

None of their Ramen (except 1 flavor) comes with an Egg, so you have to add that separately. :expressionless: And they sell 2 types of Eggs as Add-Ons, so be careful: The “Tamago” is a full Hard Boiled Egg, while their “Poached Egg” is, well, poached.

The Poached Egg was fine, literally tasting like a simple, non-seasoned Poached Egg. Those looking for that awesome Aji Tama (Seasoned Soft Boiled Egg with the custardy center) found at places like Tsujita Ramen will have to look elsewhere.

Bonito Shoyu Ramen (A Classic Shoyu Broth Featuring Bonito Fish Dashi, Topped with Menma Bamboo Shoots, Naruto, Pork Belly Chashu, Scallions, Half-Flavored Egg and Roasted Nori):

This was a distinctly different base compared to their main 3 offerings, so we decided to give it a shot. Visually it looked strange, with floating bits on top, but taking a sip, it became apparent: Their Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Ramen was served Seabura-style! Which means Pork Back Fat! :open_mouth: :grin: :sweat_smile:

And it was delicious! :heart: There’s a beautiful deeply smoky and briny base of Torigara (Chicken Bone) and Katsuo (Bonito) along with Shoyu (Soy Sauce). That alone already was elevating this to the top of L.A.'s Tokyo-style Shoyu offerings. But then they changed it going with their own “Ippudo-style” Shoyu interpretation, adding in Seabura (Pork Back Fat), which gives it a very decadent, but deeply enticing, delicious finish. Our favorite Ramen for this visit! :heart:

The Noodles were still the same thin, straight white Noodles they used for all their Ramen, which was fine, but it might’ve been nice to pair it with a different style of Noodle.

The Chashu tasted about the same - tender, flavorful, but tasting just a touch old (still relatively fresh, but not cooked that day).

The Menma Bamboo Shoots were a funky, crunchy addition.

And this is the only Ramen on the menu that comes with an Egg (or rather half an Egg), and it was Hard Boiled. :frowning: It tasted fine, but it was nothing to write home about.

Wasabi Inari Rice (Wasabi Rice and Pickles Wrapped in a Sweet Tofu Pouch):

We haven’t had Inari at any other restaurant ever since we discovered the legendary version that is Aburiya Raku’s ridiculous Handmade Takana Inari dish (Handmade Tofu Pouch with their own in-house made Takana (Pickled Veggies)).

Taking a bite of Ippudo’s Inari, and you realize why Raku’s is so special. Ippudo’s tastes like it’s using store-bought / mass-produced Tofu Pouches (nothing at all like Raku’s Handmade version) and the seasoning and Rice and all components just taste like a throwaway item: Overly sweet, average-dense texture and just kinda there. :frowning: (Of course it’s not fair to compare Raku to Ippudo, they are different things, but in the case of Inari, for those that really enjoy it, this is not the version you want.)

2nd Visit:

It is still as bright and welcoming as before. :slight_smile:

Hot Green Tea:

We were hoping this might be a nice, high quality Loose-Leaf Tea offering from Japan, but instead it was a simple Yamamoto Yama Genmaicha Tea Bag, which was fine, but perhaps not $4 fine.

Ebi Katsu Bun (Deep Fried Shrimp Katsu with Spicy Chili Mayo):

We didn’t have much luck with 2 of their Bun offerings, but I noticed that their Ebi Katsu Bun doesn’t come with the Sweet BBQ Sauce, so we decided to give this a try.

The first bite: Piping hot, crispy exterior, which yielded plump morsels of Ebi (Shrimp) all contained in this “Ebi Katsu” (Shrimp Cutlet). The Spicy Chili Mayo was a perfect counterpoint, and this dish was excellent! :blush:

Goma Q (Japanese Cucumber Seasoned with Sesame Oil Dressing):

Very good. Crisp, cool, refreshing slices of Cucumber, but deeply infused and seasoned with Sesame Oil and crushed Sesame Seeds and Chili Pepper (not too spicy at all). This was better than Ippudo SF’s version. :slight_smile:

Their Sake list was only partially available during our 1st visit, but on our 2nd visit, they had the full menu available. First, this isn’t the extravagant, crazy 48 bottle(!) Sake Menu (and Wall of Sake) that Ippudo San Francisco had.

And thanks to the clarification from @bulavinaka @beefnoguy and others, that’s not the norm for a Ramen-ya to be serving $1,200 bottles of Dassai Beyond Sake with a bowl of Noodles. :wink:

For Ippudo Santa Monica, they offer 17 bottles of Sake (still a rather crazy amount for a Ramen shop), with some rather interesting choices (many we hadn’t tried yet). For example, Kikusui Kuramitsu Junmai Daiginjo Sake (at $238 a bottle), Tatenokawa Juhachi Junmai Daiginjo Sake ($198) and more. I’ll leave it to @beefnoguy @BradFord @J_L for recommendations in the future. :slight_smile:

For this visit, we settled on something we hadn’t tried before:

Born - Muroka Nama Genshu - Junmai Daiginjo Sake (Fukui, Japan):

I really like the Born series ever since @J_L @beefnoguy recommended this awhile back (thanks again). :slight_smile: Seeing a Muroka (Non-Filtered) Nama Genshu variant being offered sounded wonderful. It was very robust and fruity, but not overwhelmingly so. There was a slight hint of almost carbonation - just barely there - but nothing as pronounced and distinct as Shichida Muroka Nama Genshu (Spring Limited Editions).

But most importantly, this is the first time we’ve ever tried Sake pairing with Ramen. We were quite skeptical, but maybe this is a thing? :sweat_smile:

Shiromaru Classic Ramen (The Original Tonkotsu Pork Broth with our Signature Dashi, Thin Noodles Topped with Pork Belly Chashu, Bean Sprouts, Kikurage Mushrooms and Scallions):

This 2nd time trying their classic Tonkotsu Broth yielded the same results: It is a delicate, light, thin Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Broth, much lighter and lacking the porcine funk of some other places’ Tonkotsu offerings. It is not as good as Ippudo SF, but trying it now on this 2nd visit, there’s an appeal to it:

Those looking for something not so overwhelmingly heavy or funky, Ippudo Santa Monica’s Shiromaru Classic is worth a try.

The other shocking thing was the Born Muroka Nama Genshu Sake worked with this Ramen(!). :open_mouth: It was actually a solid pairing. :slight_smile:

The Pork Belly Chashu today was about the same as our 1st visit: Tender, nicely seasoned, but relatively fresh, but not as bright and highlight-worthy as great Chashu offerings for standout Ramen.

The Noodles were cooked to a great firm consistency (as we requested) and held up well in the Ramen Broth. :slight_smile:

Akamaru Modern (A Bolder Version of the Original Tonkotsu Pork Broth, Thin Noodles Topped with our Special Miso Paste, Fragrant Garlic Oil, Pork Belly Chashu, Bean Sprouts, Kikurage Mushrooms and Scallions):

The Akamaru Ramen was our favorite from Ippudo SF, so we were eager to see how it compared. The Akamaru takes the core Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Broth base and adds in Black Garlic Oil and their “Special Miso Paste” (which on the San Francisco menu is labeled as “Umami Dama”). Mixing it all together…

Taking a sip: Fragrant, much more flavorful than the Shiromaru Classic! :slight_smile: The bold Black Garlic
Oil adds a great layer of flavor, as does their Special Miso Paste. Also, we noticed (and confirmed) that they add Seabura (Pork Back Fat) to add even more flavor.

I also really liked their Kikurage (Wood Ear Mushrooms), giving this a nice textural contrast to the rest of the bowl. Delicious! :blush:

However, the Sake pairing did not work at all. :frowning: It just clashed with the Born Muroka Nama Genshu.

And perhaps in a nod to the Santa Monica / Westside setting, Ippudo offers up 3 Vegan Ramen. In the interest of reporting back to FTC and wanting to see how Kanegae-san and his staff executed this, we ordered an L.A.-exclusive:

Veggie Shoyu Ramen (Shoyu Broth Blended with Shiitake and Porcini Mushroom Dashi, Infused with Truffle Oil, Topped with Mixed Leaf Salad, Cherry Tomatoes, King Trumpet Mushrooms, Mixed Beans and Sliced Onoins) - (Made Exclusively for L.A.):

First, reading the words “Truffle Oil” made me sad, but I held out hope.

It was actually very good! :open_mouth: :blush: It starts with the Broth: Mushrooms can be extremely flavorful and add so much in many great dishes (as reported by our FTC’ers). We were genuinely shocked that this clear Vegan Broth could be so fragrant, delicious, deeply savory and umami. It really was quite good! :heart:

The King Trumpet Mushrooms added a real meaty component and were delicious, the Salad (melted down into the Broth) was… OK. The Cherry Tomatoes had a lot of flavor.

Their Mixed Beans worked with the Ramen as well.

And even their Noodles were Vegan(!) (made without Egg). They were medium-thin thickness, more hefty than their usual Noodles, and it was slightly softer, but it held up in the Broth.

This was much better than the other Vegan Ramen offerings we’ve tried locally (e.g., Ramen Hood (at Grand Central Market)'s Vegan Ramen), and if their Chashu was better, I’d be tempted to order this Veggie Shoyu Ramen with some Chashu and be happy with that in lieu of their other traditional versions. :slight_smile:

Karaka Spicy Ramen (The Original Tonkotsu Pork Broth with an Added Kick, Thin Noodles Topped with our Special Blend of Hot Spices, Fragrant Garlic Oil, Pork Belly Chashu, Bean Sprouts, Kikurage Mushrooms and Scallions):

The last of their traditional menu offerings, the Karaka Spicy Ramen is true to its name: Spicy-hot, zesty and a bit sweet-savory. The heat level is actually quite tame compared to the inferno heat offerings around L.A. (like Howlin’ Ray’s), it feels like Jalapeno-level heat. But overall, the house-blend of Spices, the zesty-heat and Black Garlic Oil all combined to make this a standout as well. :blush:

Each bowl includes a Housemade Pork Meatball, which added a nice meaty component that’s a break from the usual Chashu slices (also included).

The Noodles held up well with this Spicy Broth.

Service was fine throughout both visits. FTC’ers will be happy to know that Ippudo Santa Monica is cheaper than Ippudo SF by $1 per bowl, so a standard Shiromaru Classic will be $13 (instead of $14). Even their Egg is $0.50 cheaper (so $1.50 instead of $2.00 in SF). So roughly ~$18.50 for a bowl of Ramen (including tax & tip), compared to $20.00 a bowl in SF.

Ippudo Santa Monica arrives in L.A. at an interesting time in the local Ramen culture. A few years earlier, Ippudo would’ve probably been “king of the hill” for Ramen, easily outclassing Shin Sen Gumi in execution (and SSG has only gotten worse). But these days the breadth and styles of Ramen around L.A. have grown so much that it’s now competing with the locals’ developed tastes for different styles of Ramen as well. Some folks who’ve fallen in love with the bolder, porkier Tonkotsu-Gyokai style of Tsujita Ramen will probably find Ippudo to be too light.

Others might prefer something lighter like Kitakata Ramen Bannai’s offerings.

But thankfully Ippudo Santa Monica has some very good dishes that make it standout from the crowd: Those looking for a lighter, less-heavy version of Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Ramen that won’t make you queasy (@Ns1) might try their Shiromaru Classic Ramen. :wink: For even more flavor, and bolder profiles, give the Akamaru Modern and Karaka Spicy Ramen a try.

And for an outstanding interesting take on Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Ramen, give the Bonito Shoyu Ramen a try, which is Ippudo’s take on Tokyo Shoyu Ramen but with Seabura thrown in. And it is amazing! :heart:

Vegetarians (and meat eaters) will be happy to know that the Veggie Shoyu Ramen might possibly be the 2nd best Ramen on the menu, and easily our favorite Vegan Ramen in L.A. by a mile. It is delicious on its own and worth a try if you want something lighter. :slight_smile:

Add in their excellent Starters (Shishito Peppers, Goma Q, and the Chicken Karaage (Fried Chicken)), and that Ebi Katsu Bun, along with an extensive Sake Menu, and Ippudo Santa Monica carves out a space for itself nicely.

(Oh and there’s been plenty of parking with a Public Parking Lot right next door (there were 350+ open spaces on both of these visits.))

7 Days A Week
Lunch: 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Dinner: 5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.

Ippudo - Santa Monica
403 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tel: (310) 893-0577


I love sake with my ramen.

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And I love beer with mine.


Thanks for the report!

My friend who used to be the executive chef of Sumika, then Orenchi and Iroriya, who designed the Orenchi concept and came up with the ramen bowls, departed some time ago from there and has been with Ippudo SF months prior to opening, and he actually flew down to Santa Monica a few times with his Ippudo US management team to oversee the grand opening of Ippudo Santa Monica. They really care about quality and consistency so your feedback would have been useful to them had they solicited it. The question is whether they can keep up with this consistency after that group and the head chef leaves and it runs itself despite the influx of customers. They’re trying to go all out during the grand opening, and hopefully that draws people in and keeps it up.

My other sake somm friend actually worked with Ippudo SF to come up with the sake pairings and a menu that would cater to a wide range of drinkers, a few of them are dead ringers and work very well with Ippudo’s ramen. Interestingly he also flew down for the grand opening as well, but unclear what his role was with the sake menu, but surely he had some input. So they are using the same distributor for sake (Mutual Trading). Were the sake selections grouped by profiles (e.g. dry, rich) for the sake menu?

As far as having the super heavy hitter $$$$ sake…Ippudo SF did have Dassai Beyond listed on the menu. However it is no longer on the menu and the selections have been stripped down. It may be interesting to see if Santa Monica will be able to attract the clientele who want to spend $$$$ on sake with a $$ bowl of ramen. If they open late enough and eventually offer dinner only izakaya menu (currently SF has that), then the high end range of sake will be more fun that way. In any case they probably don’t need to stock so many of a particular type of high end bottle.

Yeah we have some variant of the vegan ramen up here too but not as fancy as Santa Monica.

The Born Muroka Nama Genshu is so easy to drink. Though I wonder how long the bottle of your glass had been opened for (unless they opened a fresh bottle?). It doesn’t last very long unless you keep it very chilled (below 5 degrees C). This sake is not offered at Ippudo SF. Popped open a bottle recently at a new SF sushi restaurant last week, it had a very nice dry finish which is super unusual (and never happened before) but welcome…but the moment it became very lightly chilled to room temperature it became sugar water… don’t let it sit too long.

Ippudo SF has Dassai sake lees panna cotta for dessert.

Glad you enjoyed the pairing of sake with ramen! That means they did their job right with this.


Looks promising. I didn’t care for my Ippudo NYC experience.


Hi @ipsedixit,

Nice! It seems to be a rather rare experience in So Cal. Any particular favorites / pairings?

Hi @beefnoguy,

Oh nice! So was it Kanegae-san? Our server also mentioned that he’d be working with 2 key staff members who’d remain in Santa Monica overseeing the cooking: Kohei Yanno-san and a person named Yuki-san.

I think the big thing to watch out for is if they can improve the core Shiromaru (Tonkotsu) Broth, and the Chashu. It’s also rather surprising they didn’t try to do a real Aji Tama (Seasoned Egg with the custardy, soft, liquid center) here, but they have it at Ippudo SF (and Berkeley perhaps? @robert).

SoCal ditto on that.

Hi @Ns1,

Yah, I’m not sure how Ippudo NY compares with SF, but as a frame of reference Santa Monica’s Tonkotsu classic broth was weaker than Ippudo SF. However, the Akamaru Modern and Karaka (Spicy) had solid flavors without being too porky.

But definitely try the Bonito Shoyu Ramen if you’re in the mood for that style, that was our favorite. And that Vegan Ramen I mentioned earlier was also a surprising standout (the Veggie Shoyu Ramen). :slight_smile:

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Nope not Kanegae san. My friend is based in SF and unfortunately isn’t involved much in cooking as far as I know (unless it’s to design and introduce new dishes). And unfortunately I have no power to provide feedback directly, so whoever else goes, just be blunt and straightfoward…if they really do care then they need all the feedback they can get if they want repeat business (or better yet have them enable this online and at the restaurant).

You all are not alone, people have complained about the ajitama at Ippudo SF too. My other friend who disliked the hard boiled egg (default) was later told hanjuku was offered upon request… major doh right there.

I think Ippudo US needs to do a better job and put in more attention to detail regarding hard boiled eggs if they are going to serve that, and don’t put that as de-facto knowing well American ramen eaters prefer half boiled or 63 degree yolk regardless of the ramen style. It is possible to do a hard boiled egg yolk that comes out like a mix between a powdery like texture and a light paste that is enjoyable, exactly like what I posted for one of my ramen in Tokyo experiences here. It’s a hard boiled egg but it’s not to the point where the yolk is dry. I mean…thermometers are not that expensive to get this right (or sous vide machines)?

Some tonkotsu ramen restaurants in Fukuoka Japan, do a basic shiromaru like style and the bowls do not come with egg as well.


Hi @beefnoguy,

Very interesting that your sommelier friend helped develop the menus at SF and SM; neat. :slight_smile:

Yes, the menu was divided with Fruity, Rich, Hot Sake, Dry and “Special & Limited” sections.

Ippudo SF has a dinner-only izakaya menu? How is it? How does it compare with places like Iroriya, Ginji or Raku? With izakaya small plates, I definitely agree that having a good Sake menu makes sense and pairs better. :wink:

One of the most curious ones was the Hakkaisan “Snow Dorm 3 Years” - Junmai Ginjo Sake which they said was aged and chilled for 3 years in a literal snow igloo / dorm(!). Have you tried it before?

Lastly, “yes” the Born Muroka Nama Genshu was opened just for us. And that’s a great point that it might not last very long.

this place looks soooo weak. I’ll stick with menya musashi and tsujita.

Hi @skramzlife,

Yah, these days I think we have a great variety of styles of ramen, and if one likes a bolder, more flavorful broth like what Tsujita and Menya Musashi offer, Ippudo is not going to cut it in that regards. Tsujita’s Tonkotsu-Gyokai Broth for their tsukemen is still standout and tops in L.A. in that regard. Add in their luscious Chashu Pork and Soft-Boiled Egg combo and it’s hard to beat. :slight_smile:

Since you like that bolder style at Tsujita, something different but still big on flavor is Ippudo’s Bonito Shoyu Ramen. If you ever decide to go, give that one a try.

And their Appetizers and some of their Buns are also unique; things that Tsujita and Menya don’t offer.

I learn so much from everyone here. Thank you. Chowseeker I always enjoy your reports, your pictures, and the fact you give a place several visits before offering your opinion!

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I loved it! Thank you @Chowseeker1999 for the recommendation. I may maybeee even like it more than my beloved Daikokuya. :slight_smile:


I’m not the sake savant like our friend @beefnoguy. I just drink whatever my friend orders and is put in front me.


Thanks again @ebethsdad. :slight_smile: If you end up going, please report back on your experience.

Hi @Bookwich,

So glad you liked it. :slight_smile: Did you only try the Shiromaru Veggie Ramen? Or any other flavors?

If you get a chance (and are OK with Chicken and Fish Broth (with some bits of Pork thrown in), try their Bonito Shoyu Ramen. Or, my 2nd favorite, the amazing (Vegan) Veggie Shoyu Ramen (which was fantastic). :blush:

(On a side note, all 3 of the veggie ramen are 100% Vegan.)


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finally went here and go the shoyu bowl…the broth was pretty good not going to lie, but the charsiu and noodles were trash…not likely to come back.

Iki Ramen destroys this for similar tier new ramen place.


Completely agree.