Ippudo [Santa Monica]: A Pictorial Essay

It seemed like forever.

Ippudo took its sweet time in opening its newest location in Southern California. In a region getting more and more sophisticated about its ramen, the introduction of a “big hitter” brand such as Ippudo was expectedly met with great anticipation. Though my schedule did not permit me to visit during its week-long soft opening, I eagerly grabbed a seat for dinner at the ramen bar within the first week!

Reservations: Nope. First come, first serve (as it should be for a ramen-ya).

Parking: This is as golden as you’re gonna get in Santa Monica, because Santa Monica Public Parking Lot 6 is just steps away!

Décor: Brightly lit, light wooden surfaces, with splashes of red. Background noise is moderate. The dining area at Ippudo represents a definite departure from the dimly lit ambiance of the (forgettable) previous tenant in this space, Taberna Arroz y Vi.

And now, onto the food!

I’m more of a beer guy when I slurp my ramen, but just for the sake of the sake enthusiasts amongst us, I’ve included a menu of the offerings at Ippudo…

Edamame: With truffle seasoning… The beans were proper, although the truffle seasoning was barely perceptible.

Coedo Shiro Hefeweizen (draft)… Surprisingly deep and crisp.

Ippudo Pork Bun: Pork belly, special BBQ sauce & mayo… Pretty damn tasty.

Ippudo Yakiniku Bun: Sliced cooked beef, Japanese BBQ sauce & mayo… A bit on the greasy side, but the caramelized onions, along with the thin beef slices, really make this beef bun nice appetizer!

Ippudo Katsu Bun: Deep fried shrimp katsu, with spicy chili mayo… Almost as good as Japan!

Shiomaru Classic Ramen: Original tonkotsu broth with signature dashi, thin (extra firm) noodles, topped with pork belly chashu, bean sprouts, kikurage mushrooms and scallions… While the noodles themselves were well-executed, the broth fell short of expectations. It is shio in name, but not salty in taste - a hollow vestige of the glory I experienced in Ippudo Japan. The hard boiled egg that showed up in my bowl simply added to the disappointment. I had ordered ‘ajitama’, but was later informed that management was experimenting with serving hardboiled eggs for the Santa Monica location (WTF?). The weak, straight-out-the-can corn which I had ordered as an add-on offered no rescue for this sad bowl.

Dessert time!

Sweet Potato Doughnut: Served with sweet potato yokan and vanilla ice cream… Pretty good, but it’s a lot of sweet starch.

Hojicha Pudding: Roasted green tea pudding with salted caramel sauce… Sounded good, right? Well, with a strong taste of industrial white vinegar, the “caramel sauce” proved to be an extremely poor match for the pudding. It marks the first time in quite a while that I sent a dessert back to the kitchen (the management took this item off the final tab).

REALLY new, spotless all-gender bathroom… Kudos here!

Service was friendly but spotty. Quite a few of my orders were misdelivered to my neighboring customer at the ramen bar. But the team is cordial, and learning the ropes in its first week of service.

Despite the nice build-out and their delicious appetizers, Ippudo Santa Monica, for me at least, has gotten off to a rocky start. Perhaps we just didn’t “hit it off” right with my lackluster classic Shiomaru bowl. And I will likely try the Akamaru Modern or Bonito Shoyu bowl next time. The highlights of this meal for me were the Ippudo buns. Granted, this first visit was during its official inaugural week; I will definitely give the team at Ippudo another chance in the future.

1403 2nd St.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

p.s. Yes, I did feel the need to bang-bang and redeem my tastebuds afterwards. Tsujita Sawtelle remains ‘True North’ for porky ramen goodness in L.A…


Name change in order: Buns, Booze & Bathroom.

I hope they pull it together. But “experimenting” with a hard boiled egg? It looks like a nice hard boiled egg, but some parts of a successful formula really shouldn’t be messed with.

1 Like

I love a good vegan ramen. Thanks for the great report, I’m going to give Ippudo a try next time I’m in Santa Monica.

1 Like

Thanks for the pictorial essay!

Can’t speak for Santa Monica but I’ve had mixed results when going beyond the baseline Shiro Maru.

Shiomaru is new and not offered at Ippudo SF. We do have a bonitomaru which is katsuo powdered enhanced dashi mixed in with shiromaru and while you get a flavor bomb, you also get bombarded with thirst (which is rather unusual if it is good katsuodashi). I feel like they’re trying to introduce new flavors without establishing their baseline first and going all out here.

Thanks for posting the sake menu! If anything you’ll have a good place to munch on small bites + beer and/or sake should you decide to skip the ramen. A couple of the izakaya only items at Ippudo SF have been rather underwhelming for me (they did a tofu salad and a deep fried soft shell shrimp that I did not particularly find amazing).

Should you or other FTC-ers try sake, I highly recommend Azumaichi Junmai Ginjo (or the Junmai but the JG is my favorite), and Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai which I’ve found to be great matches with the shiromaru classic. Azumaichi Junmai Ginjo is unavailable in California (except for at Ippudo California) but you can get it in New York. There are some selections on the sake menu at Santa Monica that are not in SF and vice versa. Kuro Kabuto is also an excellent Junmai Daiginjo (killer QPR for the money, and is brewed with black koji hence the darker color). I believe the special and limited might also be offered at Aburiya Raku unless they revamped their special sake selections.


The vegan version sounds pretty weird to me. “Shoyu broth blended with shitake and porcini mushroom dashi, infused with truffle oil. Topped with mixed leaf salad, cherry tomatoes, king trumpet mushroom, mixed beans and sliced red onion.”

Don’t forget the spectacularly convenient public parking situation…

1 Like

I think you meant to say something else is new?

Yeah, for now, I’m going for a cheeseburger or pasta if I’m going to wrestle for parking here.


@Chowseeker1999 is right. I’ve had many a vegan/vegetarian ramen in my time, and this is the best ever.

Shiromaru Veggie

The broth is so flavorful, I can’t imagine how they do this. Vegetarian broth isn’t easy, people. :slight_smile: The poached egg melted nicely into the broth.

Classic Shiromaru

Also very good, the broth was tasty and thick. @J_L Perhaps there are consistency issues, because this tasted pretty great.


Ramen Menu

The parking lot is right next door @bulavinaka! It’s a straight shot, if you have a little patience in traffic. :slight_smile:


this place looks so weak and the ramen reports ugh.

That’s not even vegetarian.

That’s odd. The server specifically said the pork broth is on the left side of the menu and the vegetarian on the right.

Whatever, both ramen bowls were very good. I’m not a fan of the milky pork bone + pork grease style of ramen, so to me, Ippudo’s ramen is to my taste.

The top two on the right side list dashi among the ingredients.

1 Like

@J_L’s shiomaru ramen picture, the broth looks very brown compared to the regular shiromaru (unless this was a result of a phone app filter application), was something else mixed in to make it so much darker?

Shiromaru is the baseline offering. Shiomaru, which I thought was something different, would be not on Ippudo SF’s menu and looking at the subsequent menu pictures, non existant on the regular SM menu either…

No filters: That was the color of the broth.

Oh, shiomaru vs. shiRomaru.

I think that was just a typo?

Ah, shiro versus shio…

Yes I meant shiromaru. But it DOES explain why my broth was not shio in taste, as I expected. Either way, the broth was flat.

looks like i’d be done with that noodle bowl in 5 slurps

Thanks Robert and JL for the clarification!

No new broth then…phew…that would have been a disaster!

It’s a no-win broth.

They should rename it the Kobayashi Maru.

1 Like