Ramen chain Ippudo to open restaurant in Berkeley

Xiaoye Yan/Staff

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Berkeley residents feeling the chill of a Bay Area summer will soon be able to slurp satisfied over a steamy, rich bowl of Japanese ramen.

Ippudo, the chain restaurant brainchild of “Ramen King” Shigemi Kawahara, will open its doors July 28 in Downtown Berkeley at 2015 Shattuck Ave. It is the first West Coast restaurant opening of the Japanese ramen chain. The only other U.S. locations are in New York City, and there are more than 100 outposts worldwide in more than 10 different countries.

According to Ippudo representative Yutaro Nakayama, the Berkeley location will feature the chain’s renowned tonkatsu, a creamy pork-based broth, and shoyu ramen. As of yet, there are no vegetarian ramen options; however, there will be some meatless small plates on the menu. The location will also serve a range of alcoholic beverages.

The interior of the space is chic and minimalist, with large wooden booths and Ippudo’s classic black, red and white color scheme. The location will not accept reservations and will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Nakayama added.

Nakayama declined to answer additional questions, although he said Berkeley’s Ippudo location will have a “different menu from New York” and will align more with a “Japan-style.”

“I’ve been looking for more ramen places in Berkeley, especially ones open later,” Berkeley resident Jewel Sabhlok said in anticipation.

Sabhlok and future Ippudo patrons will be in for a treat, as each Ippudo chef is given creative freedom over their own dishes.

“(Ippudo) emphasizes quality,” said Nimsi Reyes, the head host of Ippudo Westside in New York.

Each bowl, she said, is served with handmade noodles and traditional toppings, some of which feature a healthy dollop of Ippudo’s red “secret sauce.”

“It’s very savory because of how we make the dashi,” Reyes explained, who also noted that the complex soup base, dashi, accounts for why Ippudo’s ramen is exceptional.

Ippudo’s West Coast debut comes in the wake of a working partnership between Chikaranomoto Holdings Co., Ippudo’s parent company, and U.S.-based Panda Express owner Panda Restaurant Group to help with Ippudo’s expansion efforts.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Chikaranomoto Holdings Co. President and COO Toshiyuki Kiyomiya said the company plans to have 300 locations outside of Japan by 2025. Ippudo Berkeley is just a single stop amid the company’s global push.

Students, however, expressed varying opinions regarding the opening of the restaurant.

Campus sophomore Malvika Singhal said the campus has many vegetarian and vegan students and that the lack of vegetarian options could impact the restaurant negatively.

Vegetarian or not, “ramen is good comfort food,” campus sophomore Cara Roberts said. To her, Ippudo Berkeley is “intriguing.”

“It will attract foodies … (and) people from outside of campus,” campus sophomore Crystal Hui said.

Contact Sydney Johnson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydjohnsonnews.