The place is classy and beautifully decorated. The colors and structures appear solid and strong, but not imposing. The dining table is spacious, and the seats are comfortable. It's a little noisy though because of the overly busy staff.
We tried three dishes: the Shiromaru Motoaji, the Ippudo Pork Bun, and the Hakata Meshi. For our drinks, we asked for the complimentary green tea.
The Shiromaru Motoaji (Php 375) is Ippudo's classic and basic, Hakata-style ramen variant. It has thin noodles (the hardness depends on the customer's preference), pork loin pieces, bean sprouts, kikurage, and spring onions, all swimming in a milky broth. It tastes OK: the broth is not salty and doesn't get saltier as it becomes cold (unlike the one in Ikkoryu Fukuoka). We however doubt if the broth was made through a long process of boiling and simmering. Also, we wish it was thicker. The noodles are fresh, as well as the crisp bean sprouts and kikurage. The pork loin is delicious, slightly sweet and juicy. All in all though, we don't think the ramen is the best one out there. There's something lacking in it, something that will punctuate the taste and make it great.
The Ippudo Pork Bun (Php 100), dubbed as a favorite in the US. It features a soft steamed bun (pao) filled with a chunk of chashu (braised pork belly) and cabbage, smothered with mayonnaise and the restaurant's original sauce. Again, nothing great. The chashu is not flavorful and juicy enough to be a must-eat (Hanamaruken Ramen's is much better.) Also, there's too much mayo in our bun that it drowns the taste of the meat and the sauce. All in all, this dish tastes ordinary, making us wonder what the Americans like about it.
Then, the Hakata Meshi (Php 250): Japanese rice topped with chashu, roe, shredded omelette, and nori, flavored with mayonnaise and Ippudo's original sauce. This one's OK; all the ingredients complement each other, creating an amply satisfying dish. If the chashu were a tad sweeter though, the dish would be more delightful to eat; some sweetness could provide good contrast to the saltiness of the sauce and fishy flavors of the roe and nori.
The green tea is good. It's authentic, woodsy, and earthy. It cleanses the palate really well.
Considering the taste and serving size of the food, we find the prices just a tad too much. By the way, there's a 5% service charge.
Our server, who was actually the manager, was friendly and accommodating, although too eager at times to please us.
Some of us were able to come back in the afternoon to try more dishes: the Crispy Corn and the Curry Cheese Harumaki.
The Crispy Corn (Php 130): deep-fried corn seasoned with seaweed and paprika. Good contrast of flavors: hint of sweetness from the paprika and some earthiness from the seaweed. The batter is also light and the dish is not too oily.
It is overpriced though. It is just one cob of corn, after all...
Finally, the Curry Cheese Harumaki (Php 190): spring rolls filled with minced pork, curry, and cheese, The rolls come with a curry dip. This one is for those who like curry, although the curry taste is a little subtle. The rolls are fried well and are not too oily. But, just like the corn, this dish is overpriced.