Samurai-Stocked Ramen Joint Has Fighting Words For Competition

Maybe you saw the samurai in the window of 141 First Avenue this past weekend?

The manager of Ippin is hoping the metal coat of arms – imported from Japan at a cost of $2,200 – lures customers into the “upscale, high-end noodle bar” when it opens this week, possibly as early as tonight.

“People were so surprised,” said Eddie Kito of the samurai’s unveiling a couple of days ago. “They’d walk past and say, ‘Hey, look — something different.’ In other restaurants, no one has this.”

Mr. Kito believes Ippin’s ramen will also distinguish it from places like, say, Ramen Setagaya. “The soup base, I don’t think it’s good,” he said of his competitor. “They have a lot of MSG down there.” (Setagaya’s menu claims it serves “100 percent natural ramen with no MSG.”)

UntitledDaniel Maurer

Egin Zen, an owner of the restaurant, said he believed Rai Rai Ken also uses the additive. “I like the curry flavor but I think they use too much MSG in that,” he said. “When I have noodles I like to drink all the soup but after that you feel thirsty because there’s too much MSG.” According to its Website, Rai Rai Ken “has always served MSG-free, Tokyo-style ramen.”

Of course, Mr. Zen also sampled Momofuku, his competition down the block – five times. “The soup base was really thin – you can taste, just, no flavors. I don’t know about other people but for Asian people it’s too salty.”

As for Ippin’s product, it’ll be prepared in an open kitchen behind a long dining counter by Shouhei Chin, who is said to have cooked in Japan for ten years and was previously a sushi chef at 1 or 8 in Williamsburg. He gives his signature ramen a slight kick with dried chilies. The soup is dotted with sesame seeds.

Is this, or the menu’s selection of tapas, enough to make Ippin the first noodle restaurant to succeed in a space that has seen three previous ones fail? “This is called challenging,” said Mr. Kito. “We like the challenge.”

Edamame – 5
Teba (wings) – 6
Gyoza (pork) – 6
Ohitashi (boiled vegetable in chilled bonito broth) – 5
Kinpira (burdock roots and carrots sauteed with sweet soy) – 5
Kin chee – 5
Chives cake (fried) – 6
Kara age – 7
Chicken skewers – 5
Squid skewers – 6
Shrimp skewers – 6

Tofu salad – 6
Asaparagus salad – 6
Salmon skin salad – 6
Tempura corn salad – 7
House salad – 7

Shrimp – 4.5
Pork – 4.5

Salmon – 12
Tuna – 12
Yellowtail – 12
Trio -22

House Special
Treasure boat (assorted raw fish with avocado) – 13
Spicy tuna tartare (spicy tuna with wasabi mayo guacamole) – 12
Ceviche shrimp (grapefruit, avocado with mango yuzu sauce) – 12
Ceviche yellowtail (daikon radish, celery, wood-ear mushroom with chive sauce) – 12
Ceviche octopus (cucumber, Japanese yam, grapes with tosa vinegar gelee) – 12
Sashimi pizza (salmon, seaweed, pancake) – 18

Shoyu ramen (soy sauce flavor: chashu, bamboo shoot, scallion, fish cake and green vegetable) – 13
Shio ramen (salt flavor: chashu, bamboo shoot, scallion, fish cake, 1/2 egg) – 13
Miso ramen (soybean paste flavor: chashu, bamboo shoot, seaweed, fish cake, corn, 1/2 egg) – 13
Tantan ramen (sesame sauce flavor: chashu, bamboo shoot, seaweed, fish cake, corn, 1/2 egg) – 13
Cold ramen – 13
Vegetable ramen – 13
Ippin special ramen (spicy flavor: seafood, chashu, bamboo shoot, scallion, green vegetable, 1/2 egg) – 15

Salmon fried rice – 8
Boiled vegetable of the day – 5
Steamed rice – 2
Plain ramen – 2
Boiled egg – 2
Corn – 2
Seaweed – 2
Pork – 4
Bamboo shoot – 2

Fried ice cream – 7
Mochi ice cream – 5
Ice cream (green tea, red bean, vanilla) – 5

Ippin, 141 First Avenue (between St. Marks Place and East Ninth Street), (646) 547 1238