The day began with Lunch #1 at Ippudo Noodle Shop in the East Village. The restaurant is the first and only American location for the Japanese chain, and Pam had been dying to try it out; unfortunately, every time she had walked by, it had been either packed or closed. We showed up super early to guarantee seating (and to accommodate our very busy eating schedule for the day), and I'm glad we did. Ippudo's rich broths, mouthwatering toppings, and house-made noodles combine to make a very satisfying and tasty bowl of ramen, the ideal fuel for a day of exploring Manhattan.
There was already a line in front of the trendy noodle shop when we arrived a few minutes before 11 am; nevertheless, we were seated quickly once the sign was flipped from closed to open. Like Policy in DC, the restaurant's color scheme was dominated by reds and blacks, but I didn't mind it here, as the lines were much sleeker and cleaner, creating a chic, instead of skeevy, atmosphere.
Both Mark and Pam ordered the Akamaru Modern, tonkotsu soup (pork-based) with Ippudo's house-made noodles, special sauce, miso paste, and fragrant garlic oil. Their bowls of ramen already came with a number of toppings, including chasu pork, half a seasoned boiled egg, beansprouts, kikurage (a.k.a. wood ear mushrooms) and scallions, but because we're talking about Mark and Pam (who shares my pork-belly loving genes), they both added kakuni, or braised pork belly. Both really enjoyed their bowls of ramen, and Mark noted that he really liked the broth, contrasting it to the broth in the pho he's eaten (which he found watery and bland) - he enjoyed how flavorful and thick the pork-based tonkotsu soup was in comparison (this is because it's made by boiling pork bones over high heat for many hours, which breaks the collagen in the bones down into gelatin). Mark and Pam also both absolutely raved about the pork belly, and upon trying a little, I agreed - the kakuni was a gloriously fatty, rich and tender bite.