Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for! The first “IPPUDO Paris” ramen shop.
I first talked about the preparations for the IPPUDO Paris ramen shop at the time of the first posting of “IPPUDO OUTSIDE”. With a staff uniform designed by Mihara Yasuhiro and a unique, specially designed car built by Renault named the “Renault Kangoo”, the publicity for the first IPPUDO in Paris generated plenty of buzz, and at long last, the much-awaited IPPUDO Paris shop opened its doors. Paris inevitably conjures up an image of a sophisticated city suffused with cultural heritage, fashion and art. Which begs the question of what kind of services IPPUDO plans to provide in this setting so steeped in culture. That’s what I want to explore today.
WORDS BY SHOTA KATO （OVER THE MOUNTAIN）
Overcoming obstacles tofulfill the dream
Hello to all the readers of IPPUDO OUTSIDE. My name is Shota Kato, and I’m one of the team members of the IPPUDO OUTSIDE Editorial Department. To start, I hope you all had a good Golden Week. Despite this long holiday season, I actually spent all of my time indoors. I read 10 books that I had bought and had been meaning to read for the longest time in one stretch, and binged on movies and records. Personally I’m the kind of person who likes to recommend to people that they spend time focusing on absorbing lots of new information, and so for me, this was time well spent.
So this time, I really want to give you some information about IPPUDO’s exploits abroad. Back in October 2015, I first announced that the next IPPUDO ramen shop scheduled to open abroad would open up in no other country but France, and after keeping you in suspense for four months （!）, I can tell you that the long-awaited first IPPUDO ramen shop to be opened in Paris, “IPPUDO Saint-Germain” opened its doors on February 19, 2016.
As I mentioned previously in IPPUDO OUTSIDE, originally, the first IPPUDO Paris ramen shop was supposed to open as a brasserie in the Les Halles district of central Paris – a district fondly known as the “people’s kitchen”. But, because of unexpected delays in the construction work, the Saint-Germain shop which was supposed to follow opened up first. The “IPPUDO Paris Louvre shop” （tentative name） is now still under construction so the opening order was switched and the Saint-Germain shop became the first in Paris. There are endless differences between Japanese IPPUDO shops and IPPUDO shops opened abroad, but one such difference lies in the construction schedule. The schedule keeps getting delayed, and things which are run-of-the-mill in Japan are not the norm in other countries where building ramen shops is more unusual, and so I’m told these kinds of delays aren’t all that unusual in Europe. So after a long wait and overcoming all manner of obstacles, IPPUDO Saint-Germain finally opened its doors. So let me tell you a little bit about its background.
A setting in the most Parisian of neighborhoods
The Saint-Germain district, which is where the first Paris shop was opened, is lined with historic churches and galleries, luxurious boutiques and cafes, and is an intellectually refined neighborhood with the reputation of being “the most Parisian of neighborhoods”. During Fashion Week, the town is teeming with designers and models. The underlying concept of the Saint-Germain shop in this area packed with the traditions and innovations of Paris is “Maison du Ramen Premium”. Rather than the ramen dining, which is the IPPUDO concept found in New York and London, the desire was to “deliver Japanese gastronomy – the pride and joy of Japan – by launching a ramen shop in the fashion center of Paris”, and so it was for this very reason that a staunchly Japanese-style ramen shop was created developing ramen-centric products.
Although the shop remains true to the vibe of an 1850s building, it was finished off to leave a modern impression using striking red and white tones. It also comes with a reservation-only VIP room at the back. The kabuki picture-inspired designs used to represent the “Shiromaru Classic” and “Akamaru Modern” adorning the ceilings have proven to be a hit with Parisians and Parisiennes alike. It appears that the essence of the Japanese “wa” style has a strong appeal abroad.
An original menu kept local
In Japan, the “Shiromaru Classic” and the “Akamaru Modern” with their tonkotsu （pork broth） base are IPPUDO’s two signature dishes, but an original ramen was specially created taking into account the preferences and regional characteristics of the local residents. In the Saint-Germain shop, as well as the classic tonkotsu （pork broth） ramen, you can also enjoy a kinoko kaoru bejimen （lit. aromatic mushroom veggy ramen） which is a vegetarian ramen （costing 12 euro, approximately 1,520 yen） that uses mushrooms and vegetables for the stock.
Speaking of France, what comes to mind is a major agricultural country bursting with all kinds of tasty vegetables found lining the markets in a colorful array. Which might explain why there are so many vegetarians. In an effort to please the herbivores, a ramen dish was specially created making abundant use of the freshest French ingredients and, after many trials, the “Aromatic Mushroom Veggy Ramen” was finally born. In many countries, either for religious or personal reasons, there are a number of people who don’t eat ramen which contains any form of meat or fish. It was because IPPUDO wanted to accommodate all manner of tastes that the Saint-Germain shop embarked on a journey to develop noodles made up of vegetable ingredients. Incidentally, IPPUDO Paris was the only IPPUDO ramen shop to offer a vegetarian dish right from the start.
The “Aromatic Mushroom Veggy Ramen” features a soup made from a total of eight different vegetables such as onions, leeks and celery, which is slowly simmered and combined with another soup composed of dried shiitake mushrooms, kelp, soybeans and porcini mushrooms resulting in a soup with double the taste. Noodles normally contain eggs, but the homemade noodles used in this dish are egg-free and kneaded with bell peppers. Topped with a very French vegetable ratatouille and finished off with a drizzling of truffle oil, the deliciousness of France and Japan come together in complete harmony. The beauty of the colors and the delicacy of the texture even became a hot topic in this gourmet capital, Paris. The veggy ramen accounts for 1/7 of the ramen ordered at the Saint-Germain ramen shop in one day, with even non-vegetarians ordering the dish, while its exquisite appearance appeals to a large number of female customers.
Japan’s gourmet culture spreading outfrom IPPUDO Saint-Germain
Masashi Hirata is the executive chef responsible for developing the Saint-Germain shop’s original menu. Hirata was also the one to captivate New Yorkers with his cuisine packed with originality at the IPPUDO New York East Village shop, which was the first IPPUDO shop to open abroad. After serving as a chef of Japanese cuisine for eight years, Hirata turned to the ramen industry. His ramen so carefully and delicately prepared by hand conveys the Japanese spirit of “wa” both in looks and taste.
The Saint-Germain shop, as described above, focuses mainly on developing ramen, but also available in the line-up are the “Hirata buns” （a sandwich of braised pork belly inspired by the American hamburger）, which were devised as an à la carte menu for the New York shop, as well as gyōza dumplings. And as another element representative of the Japanese food culture, sake which has been specially selected from different regions all over Japan is available, as is champagne directly ordered from the champagne producers.
Japan has a lot in common with France because of its long-standing culinary culture, and the love and commitment towards food shown by its people. Hirata, the executive chef commented as follows about the IPPUDO ramen shop opened in this setting of Paris where history, culture and chic trends converge.
“We were so pleased to hear the customers say, ‘That was absolutely delicious!’ Some of our customers said they had never tried ramen before, let alone tonkotsu ramen, and moreover, ‘I didn’t even know this kind of food existed!’, and even vegetarian ramen which has a tendency to be overlooked has proven to be extremely popular!”
The Saint-Germain shop which has barely been open a month is seeing lots of regular customers, and there are some regulars who frequented the shop four or five times in the space of two weeks. The ratio of customers has been about 20% Japanese and 80% other nationalities. In France which enjoys a soup culture, some people drink up all of the broth. The fact that there’s not a drop left in the bowl speaks volumes about this “delicious” culinary experience.
“Looking at the number of orders, the dish referred to in Japan as ‘The Special’, which has all of the toppings is the best-selling dish. Ramen, which is considered a soul food in Japan, seems to be acquiring a label in Paris as a special import food. For us though, our goal is to ensure that ramen becomes one of the regular options for meals and to strive to make “ramen” a commonly-recognized word.
As is the case of IPPUDO shops in Japan, the Saint-Germain shop is seeing a lot of orders for kaedama （extra servings of noodles）. I find myself taken aback to learn that customers are casually using the Japanese words “kata” （hard） and “barikata” （very hard） which are actually words specific to the ramen world. Not only that, but in addition to the menu, there is a “Zuzutto card” which gives a playful explanation of the proper and delicious way to eat ramen. Whereas slurping food is considered rude in Europe and the U.S., slurping noodles to make an onomatopoeic “zuzutto” sound is considered the height of enjoyment and appreciation in Japan, and should this ramen trend spread amongst the men and women of Paris then it could be said that the Japanese food culture has well and truly arrived.
This summer, the IPPUDO Paris Louvre shop （tentative name） which was supposed to be the first shop in Paris is also scheduled to open. Although I’m curious to find out whether this opening leads to the birth of a new original menu, personally, I can’t wait to discover what further collaborations there are going to be, much like with the Paris staff uniform designed by Mihara Yasuhiro, between ramen and the world of fashion, culture and art. Stay tuned for future developments in store following IPPUDO’s first foray into Paris.
14 rue Grégoire de Tours, 75006 Paris, France
WORDS BY SHOTA KATO
加藤将太 / OVER THE MOUNTAIN
About the editor. Born in 1981. From Fuefuki city in Yamanashi Prefecture （formerly Kasugai-cho of the Higashi Yamanashi district）. Planned, wrote and edited texts in print and online form as well as acting as MC for various events and programs. Helped launch the online magazine CONTRAST in March 2011, and since July 2013, has been based in Shoinjinja shopping district in Setagaya. Created the trade name “OVER THE MOUNTAIN” in October 2014 to represent its business. The idea being that “people will keep on climbing over mountains” both today and tomorrow.