Ippudo

The Boyfriend and I had a free afternoon since his class was canceled so we decided to try something we’ve never had before and can’t have normally. I instantly thought about Ippudo, which boasts 45 minute to 3 hour waits for dinner on a normal basis. We headed over on a weekday afternoon and arrived at about 1:30pm. The Boyfriend went into to give them his name while I stayed outside to wait. Our quoted time was 20 minutes, which wasn’t bad at all.

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The actual wait was around 30 minutes but it was a nice day out so we didn’t mind. We were seated on a bar-style table and given menus to look over. Ippudo uses real chopsticks instead of the splinter-laden wooden ones most Asian restaurants offer. This made my ramen experience that much better!

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We decided to order their Hirata Buns (2 pieces for $9.00), which features steamed buns filled with your choice of pork or chicken. It’s served with Ippudo’s spicy sauce, mayo and lettuce. And boy, were these buns good. I’m always a fan of anything inside steamed buns because I love the buns themselves.  But the filling for these buns definitely stole the show. The pork was tender and juicy. Ippudo’s spicy sauce wasn’t too spicy and blended well with the mayo. These pork buns are a definite must get!

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The Boyfriend opted for their special BBQ Tonkotsu Ramen ($17.00), which is a collaboration between Ippudo’s noodle master and American chef Peter Colon. The dish features Ippudo’s tonkotsu shoyu pork broth topped with spicy pulled BBQ pork and vinegar. The Boyfriend thought it was quite and so did I. The broth was flavorful and the ramen was vey tender and bouncy.

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He decided to get his ramen as a lunch set, which for $3 extra comes with a mini salad and your choice of a rice dish. We opted for the spicy cod roe over rice, which the Boyfriend has fallen in love with ever since we had cod roe at Sakagura. Both were a nice and cute addition to our meal.

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I opted for the Akamaru Modern Ramen ($14.00), which features Ippudo’s original “Tonkotsu” pork soup noodles topped with their secret “Unami Dama” miso paste. The soup is mixed with fragrant garlic oil and cabbage, mushrooms and scallions. This was the best bowl of ramen I have ever had.  They put their secret miso paste on the top of the broth so you have to mix it in thoroughly for it to work. But once you do, it is the most delicious broth on earth. The broth has this extra kick to it that you don’t get with regular tonkotsu soup bases. Even the Boyfriend said my bowl of ramen was better than his!

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Our food arrived quickly and efficiently. Despite the amount of people waiting outside, we never felt rushed to leave. They even give you a cup of hot hoji-cha after your meal to balance out the salt and spices. The ramen was a bit on the expensive side but we were both so full and so satisfied that we couldn’t complain. If you have the time to wait, I really suggest paying Ippudo a visit. It’s a bowl of ramen you will never forget!

Beso

For Birthday Dinner #3 on my actual date, the Boyfriend and I decided to take the ferry over to Staten Island and have dinner on the island. After some Googling and Yelping, I found Beso. Beso is located in St. George, just two short blocks away from the ferry. They specialize in Spanish tapas, or small plates. We arrived around 5:30 for an early dinner and were seated immediately. We were given a warm loaf of bread with some olive oil, which was very good. I love when restaurants offer warmed up bread!

Beso offers two menus – the a la carte menu and a prix fixe menu. I opted for the a la carte menu since I had already set my eyes on a few dishes beforehand. The Boyfriend decided to go with the prix fixe menu, which is $20.13 for three courses.

First, let’s begin with our a la carte orders. We decided to order the lamb chops, which were $12 for 4 lamb chops that night. The lamb chops were delicious! They were juicy and succulent. The meat itself was very tender and didn’t have that smelly lamb taste at all. This was easily the best dish of the night. Definitely order their lamb chops if you pay Beso a visit!

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I started with the Sashimi de Atun ($9.95), or guajillo crusted seared tuna served with sundried tomato salsa. The serving size was huge! I was not expecting so many slices of tuna sashimi when I ordered. There were at least eleven pieces on the plate, which is almost unheard of for that price elsewhere in Manhattan. I was amazed when I first put a slice of tuna in my mouth. The tuna was seared to perfection and the salsa gave it a very nice flavor.

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My “main” dish, if you will, was the Lobster Enchiladas ($10.50), which features lobster meat wrapped in a flour tortilla with arugula, onion, tomato and Manchego cheese. The order comes with two enchiladas, which is really more than enough. At this point I was already getting quite full. I could taste lobster with each bite and the cheese contrasted nicely with the lobster. I did think the dish was a bit salty, so next time I’m definitely telling them to lighten up on the salt.

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The Boyfriend’s prix fixe menu comes with a choice of 4 tapas, 3 entrees and 3 desserts. He chose the Conchas de Cave, or Prince Edward Mussels sautéed in Spanish Cava and served with toasted tortillas. The mussels were a bit on the small side but the sauce was very good and tasted great when soaked up with tortilla. The serving size was quite generous as well.

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For his entrée, he chose the Seafood Merengue, which features mussels, clams, calamari, and scallops sautéed in a Sofrito sauce and served over spaghetti. I thought this dish was pretty good for a simple pasta dish. The spaghetti was cooked perfectly al dente and was covered in seafood. The best part, however, was the sauce. The sauce was tangy with a hint of tomato. It was definitely not your usual spaghetti sauce. I kept stealing bites from the Boyfriend’s dish in between bites on my own food.

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For his dessert, he chose the Tres Leches Cake, which features vanilla cake soaked in three kinds of milk. The cake was a bit harder than I’m used to in a Tres Leches cake, but I thought it was still good nonetheless. It was topped with fresh blueberries and diced mangos, which helped make the cake a little big lighter. We managed to polish off the piece of cake together and it was just the right end to a delicious meal.

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Overall, I was very impressed with Beso. The food was delicious and the dining room was quiet despite the people slowly filling in as the night wore on. The waiters never rushed us – in fact, we were left to eat our meals in piece. Our waters were refilled periodically and the waiters reacted appropriately whenever our dishes were empty. They changed our small plates once during the meal, which I thought was a nice touch. All in all, I would definitely return to Beso. I need to have those lamb chops again!