Ivan Orkin. The man, the myth, the ramen. This American, Jewish sir from Long Island managed to create one of the most famous ramen spots in Tokyo in 1990 and has just now graced us with his presence this year with a shop in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and also in Gotham West Market on the West Side. The casual ramen bar downtown is full of scrumptious Asian treats like fried whole prawns, deviled eggs, omu rice and the first wall is covered in colorful cut outs while Japanese anime takes over the top of the open kitchen that took me back to those Pokemon days for a minute. The first thing I popped in my mouth was the Roast Pork Musubi bite with salted plum wasabi, roast tomato and toasted nori. This was probably the best thing I had all day. Each order comes with two bites – make sure you order several as you’ll want more than one. The tender pork melts in your mouth like bbq pulled pork, and I loved the roasted and smooth tomato. The Herring Battera on sushi rice with wasabi-sesame seeds sure is tasty but compared to everything else that’s yet to come, I’ll give you a get out of jail free card here and you can pass. The Chinese Greens & Garlic with sweet soy pickled garlic love sauce couldn’t be more accurately named. This heaping plate of greens is outstanding and something not to miss. The sauce is just sweet enough and the greens feel good inside and help create a healthy layer before the attack of the ramen.
Roast Pork Musubi
We tried the Fried Whole Prawns with Smoked Chili in the “Crisp Section.” I did enjoy the dressing on the salad, but there was too much sauce to keep at it. If the dressing and sauce on the prawn lightened up a bit, it’d be a standout. I loved the Smoked Salmon Donburi which I’d never tried before. It’s basically a rice bowl with salmon roe and cucumber with a pretty dry base which isn’t a bad thing. It was refreshing at this pace of the meal and if it had double the salmon, you could make an entire meal out of this one and skip the ramen. We tried the two most popular ramen dishes which are: Tokyo Shio Ramen made with sea salt, dashi +chicken broth, pork chashu, egg, rye noodle and Tokyo Shoyu Ramen which is heavier of the two and made with soy sauce, dashi + chicken broth, pork chashu, egg, rye noodle. You also have a choice of quite a bit of add-ons. Go for the shredded chicken confit. You can also add egg, roast tomato, enoki mushrooms and even extra noodles. If you are down to kick the shit out of your mouth there’s also the Spicy Red Chili Ramen. There are more options at diner time such as the Cheese Mazemen.
Ivan Ramen is just as good as they say; however, what I liked most were all of the bites, hot and cold dishes as opposed to just the ramen. The food is very constructive and clean as this type of food can be. Give that Roast Pork Musubi and Chinese Greens and I’ll be happy for days. We had no problem getting a table for 4 at lunch time on a Sunday, so those of you looking to “bulk up” and add on those winter layers, you shouldn’t have a problem getting in during the day. There’s also a back outdoor area – totally BK style. Really impressed with you Mr. Orkin, and welcome back to America.