A Jewish, white guy from Long Island walks into Tokyo. And opens a Ramen shop.
This is what Ivan Orkin, chef & owner of Ivan Ramen did in 2007. And this is what he did again in 2010. And now he's back here in New York spreading his ramen knowledge. But before I discuss my dining experience at his newly opened New York Ivan Ramen shop, it only makes sense to understand how a Jewish boy from Long Island morphed into a legendary ramen-ologist. So sit back, relax and read the tale.
~* The Tale of Ivan Orkin: Noodle Master*~
There once was a boy named Ivan Orkin. He lived in Long Island, spent his childhood doing what kids do, went to school, earned a degree in Japanese at Boulder (clearly this guy is fun AF), went to Japan to expand his knowledge, came back to the U.S., "found his calling," attended the Culinary Institute of America, did some more stuff and then returned to Tokyo to open Ivan Ramen and become a legend. Once he reached ramen chef celebrity status (which only took like 6 years) he returned to New York to open a restaurant (Gotham West Market) and now is sharing his ramen knowledge with the city by opening an Ivan Ramen in the Lower East Side.
I love the tale of an underdog and Ivan was definitely an unexpected victor as a white, Jewish guy climbing to the top of the Tokyo ramen scene. I also love when people shamelessly defy stereotypes and he did just that. Basically, Ivan nailed it. So kudos to you Ivan. Four for you Ivan, you go Ivan!
Eating at Ivan Ramen
Because I am just one small, poor woman trying to eat my way through the city, I clearly couldn't eat everything on the menu, no matter how much I wanted to or how hard I tried. So here is a little sneak preview of what Ivan Ramen has to offer.
1,000 Year Old Deviled Eggs
Fast forward 1,000 years. Take a hen egg, add a preserved duck egg, throw in some tomato and bonito (dried flakes of fish) and you get these babies. My one inquiry is if they are actually 1,000 years old. Like what farmer in the right mind 1,000 years ago decided to just save his eggs? Did he know Ivan was coming to get them? Was this the work of Ivan in a past life? I must admit my knowledge in egg aging is very minimal, but ....????? They tasted good though.
As Austin Mahone once said, mm mm yeah yeah. These pork meatballs are very flavorful with buttermilk dressing, bulldog sauce (a type of Tonkatsu sauce, which is a thick, brown sweet/salty hard to describe Japanese sauce commonly used on fried pork), and bonito. While these balls are extremely tasty (lol) they were surprisingly light and great to share with the table (double lol). Ok now get your mind out of the gutter.
Four Cheese Mazemen
I have been to Ramen shops in China and I have been to Ramen shops in the East Village. Never have I seen such a cheesy option. And I love cheese. And you probably do too. I went with the four cheese mazemen because it seemed so unique, something that only Ivan could produce for me. I act like I know him personally, but I only know him in my dreams.
The main difference between ramen and mazemen is the amount of broth. Ramen dishes typically come in a pool of rich broth while mazemen does not. The consistency is more sauce-like. The four cheese mazemen came with whole wheat noodles, dashi, pickled bean sprout, and pork chashu (braised pork belly). Immaculate Infatuation described it as "a glorious Japanese mac and cheese," and their description is basically what came to my mind when I ate it. But I couldn't use it without citing it because they wrote it first of course. But yea. Glorified Japanese mac & cheese. I couldn't finish it all, so I took the leftovers home, and I can attest to the fact that these noodles taste good cold too.
In closing, I would like to thank Ivan for his work. Maybe one day we will meet and we can take a selfie for my Instagram.