Ivan Ramen on the LES: NYC’s Best Ramen and Best New Restaurants
A quick recap, in case you haven't heard the story before: Ivan Orkin, a Jewish kid from Long Island, sees the movie Tampopo and falls in love with noodles. Moves to Tokyo in 2003, studies ramen relentlessly, opens two hugely successful parlors in that noodle-mad town, and then returns to New York City to give us, first, the Slurp Shop over at the great Gotham West Market in Hells Kitchen, and then the spacious Ivan Ramen, full-menu restaurant on Clinton Street. NYC ramen lovers, myself included, go wild!
Best New Restaurant of 2014? We say, Yes!
Seriously, Ivan Ramen is an instant contender for best new restaurant of 2014. I was there on the noodle joint's second night, and everything was humming along beautifully. In fact, I was having such a great time that after making short work of an amazing bowl of Orkin's signature Tokyo Shio Ramen (rye noodle, sea salt, chicken-based broth, tender pork chashu, everything perfect), I gleefully slurped down a second bowl as well, braving (and loving!) the Spicy Red Chili Ramen which, heat-wise, is no joke. Be careful with this one.
Ivan Ramen Has More Than Noodles
The ramen dishes here are, no surprise, spectacular. I've also had Orkin's Mazemen (which are egg noodles, with lots of toppings and no broth; more like straight-up pasta) on a couple of occasions and those bowls, too, are fantastic. That said, the stealth winners on the Ivan Ramen menu may in fact be the non-noodle dishes, such as:
- The plate of JFC "double-dredged" fried chicken hearts and livers, which was wonderfully intense and tender and might have been my favorite part of the meal (though the ponzu honey mustard dipping sauce was probably a bit sweet).
- The Lancaster Okonomiyaki, which Orkin describes as a "scrapple waffle", piled high with bits of cabbage, pickled apple, and maple kewpie sauce, that hits that sweet / salty / meaty / crunchy / vinegar / umami / soft spot perfectly.
Delicious, all of it. You should definitely eat here, and soon.
More Information: Ivan Ramen
Ivan Ramen is located on Clinton Street between Stanton and Houston and is open every day from 5:30 p.m. to 12:00 midnight. No reservations are accepted, and your wait is likely to be long if you show up in prime time, but give your name, go walk around the Lower East Side (or to any number of nearby bars), and they'll text you when your table is ready.