September 22nd, 2017 Update:
I dont usually update a place this soon, but this is kinda important after yet another fine meal at Ivan Ramen LES. Weather is getting chillier (or seemed to be a few weeks ago at least), and I cant think of a better way to start Ramen season. The Chicken Paitan at Ivan is not the Ramen dish that made Ivan famous, but to me it’s right up there with NYC’s best at the moment. As I described 6 months ago when it came out, “the richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness”.
A corn on a cob dish always gets my attention, and this one proved to be a wowzer. Its Miso roasted with bonito flakes and some sort of Japanese magic dust sprinkled. The fried chicken, brined perhaps, is another exceptional one. The Coney Island Tofu with that miso mushroom chili has made it’s triumphant return to the menu. Magnifique as always. As is the Triple pork, triple garlic Mazemen (brothless ramen) which has been on the menu since day 1 but somehow eluded me all this time. Being featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table hasnt made it easy, but reservations are doable. Go!
March 5th, 2017 Update:
All sorts of major developments with the Ivan. The Ramen Junkie keeps reinventing himself, and has even given us some bedtime entertainment. Yes, Ivan Orkin is featured in the latest season of Netflix’s highly acclaimed Chef’s Table which I highly recommend. Its refreshing to see someone on the show who you actually know and talk to from time to time. Naturally the show helped revive his Lower East Side flagship in a big way. And so if you havent been in a while, or never, prepare for a possible 2 hour shock on some evenings. Yesterday I heard quotes ranging from 1 to 3 hours, albeit on a Saturday night.
Coincidentally, or not, the menus in both NYC spots have gotten a facelift as of late. At the Slurp Shop however, at the moment looks more like a botched botox job. The great Donburis (rice dishes including top) are long gone, and the sick Breakfast Ramen, changed to Breakfast All Day Ramen after they figured why not, is now gone too. It cameod for a while last month only to see the same results. Why is no one eating the good stuff. Lack of appreciation, or people simply want the goods that made the man famous. I say its the name of the dish. Give it a cute Japanese name like Mocu Mocu and people will drive in forces. Oh wait, they tried it already. With that said, knowing these guys, another homerun is probably on its way.
But at the flagship, things are looking mighty fine these days. I cant get on Instagram without seeing Ivan tease a new dish that looks infinitely better than what I’m eating (I’m looking at you quinoa). Something like the brilliant briny Trumpet Mushrooms sliced like noodles, and served cold that I enjoyed last night. This was a tip I got an hour earlier by the sous chef at Slurp Shop during yesterday’s Hell’s Kitchen tour (there he goes again with the shameless plugs). Another new potential hit is the Dan Dan Noodles smothered with chili infused ground lamb. It is probably the spiciest Dan Dan and one of the spiciest noodle dishes I ever had. By the end I was waving a white flag which turned red by then. It is purposefully dry and while delicious, I was longing for something wet to counter the heat. But the most interesting newcomer is probably the dish I had on a previous night. A bright and gorgeous Chicken Paitan with minced chicken and egg yolk. It has all the richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness. Its just like your moms chicken soup! If mom went to culinary school for 10 years, moved to Japan and married the most famous Ramen maker in Tokyo that is.
August 24, 2014 Post:
We all heard the story before hundreds of times. A Jew from Long Island moves to Japan to teach English, moves back to the states, attends The Culinary Institute of America, leaves his heart in Japan so comes back to Tokyo, gets bored out of his mind and learns how to cook Ramen (just about the last thing that crosses my mind when I’m bored). So he opens the first restaurant in Tokyo, finds success and opens another… moves back to NYC to open the Slurp Shop at Gotham West market and the flagship Ivan Ramen in East Village. 10 months later, over a dozen visits to the Slurp Shop and over a dozen whitefish Donburis, two visits to the new joint in East Village, and needless to say… Ziggy is a fan of the Ivan.
The Slurp Shop
I’ve already written extensively about Hell’s Kitchen’s main attraction these days, Gotham West Market, the home of the first Ivan outpost. The Slurp Shop is normally the last stop of my monthly food crawls. Problem is by the time we get here more often than not, tummy is already full. The menu settled down over the year and features some unique staples like…
Slow-Cooked Pork Donburi – Another fun rice concoction with super tender pork shoulder, scallion, salted plum wasabi, and chunky roasted tomatoes proving nice balance and much needed acidity.
Roasted Garlic Mazemen – I must admit the Mazemen here is more exciting to me than the traditional Ramen. Mazemen is almost brothless ramen, but packs in more flavor and intensity. This one comes with Nori, dashi, chicken broth, pork belly chashu, and the same rye noodle as the traditional ramen. Garlic lovers especially may find this dish quite formidable. Yes, I’m officially adding formidable to my vocabulary.
Ramen – I cant find any pictures of any of the Ramen I tried here. Most likely due to the way I attack them once I see them. I believe I tried all of them except the vegetarian one and all are quite good in their own way. The Tokyo classics Shio and Shoyu are cleaner and purer than most of the modern Ramens out there.
Whitefish Donburi – Perhaps my favorite dish in GWM but admittedly not for everyone (what is really). White rice mixed with sweet soy dashi and topped with cucumber, scallion, salmon roe, and beautiful smoked whitefish. Jewish heritage meets Japanese school girl. Or something like that
Lower East Side is the new East Village. I can spend a year here and eat something delicious and different every day. The new Ivan Ramen flagship complicates things even further for those locals that cant decide whether they are in the mood for Burritos, Ribs, Ramen or Israeli Scotch Eggs. This is more of a sit down than the Slurp Shop, which basically means slurping isnt as encouraged here. And the menu is quite different and fuller…
Pickled Daikon – shaved daikon (the radish white milder shy cousine), dried shrimp, scallop chili oil. I expected fishier flavors from the shrimp but it was more reminiscent texture wise of the most freakish tasting bread crumbs ever. Get this!
Chinese Broccoli & Garlic – Another cold winner. You taste the Broccoli with that sweet garlic soy sauce and go “well this is nice..”, but then you taste the pickled garlic and the world suddenly beginning to makes sense again
Pork Meatballs – Its texturally impossible to come up with more tender balls. Garnished with bonito flakes, buttermilk dressing, and Japans official unofficial sauce, Bulldog brown sauce. Marvelous dish! And no, I’m not adding “texturally” to my vocabulary because its not a real word
Tofu Coney Island – A playful and enjoyable take on the Nathan Hotdog. Fried tofu topped with miso mushroom chili, mustard, and scallion. Enjoyed this one