When dining at Ivan Orkin’s new ramen restaurant, expect a heaping bowl of steaming irony.
No, I’m not talking about the native Long Islander turned ramen icon Ivan Orkin. I’ve had too many great Japanese meals created by non-Japanese chefs to remain prejudiced. The irony I observe is Gotham West Market, the food-hall that houses Ivan Orkin’s latest venture. Apparently the latest way for developers to attract wealthy Manhattanites is to transplant a bit of Brooklyn into the ground level. Brooklyn style without the Brooklyn commute at Manhattan prices? where do I sign up!
Once you manage to get past everything Brooklyn and find your way into the Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, you’re confronted with a very simple menu. The prices are high, $13 for a bowl of Shio or Shoyu. The price will feel even more expensive when you realize it’s a relatively small bowl, without an egg, and with just one tiny piece of pork.
Then again, Japanese food has never been about portion sizes. In terms of quality, the soup’s top notch, and the noodle type is a subjective decision. I’m personally a fan of more flavorful noodles like the ones found at Yebisu, though the soba-like threads at Ivan was unique in its own way.
As a fan of more traditional ramen, I found little to rave about beyond the soup. The pork is nice but doesn’t come close to the flavors at Misoya, and with nothing else in the bowl except a heaping mound of scallions, it’s a hard comparison. New York has come a long way in terms of quality ramen in the last few years, and nowadays if you’re willing to spend $13 on a bowl, there are quite a few better choices.
Mr. Orkin is a Caucasian chef who’s made a name in Japan – a part of the world where a white face speaking Japanese still manages amazes the locals. Perhaps that has a bit to do with the hype that’s surrounded the restaurant.
What I really wonder is whether the restaurant is a good representation of what Ivan Ramen truly is about. From my two trips to Tokyo this year, any random ramen restaurant has managed to deliver exceptional flavors. Even a chain restaurant at wee hours. The same chains (like Ippudo) doesn’t deliver nearly the same punch here in New York. Perhaps I can be a better judge of the flavors after visiting Ivan Ramen in Tokyo, but based on what I’ve tasted now it’s nothing spectacular.
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Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop
600 11th Ave
New York, NY 10036