Hello everyone! After another long layoff, we’ve got a fresh update for you. This adventure was much like the one from last Thanksgiving because we had a large group of fellow ramen enthusiasts with us. It’s always a lot of fun to be with a bigger group because people are bound to order different things and you invariably get to try a bunch of different ramen bowls. This time, we journeyed out to Ivan Ramen in Gotham West Market. Started by Ivan Orkin, this small chain has its roots in Tokyo, where Orkin lived and honed his ramen-making craft while infusing traditional elements of his Jewish upbringing into his dishes. Orkin’s shops in Japan and New York have achieved critical acclaim and a large amount of media attention. Unfortunately, Marion and I, along with much of the group didn’t think that the food lived up to the hype.
As previously stated, Ivan Ramen has an outpost in Gotham West Market. The market itself has a bunch of other food stalls serving up a wide variety of delicious (but pricey) eats. Seating is open, with the choice of single stools at a long bar or picnic tables. The menu is relatively straightforward, and each time I’ve been there they seem to have some sort of seasonal specialty offering. The positives here are the relatively fast service and the fact that it is usually easy to find somewhere to sit. It accommodated a large group like ours during dinner hours. It’s really a great atmosphere, especially on a nice day when the market’s windows are open.
The food at Ivan Ramen is hit or miss. First of all, the ramen bowl is very small. If you’re very hungry, it’s likely that one isn’t going to satisfy you. This wouldn’t be a bad thing, except for the fact that you can’t order kae-dama (extra noodles). I ordered the spicy chili ramen, which comes with a smashed egg and ground pork. I actually liked the flavors of my bowl a lot – the combination of egg and pork that you get with every bite forms a nice texture and gives a great mouthfeel. It’s also a nice level of spiciness and definitely got me sweating. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best thing to order on a hot summer day. The other highlight of the meal ramen-wise was the miso butter mazemen. It had a nice, thick sauce that was packed with rich, cheesy, miso flavor. There was also a grilled corn special that a few people ordered. It was well-charred and had a nice miso butter brushed onto it that gave it a really nice twist.
The rest of the ramen (shoyu and shio) were pretty mediocre. The broth was not exceptionally flavorful, and you really don’t get a lot in terms of the toppings. Literally one piece of pork chashu and some scallions is all you get. It’s fine to go for a minimalist approach with food in order to not overwhelm the customer with too many textures and flavors. However that only works if the couple of flavors that are present are extraordinary, which is not the case at Ivan Ramen. In the end, you feel like you paid too much for too little.
Most of the people who we dined with had similar thoughts. It was solid, but nothing to write home about, and it’s debatable whether or not it’s worth the price and the inability to order extra noodles. Good, but didn’t live up to the hype, and everything on the menu could be one to two dollars cheaper, although that’s something that applies to most New York restaurants. We would recommend that if you’re in the area and have a craving for ramen, hop on the subway and go to Ramen Ya (covered in our last review) or head north to Totto. Ivan Ramen is not worth your time and money. Two and a half stars out of five.
Extra: Thanks to the following folks who came out to our ramenventure!
Ivan Ramen (Gotham West Market): http://www.ivanramen.com/