Review: Ivan Ramen + Ramen Co.

Ramen pioneer Ivan Orkin and Ramen Burger creator Keizo Shimamoto tangle up madcap noodles in New York City

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  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Ivan Ramen

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Pickled daikon at Ivan Ramen

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Four-cheese mazemen at Ivan Ramen

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    JFC at Ivan Ramen

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Red-chili ramen at Ivan Ramen

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Ivan Ramen

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Ivan Ramen

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Yakitori burger at Ramen Co.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Wakayama shoyu at Ramen Co.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Ramen Co.

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    Ramen Co.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Ivan Ramen

Ivan Ramen


Rating: 4/4

New York’s breakthrough ramen dynasties—Momofuku, Ippudo, Totto—have lived largely by the noodles-broth-umami tenets of Japanese soup, schooling fair-weather slurpers and steaming-bowl disciples alike on all things shio and shoyu. Their second-wave descendants quickly subverted those ramen rules—see the pastrami-topped tangles at Dassara, the sauce-clinging, fettucini-inspired strands from Yuji Ramen and a tonkotsu so bone-white and creamy at Chuko, you’d mistake it for alfredo.

But no two figures have upended modern-day noodleage quite like ramen iconoclast Ivan Orkin and burger-flipping upstart Keizo Shimamoto. On paper, they bear little resemblance to each other—one, a Jewish baby boomer from Syosset; the other, a perpetually T-shirted L.A. transplant. But their parallels run deep: Both are American-born, Tokyo-trained and behind the most blogosphere-busting, brain-stretching ramen in Gotham.

Garnering international cachet as the first gaijin (foreigner) with the gall to open a ramen-ya—and a superb one at that—in Japan, Orkin brought his maverick bowls (roasted-garlic mazemen, smoked-whitefish donburi) to a deserted Hell’s Kitchen drag with his bare-bones Gotham West Market stall, but that was a mere stretch compared with the muscle flexing he’s doing at his Lower East Side flagship.

The slim space is a collage of Orkin’s all-American roots and Japanophilic fancy—izakaya blond-wood butts against greasy-spoon chrome, manga meeting movie stars on a papier-mâché mural—and much of the menu follows suit. Some plates veer Far East, such as tart-and-tangy pickled raw daikon ($6) crowned with nubs of chili-oil-slick dried shrimp and scallop, and others stay west, like a little-gem Caesar ($11) laced with tofu-garlic dressing and frico crisps made of baby anchovies and parmesan. The most thrilling bridge both disciplines.

Fried chicken gets an organ-meat overhaul in the JFC ($8), a heap of double-dredged hearts and liver given an irresistible, finger-licking saltiness from powdered seaweed. But the marquee menu item is the Lancaster Okonomiyaki ($12), an it-shouldn’t-work-but-Lord-it-does scrapple waffle—it’s a testament to Orkin’s restraint that he didn’t dub it the Scraffle™—that’s at once meaty and nutty, with savory drips of maple Kewpie mayo and Bulldog sauce, cut with pickled apple and charred cabbage.

But what about those noodles? Orkin more than earns his keep in the ramen circle with seminal noodle-bar standards like his exquisitely delicate double-soup shio ($13), silky dashi-chicken stock swimming with thin rye-flour noodles and tender pork belly, and the searing, six-napkin red-chili ramen ($14), fired with doubanjiang (Japan’s answer to Chinese chili paste) for a vinegary Frank’s Red Hot bite that will leave noodleheads grabbing for water and dabbing at their brows. The brothless mazemen bowls are where Orkin lets his freak flag fly: springy whole-wheat noodles submerged with fatty chashu and bacon bits in a garlicky, principled triple-pork rendition ($15), or thickened with a four-cheese sauce that’s more pleasure than guilt, rich and gluttonous enough to rival carbonara ($15). It’s nowhere near what you’d expect to remedy your ramen hankering but no less satisfying—that’s part of the magic.


  1. Ivan Ramen
  2. Ramen Co.

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