Ivan Orkin has never been one to play by the rulebook—the brash, Yiddish-tongued Long Islander first built his food-world fame not in his native New York, but 6,000 miles away in Tokyo, where he stirred up Japan’s devout ramen congregation with his light, silky slurp bowls in 2007. Fast-forward seven years, and there are four Ivan Ramen locations dotted across Gotham.
This vibrant 60-seat parlor tangles together the noodle virtuoso’s all-American roots and Japanophile leanings: A chrome-edged counter and vinyl stools recall old-line diners, blond-wood banquettes look plucked from a late-night izakaya, and a massive, papier-mâché mural in front is a kaleidoscope of Dolly Parton, John Wayne, waving lucky cats and Technicolor geishas.
And the menu follows culture-crossing suit: Along with his seminal rye-flour noodles (in both shio and shoyu varieties), there’s four-cheese mazemen, like ramen gone Kraft, and fried chicken hearts—double-dipped à la KFC—with ponzu honey mustard. The downtown spot won’t serve rice bowls—you’ll have to shoulder up to Hell’s Kitchen for that smoked-whitefish donburi—but it does offer composed small plates, like preserved hen eggs and braised ox tongue.