I've been following the cooking career of Long Island native Ivan Orkin for quite some time now. The self described "Japanophile" became a ramen master in of all placed Tokyo -- winning awards for his modern renditions of the traditional favorite. Food magazine have been gushing about him for years -- imagine an American conquering the Japanese palate. When Orkin opened his first American outpost on Manhattan's hipster heavy Lower East Side I vowed to sit at his counter. I love ramen and am a regular at several Los Angeles outposts.
As luck would have it I looked up and found myself mere blocks away from Ivan Ramen's Orchard Ave outpost.
I settled in with a view into the small kitchen and ordered one of my favorites, spicy chili ramen. And, because Orkin has made a name with inventive combinations of traditional flavors, deep fried pork meatballs. These came out scorching hot with a creamy buttermilk dressing and drizzles of slightly sweet soy based sauce. Bonito flakes covered the top. The pork meatballs were amazingly light with a crisp panko based crust. But overall not very well seasoned and not special enough to warrant the extra calories.
Unlike other ramen shops I frequent, Ivan Ramen charges for the egg in the broth which is a standard topping. Much has been made in the press of the waitstaff's pushing the toppings that turn an already heftily priced bowl of broth and noodles into a $20 (for all of the add ons -- roasted tomato, egg, and pork) not quite quick soup lunch.
Bowls seemed to be coming out of the kitchen a little slowly even though the restaurant was not terribly crowded. My deep red broth was flavorful and searing, painfully hot with chiles but not temperature. The soup was oddly lukewarm and the egg actually cold. A kitchen misfire that cheated me of the warming delicious feeling I was craving on a cold windy day.
The kitchen didn't mean to serve lukewarm broth and I thought about sending it back. But the noodles drew me in. Chewy delicious rye based ramen noodles custom made for Ivan Ramen. Though the kitchen may be inconsistent I'd go back and probably happily lay down $20 for another chance at those noodles. Maybe they will get right next time.