The story of Ivan Ramen
is an unlikely one. For a foreigner to open up shop in Tokyo and be lauded for making Japanese food is nearly unheard of due to a competitive Tokyo food scene, and the Japanese idea that foreigners simply can’t master Japanese-ness in all its incarnations.
Yet Jewish American Ivan Orkin’s take on ramen catapulted his shop into the Tokyo spotlight, allowing him to open a second Ivan Ramen location in Tokyo, and two New York shops.
We stopped by Ivan Ramen’s original Tokyo location late one afternoon and it’s safe to say that it ruined us for all other ramen consumed during our trip!
The ticket machine has English, as well as Japanese descriptions on the buttons, so no worries about ease of ordering.
Ivan Ramen is characteristically small; just the L angled counter you see here…about 8 seats.
We opted for the Special Shio, and the Special Spicy Red Chili Ramen. They were both fantastic. I liked my Spicy Ramen better than the boyfriend’s Shio, though he wasted no time laying into it, so I can’t offer you a better photo. Perfectly cooked noodles, sublime soft boiled eggs, and a flavorful but not too heavy broth all distinguish the ramen from other shops we tried. A quote from this Food & Wine piece on Orkin
actually lays it out in a way that makes a lot of sense after tasting both the mediocre and the exceptional on the spectrum of ramen:
Ramen, really, is basically junk food. But I wanted something you could eat every day and not feel sick. And hopefully, you’ll come back.
Ivan Ramen succeeds on this front (and quite a few others). We made our way back to the train station feeling weighed down only by our yearning for an Ivan Ramen in our little corner of the world.
No chance of making it to Ivan’s NYC or Tokyo shops? He has a book
out that includes recipes!