Ramen-ya 69′N’ROLL ONE Akasaka – Rock’N’Roll One Ramen

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Rock’N’Roll ramen is spelled out with numbers 69, or “roku” in Japanese. So, in Japanese we call this ramen shop Roku N Roll, said quickly it sounds like “rock and roll”. Chef Junichi Shimazaki’s original shop is in Machida and has been voted the best ramen in Tokyo for a few years. Machida’s a long haul from central Tokyo so I was thrilled when he opened up a shop in Akasaka in June, 2013.

What makes his ramen so special? Many facets. The flour used for making his noodles is all domestic. The broth is made from chickens from Akita prefecture. And the pork on top of the ramen is none other than Iberico pork. Some call this kodawari, an obsession to perfecting each component. It’s a great bowl of ramen. The broth, while a rich chicken flavor, is well-balanced and not too heavy. The pork was amazing. The noodles were cooked just right. The only thing I would change is that I wished that the egg was cut in half as it was hard to eat. He’s famous for his shōyu (soy sauce) ramen. Next time I’ll try the shio (salt).

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Shimazaki-san’s coiffure and dress is very 50′s, think the Fonzie, but with longer hair. Seeing his style, it makes sense why he calls his restaurant Ramen-ya Rock and Roll. It was great fun to see him in the kitchen making ramen. He’s very popular and is often seen on television and in magazines.

The shop this day was filled with mostly area businessmen and young students. I went right as they had opened up and got a seat right away. But when I left there was a line.

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The gyoza on the menu looked great, but not available until later in the day.rock4

Ramen-ya 69′N’Roll  Rock’N’Roll

Minato-ku, Akasaka 3-7-11

03-3583-5569

Harajuku Afuri

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“Regular or extra fat?” asked the guy behind the counter when I handed over my ticket from the vending machine for Afuri’s yuzu shio (yuzu and salt) ramen. No brainer. Extra fat (ōi instead of futsū for regular). A few minutes later I could smell the yuzu as he placed the bowl in front of me. You can see the yuzu peel on the egg. 

The yuzu shio is perfect on these chilly autumn days. It’s light and refreshing. The chashū is seared which adds a nice toasty note to the ramen. The egg is soft and full of flavor in the yolk. I love thin noodles and these are very thin. The mizuna is a refreshing, crunchy touch. One of my favorite bowls in the city.

As for the extra fat, it was a rich bowl of ramen, but not too fat. A well-balanced bowl with a round feel of chicken schmaltz.

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All of the seats overlook the open kitchen. J-Pop plays in the background, think Hikaru Utada, while Hayao Miyazaki’s Kurenai no Buta (Crimson Pig) plays on the TV. Today the shop is filled with a mix of young girls out shopping, area businessmen, and some students.

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This shop is in Harajuku, about three minutes from the Takeshita Dori exit from the Yamanote Harajuku line. The shop front are large windows making the shop brightly lit during the day. It’s a very friendly shop and great for solo diners. The original shop is in Ebisu (Ebisu 1-1-7) and there is also a shop in Azabu-Jūban (Azabu-Jūban 1-8-10).

Afuri 阿夫利

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 3-63-1

渋谷区千駄ヶ谷3−63−1

03-6438-1910

10:30 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.

 

Nihonbashi Sapporoya – Hiyashi Chuka Goma Dare

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* I meant to post this in the summer. Sapporoya serves chilled ramen throughout the year.

Tokyo has been unseasonably hot this week. My favorite bowl of cold ramen noodles in the whole city is a great little dive called Sapporoya.The ramen shop happens to be across the street from one of my favorite kaiseki/kappō restaurants, Nihonbashi Yukari. I love that on this narrow street you can find two contrasting meals, both exceptional, at different price ranges.

I used to work in Nihonbashi at Takashimaya department store. I came upon Sapporoya  by chance one night when looking for a quick bite to eat with a girlfriend. It was summer and the cold ramen dish was tempting. The first time I had it I think I picked up the large bowl and sipped up the broth. It is rich in umami and has a nutty sesame sauce that brings the whole dish together. When I went to work the next day at Takashimaya and shared my story with Yamada-san (older man who is a gourmet and introduced me to many great spots), he knew immediately of it. I was advised by Yamada-san that the hot bowls of ramen are also very good here. But, I am addicted to the cold ramen with sesame dressing.

I stopped by this week and was so touched that the owners had remembered me. I haven’t been back in five years, but as soon as I came into the shop I was warmly welcomed. It’s a small restaurant and most of the diners are area businessmen, so I guess as a half-Japanese woman I stick out a bit. Regardless, I was happy to be back. I am very sentimental so their kindness in welcoming back  to the shop almost brought tears to my eyes.

The dish is still as I remember. Presented in a large bowl, rich with toppings, and still with lip-smacking sauce. I no longer pick up the bowl at the end, but the thought did cross my mind. When you come into the store you place your order with the cashier. For this dish, be sure to ask for the hiyashi chuka goma dare. I don’t care for Japanese mustard so I also request karashi nuki.

Sapporoya is just minutes from Tokyo Station on the Yaesu side.

Nihonbashi Sapporoya 札幌や

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-3-5, B1

Monday – Friday 11:00~14:30 17:00~21:00

Saturday 11:00~14:30

closed Sunday and holidays

Kokubunji Menya Rikyu 国分寺 麺屋利休

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Menya Rikyū is a ramen shop in our neighborhood. It has been on television as a recommended ramen shop. There is sometimes a line, but not always. A few friends in the area also recommended it. The ramen is very good here. While it’s known for its tsuke-men we tried the shio (salt) ramen. The noodles are straight, chewy, and thick.

The ingredients for making the stock are shown on their website. What I do love is that he garnishes the ramen with buckwheat tea (soba-cha). You do get a nutty flavor and the crunchy texture of the buckwheat. If you scroll down you can see an interesting ingredient, green tea oil.

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The entrance to Menya Rikyū. Menya means noodle shop and Rikyu comes from the famous tea ceremony master, Rikyū. Hence, the connection to the green tea oil that it poured over the ramen. I couldn’t taste the tea as the broth is quite rich. The interior of the ramen shop is said to be designed after a tea room, but that too gets lost in translation.

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The shop’s name at the entrance. You’ll see a drawing of Rikyū at the counter.

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In a residential building off of the main street in Kokubunji. It’s about a five minute walk from the north exit of Kokubunji station. Worth visiting if you are in the area.

Menya Rikyū

Kokubunji-shi, Honcho 2-22-2

closed Thursday

2013 Best Shio Salt Ramen in Tokyo

Tokyo ramen restaurants are constantly being ranked. Following is a list from a recent survey of the area’s most popular shio (salt) ramen restaurants. I’ve included a link either to the restaurant’s site or to the Tabelog site so you can see photos of the ramen.

1. はじめ Hajime: Kita-ku, Jujo 2-30-9 (opened February, 2012)

2. 金時 Kintoki: Nerima-ku, Kotakecho 1-2-7 (opened March, 2012)

3. 灯花 Tōka: Shinjuku-ku, Arakicho 8 (opened June, 2012)

4. おかげさま Okagesama: Shibuya-ku, Sasazuka 1-62-8 (opened August, 2012)

5. 美志満 Mishima: Nerima-ku, Sakuradai 1-2-9 (opened May, 2012)

Tsukemen Momiji in Kokubunji 国分寺 つけ麺 紅葉

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Tsukemen Momiji in Kokubunji is a popular shop that almost always has a line outside of its shop. We went recently to the shop 15 minutes before it opened and joined the queue. Most of those in line looked like college students, and all were men. The sign above the shop says that the noodles are made by hand, “jikasei men” 自家製麺. Momiji is known for its handmade ramen noodles and for its dipping broth for the tsukemen. The noodles and dipping broth are served in two separate bowls. The noodles are dipped into the dipping broth and then slurped up. And, just as done with soba, at the end of the meal hot water is brought if you want to try it with the remains of the dipping broth.
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There is a menu with some photos outside of the shop for those waiting in line. However, everyone when we were there ordered the tsukemen. Orders are made at a vending machine inside the shop that spits out a ticket. Give the ticket to your server when you sit down at the counter overlooking the open kitchen. (I can see and understand how frustrating ordering from a vending machine is for non-Japanese speakers as the menu is only written in Japanese. But, it’s a friendly shop and you could easily point at the photo on the menu outside of the shop or just say “tsukemen” to try the signature dish.)

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And, a handwritten sign listing the types of noodles that are made at the shop. The noodles are all made for that morning.

Futomen 太麺 fat noodles that are chewy with a rich texture, suggested noodles for tsukemen

Hosomen 細麺 skinny noodles that are long and with a good texture

Hirauchimen 平打麺 flat noodles that reveal the sweetness of the flour when it’s chewed

Kawarimen 変り麺 unique, original noodles; the recipe changes from time to time

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Not sure, but I believe this is the owner of the shop. First and foremost because of the music that was playing. All classic 80′s hits, stuff like Journey’s Open Arms. The rest of the staff was young and surely this would not have been their preferred music at work. The owner was busy behind the counter cooking and serving the ramen. It’s a small shop, about a dozen seats at a long counter. There are a row of seats inside the restaurant against a wall for diners who are waiting for an open seat to sit at.

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The dipping broth for the tsukemen. It was very rich with lots of umami. You can see it had negi, menma, and naruto. On the shop’s website it says that the broth is made over 3 days using pork knuckles, chicken feet, pork bones, and chicken as well as smoked, dried skipjack tuna, flying fish, and mackerel.

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This was the futomen, the suggested noodles for the tsukemen. Very chewy and filling. If I go back I’ll try the hosomen or skinny noodles as this was a lot of noodles. However, it was obvious that these were handmade noodles and not mass produced by the texture and flavor.
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The chashu pork which was very tender and meaty, a luxury as the ramen on its own was more than enough food.

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I tried the kawarimen which was on this day an aburamen, very little, rich sauce in the bottom of the bowl, noodles, and a variety of toppings like bean sprouts, seafood sausage, menma, garlic chips, and more. This too was generously portioned and too much for me to finish.

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The kawarimen was served with vinegar that had sliced lemons in it. It was very refreshing and a good way to cut through the rich sauce in the bowl.

If you are on the Chuo line or out in the Western part of Tokyo Momiji is good to have on your radar and worth visiting. The line moves quickly so don’t let that discourage you from  coming here.

Tsukemen Momiji

Kokubunji-shi, Honcho 2-2-15

042-326-3201

Tuesday – Friday: 11:45~14:30 17:45~23:30

Saturday – Sunday

11:45~23:30(中休み無しの通し営業)

定休日 月曜日

2012 Best New Ramen Dishes in Tokyo

2012 Best New Ramen

Here’s a list of some of Tokyo’s popular ramen shops that are using new ingredients for unique bowls. Some of these shops are new while some have added new dishes to their existing menu or changed faces totally. Trends this year include shrimp, seafood, and using offal or fat from meat.

The name of the shop is in English and Japanese followed by the address and phone number.

  1. It’s shrimp! Ebi Men Senmonten Kagurazaka-ten

エビ麺専門店 神楽坂店

Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka 6-8

090-3682-8074

Fermented shrimp paste, Malaysian belanchan, is the key ingredient to this ramen.

2. Tsukemen Gonokami Seisakujo つけ麺 五ノ神製作所

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-33-16

03-5379-0203

Shrimp is used three times in making this tsukemen. The soup is made like a French bisque, pink shrimp (amaebi) heads are cooked in the lard, and dried sakura shrimp is used in the dipping sauce.

3. Motenashi Kuroki  饗 くろ㐂

Chiyoda-ku, Kanda-Izumi-cho 2-15

03-3863-7117

This shop is known for its abura soba that is based on miso. Amaebi is also used here.

4.  Ramen Enya らーめんえんや

Kita-ku, Iwacho 1-1-10

03-3905-6550

blog link with great photos (but not official site for ramen shop)

Very simple bowl of shio (salt) ramen based on a rich broth made with chicken, chicken feet, dried scallops, dried oysters, tai (sea bream), and sanma (Pacific saury).

5.  Menkoitokoro Ichimaku  麺恋処 一幕

Suginami-ku, Shimotakaido 1-31-12

03-6379-6455

blog link with great photos (but not official site for ramen shop)

Katsuobushi (dried skipjack flakes) is a key ingredient in making dashi, the basic stock used in many Japanese recipes. However, here you’ll find a very interesting samebushi which is made from shark. The flavor is similar to a katsuo stock however a bit smokier and not as fishy.

6.  Tsukemen Saidaigen  つけめん最大元

Suginami-ku, Shimoigusa 4-32-18

03-6795-5515

A very interesting fish from Nagasaki, arakabu (rockfish), is the key ingredient to the soup.

7.  Gyukotsu Ramen Matado-ru 牛骨らぁ麺 マタドール

Adachi-ku, Senjuazuma 2-4-17, Nakamura Bldg. 1F

03-3888-3443

Beef bones, suji (tendon), and achilles create a rich, meaty broth. The bowl is topped with sliced roast beef.

8.  Menya Kouno 麺や河野

Nerima-ku, Nakamura 3-13-10

Unlisted phone

Tequila in the soup and a generous topping of fresh cilantro make for an international bowl of ramen.

9.  Ramen Shii らぁ麺 波

Adachi-ku, Yanaka 4-13-12

03-5489-3389

A very creative use of vegetables for the stock make this shop worth checking out. The vegetables change with the season but have included in the past sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, leeks, cabbage, garlic, and more.

10. Mendokoro Yoshitake 麺処 芳たけ

Ota-ku, Oomori-Kita 1-15-10, Iwasa Bldg. 1F

03-3762-1881

blog link with great photos (but not official site for ramen shop)

The chef here has worked at an Italian restaurant, hence the use of dried porcini mushrooms in the broth as well as for a topping.

11. Menya Nakagawakai 麺屋中川會

Koto-ku, Sumiyoshi 2-19-5

03-5625-5545

Dried shiitake mushrooms is a popular ingredient, but this one uses fresh shiitake mushrooms. Also uses apples, oranges, apple vinegar, and yuzu ichimi.

12. Painappuru Ramenya-san Papapapapain

パイナップルラーメン屋さんパパパパパイン

Sugnimai-ku, Nishi-Ogi-Minami 3-12-1

03-3247-2181

blog link with great photos (but not official site for ramen shop)

This shop has been featured on different television programs recently as it uses canned pineapples and pineapple juice as well as pineapple as a topping.

13. Chuka Soba Tobineko 中華そばとびねこ

Toshima-ku, Sugamo 4-24-6

03-5980-8119

A very abura kasu tsukemen as fat and offal is used from beef, pig, and horse.

14. Jimbocho Kai 神保町可以

Chiyoda-ku, Kanda-Jimbocho 2-2-12, Sanesu Bldg. 1F

03-5215-5623

blog link with great photos (but not official site for ramen shop)

This shop was a former miso ramen specialist but now its signature dish is a curry tsukemen made with onions, garlic and curry powder.

Tsukiji Market Cheap Eats

Tenfusa

Tenfusa

Nakaya

Nakaya

Toritoh

Toritoh

Toyochan

Toyochan

There are so many great places to grab a cheap and delicious bite at Tsukiji Market. And don’t worry if you can’t stomach raw fish first thing in the morning. Most of these places open early in the morning and close after lunch.

Here is a short list of some of my favorites:

  1. Tenfusa 天房 is famous for long anago filets and shrimp that have been deep-fried tempura-style are placed on wide bowl of steaming rice. This is drizzled with an umami-rich sweet soy sauce and served with a side of pickles.  Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #6 (03-3547-6766). http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/24_tenfusa/index.htm (Japanese – with good photos)
  2. Nakaya 仲家 for donburi. Donburi are bowls filled with rice and topped with sashimi. Get the luxury bowl of uni, toro, and ikura, or if you are in the mood for something cooked, grilled or simmered fish over rice. Tsukiji 5-2-1 building #8 (03-3541-0211). http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/46_nakaya/index.htm (Japanese – with good photos)
  3. Yoshinoya 吉野家 is a popular fast-food chain famous for its gyudon, thin slices of beef cooked with onions and a sweet soy sauce are ladled over a bowl of rice. A branch of Yoshinoya is in New York City on 42nd Street. The first shop in the chain dates back to 1899 and was located near Nihonbashi. It moved here to Tsukiji with the move of the market. Tsukiji 5-2-1 Building #1 (03-5550-8504). www.yoshinoya.com/shop/tsukiji/index.html  (Japanese)
  4. Oomori 大森 is a curry shop, its signature dish is ½ curry and ½ gyudon. In business since 1923, the restaurant only seats 5 people at the counter. Tsukiji 4-8-7 (03-5565-3704)
  5. Yonemoto 米本喫茶本店 has been serving coffee since 1960. www.yonemoto-coffee.com. Tsukiji 4-11-1 (03-3541-6473).
  6. If you are craving ramen, head to Wakaba 若葉. Wakaba has been making ramen for 50 years with a 2nd generation cook. Tsukiji 4-9-11. (03-3546-6589).
  7. Nakaei 中栄 is a 4th generation shop serving up curry and beef hayashi. Tsukiji 5-2-1 building #1 (03-3541-8749). http://www.nakaei.com/
  8. There are many standing bars for food along Shin-Ohashi Dori. Here you will find hormone don (grilled offal over a bowl of rice) at Kitsuneya きつねや, Ramen at Inoue 井の上, soba at Jindaiji Soba Maruyo 深大寺そばまるよ. Tsukiji Donburi Ichiba 築地丼市場 runs 24 hours and the grilled tuna cheeks is juicy and meaty.
  9. Toritoh 鳥藤 is a 4th generation shop serving grilled chicken over rice. There is a large blue noren with red and blue writing to the left of the entrance. Their retail shop is just around the corner. Tsukiji 4-8-6 (03-3543-6525). www.toritoh.com (Japanese)
  10. Toyochan 豊ちゃん is a yoshoku restaurant famous for its omuhayashiraisu (ketchup flavored rice surrounded by a juicy omelet and topped with a beef stew).  Other popular yoshoku dishes include katsukare-raisu (tonkatsu and curry served over rice) and kanikurokke (creamy crab croquettes). Tsukiji 5-2-1 building #1. 03-3541-9062. http://www.tsukijigourmet.or.jp/11_toyo/#04 (Japanese – but great photos)
More information on Indo Curry Nakaei.
Orimine Bakers is a great little bakery minutes from Tsukiji Market.

Ivan Ramen

Ivan Orkin

Ivan Orkin

Ivan Ramen

Ivan Ramen

Dreams can come true. In the cold winter months, perhaps the most satisfying dish to be had in Japan is ramen. With almost 9,000 ramen shops in Tokyo, it is not hard to find one, but rare is the one where the noodles are handmade from scratch and where the chef is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

Ivan Orkin, a native New Yorker, honed his culinary skills with some of America’s top chefs, including Andre Soltner who founded Lutece and celebrity chef Bobby Flay of Bolo, both famed New York restaurants. With an impressive resume like this, one has high expectations and Ivan does not disappoint.

Before opening his ten-seat ramen shop Ivan ate his way through hundreds of bowls of ramen, taking careful note along the way. Ivan Ramen opened in 2007 and ramen junkies touted his shio (salt) ramen. Soon thereafter bloggers touted his shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. And, recently, after participating in a tsukemen event with the city’s top ramen chefs, diners are coming in asking for the noodles to be dipped in broth.

Ivan also serves a unique mazemen with a base of soy milk, slow-roasted vegetables including tomatoes and garlic with chicken soup that is served with whole wheat noodles.

His standard ramen noodles are made on the second floor of the shop along with some non-traditional flour, as well as whole-wheat, and rye noodles. Ivan’s basic stock in his restaurant is made from chicken stock and a rich, fish-based dashi made from kelp, bonito, and dried sardines.

Aside from the fact that Ivan is the first Westerner to break the ramen glass ceiling in Japan, his restaurant stands apart from the others as it is brightly-lit, family-friendly, and boasts some menu items that stray from your typical noodle shop. The slow-cooked pork and roasted tomatoes over rice will have you swooning and for those with a sweet tooth, Ivan makes ice cream.

Sunkus, the convenience store, has sold instant ramen made by Ivan, selling 600,000 bowls, as well as his original onigiri and pork bowls.

As of this writing, Ivan was serving up a limited edition Mexican mazemen of noodles topped with black bean chili, onions, guajillo chilis, dried tomatoes, lettuce, Monterey jack cheese, with a chipotle chili broth. A great combination of flavors found in his native America and his new home, Japan.

The ever-curious chef is constantly tweaking his art through reading cookbooks, and challenging himself with new gentei (limited edition) noodles.

A bowl of Ivan’s ramen will open your mind to the possibilities that exist with ramen. He brings a unique perspective and culinary skills to the world of ramen. We, the diners, reap the rewards of his creativity and constant honing of his art.

Ivan Ramen, 3-24-7 Minami Karasuyama, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, tel: 03-6750-5540, www.ivanramen.com 

This article first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

http://accjjournal.com/ivan-ramen/

Since then Ivan has opened his second ramen shop, Ivan Ramen Plus. Check out his website above for more deatils. Ivan also answered questions for us here.

Ivan’s newest shop is reviewed here by Robbie Swinnerton in The Japan Times.

Chef Q&A with Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen

Ivan Ramen Plus

Ivan Ramen Plus

Ivan Orkin is the talented chef-owner of Ivan Ramen and the recently opened Ivan Ramen Plus. A Culinary Institute of America graduate who has worked with the best including Andre Soltner of Lutece and Bobby Flay. Ivan has been very busy with the opening of his second ramen shop as well as working on what will be the definitive book on ramen in English. His first book, in Japanese, tells the story of how his first shop came to be and is very interesting read. As a chef, he enjoys going out to eat in Tokyo and I always enjoy hearing about his favorite eats.

If you go to one of his restaurants, tell him that Yukari sent you! Ivan’s very down to earth and a great guy. Best of all, his ramen is amazing. The noodles are all made from scratch and the soups are clearly made by a top-class chef. Personally I always look forward to his gentei ramen, that are only on the menu for a short time. His creativity and palate is reflected in these dishes.

Cheese Mazemen

Cheese Mazemen

The Cheese Mazemen is the recommended dish at the Ivan Ramen Plus. Following is the description from his website.

“This the Ivan Ramen Plus take on cheese in ramen! Fish soup and shoyu base, (very little soup, just enough to facilitate slurping) with mozzarella, hokkaido white cheese, parmesan and edam cheeses. On top is Katsuo fish powder sprinkled with chive oil and pickled bean sprouts. It’s cheesy and gooey and great!”

Go hungry, better yet, go with a friend so you can order several dishes to share.

Ivan Ramen

Setagaya-ku, Minami Karasuyama 3-24-7

03-6750-5540

closest station is Rokakoen on the Keio line from Shinjuku station

Ivan Ramen Plus

Setagaya-ku, Kyodo 2-3-8, Tanbaya Building 1F

03-6413-1140

closest station is Kyodo on the Odakyu line from Shinjuku

http://www.ivanramen.com/ (in both English and Japanese)

Ivan Orkin

Ivan Orkin

Ivan in front of his first shop, Ivan Ramen, holding a bowl of instant Ivan Ramen.

1.     Tell us about your second shop, Ivan Ramen Plus, and why you opened it?

My second shop is bigger, brighter and in a more accessible location.  The shop is a continuation of what I started with the first shop.  This time I started with an all fish soup as well as a dish with tons of cheese and thick noodles (which has been a runaway hit.)  I’ve since added a more traditional meat soup in a soy and salt flavor, with toasted wheat noodles.  I even do a riff on a Italian meatball on rice with a dashi inflected tomato sauce!  I decided to open the shop because I thought it was time to expand.  More people have a chance to try my food and I have another opportunity to challenge myself and cook more.  It’s been tremendous fun.

2.     Is there a difference between the two shops?

The first shop is a little bit more traditional in a variety of ways.  The ramen is a little more classic in structure, the shop is a typical ten seat tiny Tokyo ramen shop and it’s located in a kind of funky off beat location.  The new shop is larger (well, 16 seats, larger by Tokyo standards) much more modern and offers food that pushes the envelope a little bit more.

3.     Any good ramen that you have eaten recently?

I had a great bowl of ramen the other day at a shop in Kanda called Kikanbo which means literally the club that an oni or devil carries.  It’s spicy miso with both chili pepper and Szechuan pepper corns both of which you can vary the level of heat.  They have a ramen shop and 100 yards away a tsukemen shop as well.  I also love 69-n- roll and one (69 is pronounce roku, like rock n- roll) a ramen shop in Machida pretty near the train station.  It’s a legendary shop specializing in light ramen with chickens solely from Akita Ken (a prefecture in northern Japan).  There’s no talking, reading or laughing allowed, so be prepared to concentrate on the ramen, but it’s worth it!

4.     Any restaurant recommendations other than ramen that you’ve had recently?

I always love Tateru Yoshino in Ginza a French restaurant run by a Japanese Chef with a restaurant in Paris.  Its always very good and lunch is steal at 4800 yen.  The space has soaring ceilings, four star food and service and a relaxing vibe.  I also love Florilege, a newish French place in Aoyama.  This is also a steal at 4200 yen for lunch and around 10,000 yen for dinner.  The chef uses molecular techniques as well as more traditional ones, and is known for fabulous offal dishes.  They only do one sitting for lunch and dinner and then concentrate on the diner, so try to get a reservation at least a week or two in advance.  Definitely worth the trip!

5.     Can you explain the volunteer work that you and other ramen chefs are doing for Tohoku.

I have been participating in various volunteer efforts to help and heal the people of Tohoku.  I have visited a refugee center and cooked ramen for people displaced from the Fukushima region and more recently did a benefit dinner along with 40 renowned chefs from all over Japan.  More than 300 attended paying 200-500 dollars each to sample the amazing creations offered by the amazing chefs participating.  We all concentrated on building our dishes around the ingredients from Tohoku.  I am also building a website that will sell “virtual” bowls of ramen, and the money from each bowl will go to serving an actual bowl of ramen to people all over the Tohoku region. There are people suffering terribly, from the obvious, people that lost their homes and family and are living in shelters, to the  less obvious, the elderly that are living in their houses but still have no heat or running water.  There is still so much to do and we’ve only just scratched the surface.  I will forward the information on the site once it is ready.  All of the collected money will go directly to feeding those in need.  It’s going to be exceptional!

6.     Has your business been affected since March 11th, rolling blackouts, etc.?

The first month was uncomfortable and scary, lots of aftershocks, fears of no electricity, everything was uncertain.  Things have since stabilized and business is essentially back, with the occasional inexplicable slow day.

7.     Your noodles are made from scratch. Any interesting noodles lately?

My new shio (salt) and shoyu (soy) ramen both use my toasted wheat noodle.  It’s a relatively thin noodle with a great toasted wheat aroma.  At both shops combined I am currently serving seven different types of noodles.  I’ve really become something of a noodle geek and never tire of experimenting.

8.     I have always been a fan of your gentei ramen. What is on the menu at the moment? What can we look for in the future?

I have several new dishes in the works.  One is a spicy miso cheese mazemen (a type of ramen with little soup and lots of stuff that you mix up furiously and slurp up) a cold chili sesame hiyashi chukka (cold Chinese style noodles) and a cold roasted tomato ramen.  I am working on new noodles for each dish.

9.     Do you want to mention your book?

Yes.  I’ve written a wonderful book all about ramen and what has made it the undeniable champion food of Japan.  Mixed in is how I took on the challenge of opening a ramen shop in Japan and all the experiences along the way.  Unfortunately I lost the publisher, which went out of business earlier this year.  I am currently searching for a new publisher and If anyone has any ideas….  In the meantime my book is excerpted in David Chang’s new magazine “Lucky Peach” which hits newsstands next week.  Have a look if you can!

10. Anything else you’d like to mention?

I plan on continuing my goal of offering the most delicious ramen I can make and offering it with a giant smile.  I hope everyone can make a trip to Ivan Ramen or Ivan Ramen Plus if they come to Tokyo.