Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop

This is totally unrelated, but has anyone else been obsessed with Serial recently? I wanted to listen to it for a while now, and finally I found some time to, on my long bus ride home. It’s excellent story telling. I am halfway through the series and grossly captivated. Highly recommend!

I can’t think of a logical transition here, so I’m just going to abruptly change topics.

There seems to be a lot of quality food courts popping up all over New York from Hudson Eats to Gotham West Market. My friend and I went to check out Gotham West Market, which was quite the commitment to make because it is so far from any semblance of a subway stop. All the way out on 11th Ave, only the bus would take you there, and waiting for the bus out in the cold is miserable business. We held true though and trekked our way to the wild wild west.

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This is not your typical suburban shopping mall food court, dominated by your Sbarro’s and Panda Express. The inspiration for Gotham West Market comes from the food markets more typically found in Europe and Asia, and I love how they’ve translated that into a version fit for New York. It’s an innovative use of public space, and I hope to see more similar business ventures springing up across the city.

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The interior was very cool and industrial, with 8 different food vendors from Blue Bottle Coffee to The Cannibal. The vendors are varied in the types of food served but all delivering food at a certain level of quality. There is plenty of seating both at tables and along the bars.

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Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop is a popular choice. Ivan Orkin is probably the only white guy to have made a name for himself in Japan for making ramen. After spending a number of years in Japan and opening up 2 wildly popular ramen shops, he came back to New York, and this Gotham West Market outpost is his first restaurant in the United States. He has since opened up the flagship Ivan Ramen in Lower East Side, which I still have to go check out.

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On this particular day, Ivan was there, and we actually met him and chatted with him for a bit. He told us how the menu right now is pretty basic, and how he wants to amp it up to include more creative dishes, but he figures he’ll ease New Yorkers into it slowly. I admit that I was kind of starstruck. He also gave us recommendations and even took our order! Here, I have the shoyu ramen, made of a dashi and chicken broth. I added an egg as well. The broth is full-bodied and rich, and the rye noodles are cooked just right. I typically find all ramen to be way too salty for my taste, and though that is still the case here, this is ranking as one of my favorite shoyu ramens in the city.

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This is the vegetarian shoyu ramen, which for having a vegetarian broth, surprised me in how flavorful it was. The enoki mushrooms are a really nice touch as well that I wish were also in the regular shoyu ramen.

If you’re ever in need of a long trek to the far west side or if you find yourself out on 11th Ave for some reason, consider Gotham West Market as a food stop. Over the summer, Jeni’s Ice Cream had a stand in there as well for really expensive but amazing ice cream. Not sure if they’re still there or if it was just a pop-up, but you can tell that each vendor is serving really quality food. I don’t think you can go wrong with any choice there.

Ivan Ramen
Gotham West Market
600 11th Ave (btw 44th and 45th St) New York, NY 10036

Totto Ramen

If a restaurant’s opening time is 11 am on a Sunday morning, getting there at 11 am should not mean a 1 hour wait. But alas, when it comes to Totto Ramen, that is what it means. You have to come mentally prepared for a long wait because it’s unavoidable (unless you come at 3 pm on a weekday, but ain’t nobody got time for that), but their excellent ramen is so worth it.

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Totto uses a chicken broth, which is different from most other ramen houses that use a pork based broth. Naturally, a chicken broth misses out on all the porky fattiness, but here, it didn’t make a difference. The aroma and flavor were amazing, and I think I might even prefer this one. Get the Chicken Paitan ramen. The homemade noodles are thin and straight, and it comes with scallions, char siu pork, and nori. I added a soft-boiled egg in there too because no bowl of ramen is complete without an egg.

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I also wanted to try their pork bun, which was stuffed with a big, fat piece of pork, some greens, and some Japanese mayo. Ippudo and Momofuku do much better pork buns, so I’d say pass on this and just concentrate on the ramen.

Totto Ramen
366 W 52nd St (btw 9th Ave & 8th Ave) New York, NY 10019

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Last week, I had planned on writing this next blog post on Momofuku. This week, before I can get my post up, David Chang goes and wins the top prize in this year’s James Beard Awards. Perfect timing. A huge congratulations to the chef! I am a big fan of David Chang. He is a polarizing character, and people seem to either love him or hate him. I really admire his story: his perseverance, vision, and honesty. And of course, his food.

A must order each time is definitely…

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the pork buns. They have a good balance of lean and fatty. I could do with a bit more of the plum sauce though.

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I absolutely loved these goat sausage rice cakes. There’s a spicy kick to it, and the rice cakes are pan-fried, so they have a bit of crunch on the outside.

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More rice cakes but in a Korean red dragon sauce, which is a ridiculous name by the way. This reminded me of ddukboki, but less sweet and more spicy.

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t as excited about the ramen. Here we have the spicy miso ramen, which is not bad, but I think you can find better ramen in the city. The noodles were soggier than I like, and the flavors not as powerful. Doesn’t detract from my overall love of Momofuku though.

Fun fact: one of my good friends from college is David Chang’s niece. Small world!

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Ave (btw 10th and 11th St) New York, NY 10003

Slurp slurp: Ramen!!

I am a college student. Therefore, I eat a lot of instant ramen. And don’t get me wrong, I love that stuff! You should see my kitchen cupboard. I have instant ramen of all different flavors and brands from a variety of countries. But real Japanese ramen is on a whole other level of delicious-ness.

Ramen has taken New York by storm in the past couple of years with all kinds of ramen joints opening up all over the city. I got pretty addicted to it this summer and was fortunate enough to satisfy my cravings at many different restaurants.

Menchanko Tei has two locations in Midtown, one of which is right next to my office, so I ended visiting this place several times during the summer. And every time, I ordered the same thing: Kurobuta Hakata Ramen. A classic.

Kurobuta Hakata ramen

It’s a Tonkotsu ramen, so the broth is made from pork bone, which is THE BEST THING EVER! The soup is rich and flavorful and my favorite part of the dish. The noodles are topped with pieces of berkshire pork, pickled ginger, black mushrooms, and a soft-boiled egg. Make sure to order the Kurobuta rather than the regular Hakata ramen, as the Kurobuta comes with berkshire pork which is more tender and fatty than regular pork. Mmmmm. I love fat!

Fatty pork!

Menchanko Tei - Hiyashi Chuka

Also, they have a great cold ramen dish, which is great for the summer when you aren’t in the mood to have piping hot soup. My friend ordered this, and she loved it.

Another well-known ramen place is the extremely popular Ippudo. There is always always a crazy long line here at any hour of the day. I came at 3 pm once and there was still a half hour wait. This time, a friend and I came at 8 pm and waited for about an hour to get seated, which really wasn’t that bad. They had a bar, so we just ordered some drinks and edamame and chit chatted for an hour. Once you got seated, the service was pretty fast.

Akamaru Modern with soft boiled egg

Here, I ordered the Akamaru Modern, which is still a Tonkotsu ramen but with this dark garlic umami oil. Absolutely delicious! I added a soft-boiled egg to it as well because I can’t imagine ramen without some type of egg with the noodles.

Miso ramen with soft boiled egg

My friend got the Miso Ramen, also with a soft-boiled egg, and she loved it so much that she will not stop talking about this meal. She swears that she can’t go back to instant ramen anymore, but I think I will always have a soft spot for instant ramen no matter what.

Lastly, I also paid a visit to Ise, another Japanese restaurant with several locations across Manhattan. I went to the one on 49th St. and had their Shoyu ramen, which has a soy sauce based broth. It was fine. I’m just not a fan of shoyu ramen as much because the broth is too flat and bland compared to a tonkotsu style ramen. But that’s just personal preference.

Shoyu ramen

I wish there were ramen places in Charlottesville or in Virginia Beach but sadly there is none. Why oh why?? Will someone come down here to open up one? Pretty please??

Ramen!

Menchanko Tei
131 East 45th St.
btw Lex and 3rd Ave.
New York, NY 10017

43-45 West 55th St.
btw 5th and 6th Ave.
New York, NY 10019

Ippudo
65 4th Ave.
btw 9th and 10th St.
New York, NY 10003

Ise
151 East 49th St.
btw Lex and 3rd Ave.
New York, NY 10017