Is Ivan Ramen What We’ve Been Waiting For? Our Man Jared Blake Scharff (from SNL) Weighs In

Back in August, SNL guitarist Jared Blake Scharff confessed to Zach on the Food is the New Rock podcast that he would love to write for Midtown Lunch.  Well, it only took 3 months but here’s his first contribution!  If you listened to the episode of the podcast you know he’s a huge fan of ramen so it only makes sense that we would have him review the first NYC location of Ivan Ramen in the Gotham West Market.  You can follow Jared on Twitter @scharffishere and Instagram @scharffishere

“Saturday Night Live Guitarist, Producer/Writer, Ramen Enthusiast” states my Twitter profile, so let there be no confusion… I’m MEGA-serious about my Ramen! I got my first taste of “adult” ramen (aka non-dorm room “top ramen”) a few years back when Momofuku Noodle seemed like the only game in town. First bowl in and my world had changed. I went to Japan a month or so after that and quite possibly ate my weight in Ramen. Looking back on it now, I may have discovered my own personal heaven in Japan, the place where I learned what Ramen truly could be.

Unless you live under a rock, you may have noticed the ongoing Ramen explosion in New York City (and Los Angeles) over the past few years. Along with this comes absurdly long lines, additional locations being added, and increasing ramen varieties amongst all the competitors. While all of this has been rapidly growing, so has the legend of Ivan Orkin. Orkin, a self proclaimed “Jewish kid from Long Island”, rose to fame with his own critically acclaimed Tokyo shop “Ivan Ramen” in 2007. He has been doing sold out pop-ups in NYC throughout this past year but this past week finally settled down into a permanent location in NYC. It looks like Ivan Orkin is back and here to stay.

Enter “Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop” at Gotham West Market.

GWM is a new, upscale market with top notch food options like Blue Bottle, El Comadao, and Little Chef plus Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop which operates a cafeteria-style counter service with one long Ramen bar. The menu features 5 Ramen varieties (Classic Shio, Classic Shoyu, Vegetarian Shoyu, Roasted Garlic Mazeman, Chili Eggplant Mazeman) plus 3 rice bowls (smoked whitefish!?!)

I ordered the Classic Shio. The portion felt small and it was cooler in temperature than I was accustomed to. As a tonkotsu lover I was nervous that the soup itself, a chicken and double dashi broth, wouldn’t stand up to the popular style most of us are used to in NYC. Dead wrong. This ramen had confidence, intensity and an amazing depth of flavor. In addition to the broth there was sea salt, scallions, pork chasu and Ivan’s own custom toasted rye noodles, which all harmonizied like the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. If you are a protein whore, go for a double dose of pork chasu, otherwise it’s just one piece.

I went back the following day upon a line cook’s recommendation to try the famous roasted garlic mazeman (and threw in an order of classic shoyu for good measure!) The soy sauce ramen was heartwarming and comforting, transporting me back to my great grandmother’s chicken soup.

Then I hit up the Roasted Garlic Mazeman and my taste buds exploded. Deep and rich garlic flavor combined with a thick broth that eats more like a cheesy pasta dish. OMG. The flavor lingered on my tongue for hours and I cannot wait to jam my face into that bowl again. This is one you don’t want to miss and it makes sense that this is one of the Ivan Ramen “hits”.

After speaking with one of the line cook’s about my experience he said, “It’s everyday ramen”. That’s when I really understood the appeal. Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop is unlike any other ramen experience in NYC. It’s in an industrial looking food court way out on 11th ave, the lines are completely manageable (although probably not for long), combines Japanese style double soups, multiple vegetarian ramens, custom toasted rye noodles, etc. No two ramen are alike. While some may balk at the $13 price tag for a smaller bowl of noodles, it’s worth the trek. Order two and have an adventure. Is it what we’ve been waiting for? It certainly just changed the game.

- by Jared Blake Scharff


  • If 11th avenue is now Midtown lunch you better be coming over to 2nd avenue too.

  • first, basing on Momofuku for comparison is where you went wrong. They’re not even in the top 10 in NYC. Go to Japan and then we can have this discussion.

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    Not saying I’m poor or anything, but I’m not even close to being as loaded as this dude apparently is: “While some may balk at the $13 price tag for a smaller bowl of noodles, it’s worth the trek. Order two”

    Hah! Like the solution to overpriced, small portions is to DOUBLE DOWN and just pay $26 for a ramen f*cking lunch. Pass.

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      I mentioned in the comments yesterday that the best bet is to go with another person and split a side dish or rice bowl. Definitely not a place I would go too often though based on the prices

    • My thoughts exactly.

      (Also, welcome Jared!)

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    Thank you for the wonderful review. It felt as if I was there eating those bowls with you. Though, this will be as close as I get to eating here until I find 3 people who are willing to split two bowls for $26.

  • Nice review, but as my frugal ML colleagues have already pointed out, you need a good reason to go past the $10 mark on this site. At these prices, you’re firmly in Ippudo’s territory.

    I did enjoy the review, and if I wasn’t on the other side of Midtown I’d probably splurge on the garlic mazeman based on what you wrote.

    • And go past the $10 mark while trekking way out of bounds, where one would think the rents are lower than Midtown and a restaurateur could get by with cheaper, not more expensive, ramen as a result.

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    For those concerned about the price, here’s one thing that’s relevant – there’s no wait service. You pick up your ramen on a tray from where you order it. In my book, that means tips are lower. You have to eat in at Totto/Ippudo, where there’s wait service, so that contributes to the cost.

    That said, it’s still not a good midtown lunch. The $13 doesn’t include tax, and the servings are noticeably smaller than competitors, both in toppings and noodle broth. While I thought the broth flavours were deep and rich, I found it all in all less satisfying than Totto Ramen. That said, the whitefish donburi is pretty good, as is the chili oil side.

    The whole Gotham West complex is a bit expensive, and isn’t designed as a cheap option. Two mahi mahi fish tacos at the ‘cheap’ option, Genuine Roadside are more than $12!

  • I tried Ivan Ramen last week. It was ok. The high price to portion ratio plus minimal toppings was disappointing. Totto Ramen has to be the most overrated ramen shop in the city. It has the same problem as Ivan ramen in terms of price to portion except the noodles and broth are very uninspiring. It blows my mind that people wait in line for hours there.

  • I also want to mention you can get substantial bowl of ramen in Japan for 5-8 bucks. It’s also very expensive to live there.

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      Yes, you can get a substantial bown of ramen in Tokyo for $5-8 (easily). You can get an even cheaper bowl of udon! However, just like you can get a cheap bowl of ramen in Tokyo, you can get a substantial but cheap burger in NYC easily for $5-8 (Shake Shack, Burget Joint, etc). A burger of that quality at that price in Tokyo next to impossible. Apples for apples.

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    It doesn’t bother anyone else that it is $2 for an egg?

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