Tucked away on an unsuspecting street in New York’s East Village lies the eponymous ramen shop of chef Ivan Orkin. After just one taste of Ivan’s signature scrumptious soup, you will be hooked…
We first met Ivan when he created a British take on this Japanese classic as part of the celebrations for our Madison Avenue flagship launch and have been recommending his restaurant to New York-bound adventurers ever since.
With a cacophony of sizzles and slurps (it’s a ramen thing) providing the soundtrack to our lunch, we asked Ivan to tell us about his New York meets Tokyo journey.
How did you get started out in the restaurant business?
“I started late; I worked as a dishwasher in a sushi bar in high school and just fell in love with Japan. I majored in Japanese in college and then went to Japan because I figured I should probably live in the country that I had spent so much time studying. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do there and came home a little bit dejected but after a little while, I decided that food was what I was really interested in. I went to the culinary institute of America and now it has been 20 something years and I haven’t even considered doing anything different.”
What is it about Japanese cuisine and the culture of eating that it so enticing?
“I like the sharpness of the flavours and the lightness of the flavours. Eating and drinking is an integral part of Japanese culture. People work really hard but when they go to eat they are able to put aside all of the stresses of the day. In the West, we often get plate of food and then everyone digs in and stops talking whereas in Japan there is more of a flow to dinner.”
How do you go about creating a new dish?
“I often have an idea of a flavour and then start from there. I eat out a lot I will come home and say ‘my god I want to make something like that’ or ‘that flavour was so exciting, how can I do something with that flavour’…”
“People eat with their eyes. You want to grab a person’s attention from the second the food comes to the table. You want to have a plate of food that looks enticing and exciting; that when it’s carried through the dining room people say to the waitress, ‘I’ll have what they’re having’.”
How does Ivan Ramen reflect your style as a chef?
“We wanted to create a diner that was really urban and hip and fun. The mural was created by a family friend. I wanted an exploding ramen bowl with all of its ingredients and it took her about two months to lay all of the tiles by hand.”
The one thing you never leave home without…
“I never leave home without something to read. I am obsessed with the New York Times and have been since I was about ten. I always read it cover to cover.”
Ivan Orkin lives and breathes Japanese culture and this dedication to his craft shines through in each of his meticulously articulated dishes and the environment he creates around them. We would say more but some things are simply better in the eating…