One of the most surprising aspects of my pregnancy was how anti-climactic my due date was. I spent nine months in excited anticipation of May 9th, never imagining that after so much waiting, my daughter wouldn’t magically appear that day. Well, she didn’t. I was enormous, exhausted and more uncomfortable than I’ve ever been. The only thing that made the day bearable was the opening of Ivan Ramen.
It is a well-documented fact that my sister and I love ramen. And by well-documented, I mean that it was printed in The New York Times. Alex and I had been eagerly looking forward to the debut of Ivan Ramen for more than a year.
She got into line on Clinton Street at 4 p.m., preparing for the 5:30 p.m. opening of the doors. Noodle maestro Ivan Orkin himself greeted the ramen lovers as we queued up, commenting on my expansive girth as I promised to try not to go into labor in his brand-new restaurant (while also not-so-secretly hoping the spicy noodles would help speed nature along.)
After so much anticipation, it wouldn’t have been surprising if Alex and I weren’t just a little let down. It is just a bowl of noodle soup after all. Yet, we weren’t the least disappointed.
The pork meatballs are some of the best I’ve ever had — light and airy, with tofu providing a silken texture. And the ramen — absolute perfection. Thin rye noodles in steaming rich tonkotsu broth, topped with a tender slab of slow-cooked chashu.
I enjoyed the meal so much that when I still hadn’t gone into labor the next day, Dave and I went back for dinner. As evidenced by the photos on this blog, I did eventually have the baby. And Ivan Ramen, of course, was the first place we took her for dinner.
I’ve been at least five or six times by now, slowly working my way through the entire menu. My most recent order was the four-cheese mazemen. I know it seems shocking that it would take several trips before I tried the menu’s sole cheese-laden dish, but I’m more a fan of ramen than mazemen (which essentially consists of wet noodles rather than a soup.) Still, I love a good mac and cheese, and this Japanese version is just delicious.
The whole-wheat noodles are cloaked in a velvety mix of parmesan, asiago, pecorino, and cream cheese and topped with pickled bean sprouts and pork chashu. The acidity of the bean sprouts perfectly cuts the richness of the cheesy sauce. Still, this isn’t a dish for the faint of heart. I finished every single morsel but I also had to wear elastic-waist pants for the rest of the evening.
I’m planning to wait until the dead of winter or until I run a marathon before ordering this one again. While I could take down a bowl of shio ramen once a day, I’m saving the four-cheese mazemen for an occasional treat.
Ivan Ramen, 25 Clinton Street, 646-678-3859