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Dec 1, 2008 08:06 AM

Ivan Ramen - Minami Karusuyama - Tokyo

Was intrigued (and inspired) by the story behind this ramen ya ever since first reading about it a few months back (see link to WSJ article below). So went along on a Sunday afternoon and found myself waiting for 50 minutes to get in having started queueing up at 2.45pm.

Really enjoyed the place (nice simple decor and cool music), the food and Ivan, the owner/chef. Had tsukemen ("dipping") noodles with a "shoyu everything" broth for Y1200. Found the noodles seriously al dente, my preference is for more chewy than firm to the bite but still good. The broth was a revelation, sweet and sour as Ivan described it, packed with flavour yet surprisingly light and non-dehydrating. The chashu was excellent so too the hanjuku tamago although I wouldn't describe myself as a ramen toppings expert by any stretch of the imagination. When I quizzed Ivan about the derivation of his broth, he said that it was his own creation rather than representative of any particular part of Japan. I found him hugely passionate, knowledgeable and affable - it's a bonus for non-Japanese speakers to be able to interact and learn from a chef like him.

There's other stuff on the menu I would like to try out, I hope to make it back there at some point soon.

Ivan Ramen
3-24-7 Minami-Karusuyama
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Nearest Subway: Roka-Koen (Keio Line

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  1. Great, thanks oonth. I've wanted to try this for awhile.

    5 Replies
    1. re: lost squirrel

      If you go, be sure to get a bowl of the pork and dried tomatoes over rice. And, he makes ice cream too!

      And, he is very cool and easy to talk to. Did you know he makes his own noodles from scratch?

      1. re: Yukari

        That pork and rice dish sounds good. Also he does some kind of riff on the classic Sichuan noodle dish dan dan mian using a blend of house made chilli oils which I would like to try. Talking to him, it sounds as though Chinese food is his first love ahead of the likes of Mexican and Japanese. He comes across as the kind of guy you could happily talk to all day about all kinds of foods and cuisines.

        Before going I had read about the home made ice cream (lemon I think) but totally forgot to order some, I think that it would be the perfect antidote to a bowl of ramen.

        Btw how would you most accurately translate the word "sappari" as used in the metropolis article above? I'm assuming "refreshing" in a citrusy kind of way, is that right?

        1. re: oonth

          yeah, i can't really think of a better translation for sappari in that context... Sappari can also mean refreshing in the 'just had a shower' sense or even relief.. (you often hear old men saying 'sappari shita' after having a pee.) hahaha

          1. re: foreignmuck

            Thanks FM, very droll. I think that we'd both kill to have somewhere like Ivan Ramen (or countless other ramen yas from across Japan) in London. Sometimes I think that setting up a proper ramen shop in London should be my next project in life.......

            1. re: oonth

              Yes, i'm constantly having this convo with friends. Its the one thing London lacks, and the likes of wagamamas is depressing.
              maybe now is a good time to start one - cheap rent, and a demand for good value good food.

    2. I was there back in August. Ivan is a great guy! You can just tell that he loves what he does, which makes Ivan Ramen that much better. I can't wait to return next year! He also had great recommendations of other ramen-ya's in the area. I'm glad to hear his lines are still long.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Keizo

        I'm meeting a friend there for dinner in January. Really looking forward to finally trying it!

        1. re: Debbie M

          He was featured on a Japanese news show recently and he said he buys all his ingredients from the vendors in the neighborhood--a sure way of building good relationships in the community.

          1. re: foodslut

            I just spoke with Ivan the other night and he said that he has a "tonkotsu" ramen that he started serving on Monday night. It's limited and won't be served all winter long, so if you can, go and get it now. He said it is a light tonkotsu and not rich and meaty as most can be.

          2. re: Debbie M

            Debbie M and I ate there tonight. I found it thoroughly delicious as it was before. There was a slight lull and we got to talk to Ivan as we were leaving. He has a commercial cup noodle product that has already sold out nationwide. He has a book that is selling well. He's on TV multiple times per month.

            One thing that I concluded is that he is like the physician who goes into medicine to help people instead of doing it to get rich. He went into this business due to his passion for ramen, drive to create a superior product and basically to make the world a better place. Success has come because of this simple focus. His enthusiasm and attitude really shows.

            This is truly a nice, feel good story. If you're in the Tokyo area be sure to stop by. He really seems to enjoy having English speaking customers from overseas come by to enjoy his ramen. This is no fad. It's got some staying power.

            Mitch S

        2. just bringing this thread back up to note that ivan moved back to the New York area has now opened a restaurant in NYC.

          Are his two restaurants in Tokyo still open?

          4 Replies
          1. re: prasantrin

            Oh finally a post that's not about Michelin or sushi! (Thank you!)

            Ivan's website lists two locations in NY and two in Tokyo, and seems to be up to date as of last month.

            1. re: Robb S

              the real coup would be a post that wasn't about michelin, sushi, tonkatsu or ramen. :-)

              I'd like to find the best mitarashi dango, but that will have to wait till my next trip to Japan (a long way off from now).

              1. re: prasantrin

                I thought I was the only who felt this way. And nobody seems to want to talk about Horumon.

                1. re: Shirang

                  And why would anyone? It's literally meant to be thrown away.

          2. I'm bookmarking this one. My son lives in Setagaya-ku, and we are going to visit him in spring. Thanks!

            3 Replies
              1. re: kamiosaki

                Same one I posted above. But here's another link--kind of interesting. Maybe there should be a thread about the rules of eating ramen


                1. re: prasantrin

                  Eat fast, get out of the shop, say you're not doing this again for a long time. Repeat.