When I arrived at the restaurant I saw a line of people waiting outside for a seat at the small counter that seats about 12 customers. The customers ranged in age from high school students to 80 year old ladies. Just outside of the door there is a fun sign board that says “eat here” in English with an red arrow pointing into the restaurant. This is the only English sign all others are in Japanese. The menu is, acknowledging his background, bilingual, but there were no foreign customers on the day I visited. Ivan with his fluent Japanese was extending great hospitality to each and every customer. He has a huge number of fans – he has published a book, and appears on print & TV medias.
When I was finally seated I ordered his signature ramen. While I was eating, Ivan told me some of the amazing stories from the period when the restaurant was in the process of development. He spent a month to find a right size, shape and color of bowl. He is very meticulous. Ivan spent several months to come up with the most comfortable counter seats design for all ages of customers. He concluded that the chair should be totally comfortable, but should have some features so that the customers won’t stay too long! He is focused. He visited many ramen restaurants, tasted countless bowls of ramen and finally came up with his own – light andb healthy creations that are also delicious. He is determined. He did not like pre-made noodles, so decided to make his own. The second floor of his ramen restaurant is reserved for noodle production. Ivan is American so he is doing something no Japanese ramen chef is doing. He makes a whole wheat noodles in addition to teh traditional variety.
OK, here is my critique of his ramen, but as I said, this is Japan where everyone is ramen connoisseur, so maybe some want agree with me. The noodles have very good texture, are cooked properly and have good taste. The broth is flavorful, but lighter than most of the Japanese counterparts. The simmered pork, which is cooked with little shoyu, presented sweetness and was a perfect marriage partner to his broth. Ivan’s ramen is light and delightful. Take a look at his bilingual Website and if you are ever in Tokyo it is worth the trip:http://www.ivanramen.com/story1.html. Be aware that the shop is open evenings only on weekdays. You must go on the weekend to enjoy lunch at Ivan Ramen. You will get a warm welcome from him!