After an early infatuation with Italian restaurants, it would seem that Brunch with Bear is becoming increasingly obsessed with ramen. Ramen, besides being excellent comfort food, is a great food for the summer. Warm, spicy, and satisfying, ramen has all the qualities of a successful summer evening. Last week was my friend’s birthday and he had originally wanted to go to Totto Ramen. After attempting to wait out the crazy line for about ten minutes, we found our way towards the Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, a hip and happening establishment amidst the other hip and happening establishments of Gotham West Market.
Gotham West Market is located on 11th Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets, just a short walk from the 42nd Street Station on the A, C, and E trains. You can take pretty much any of the trains into Times Square, but the market is far on the west side, so I suggest crossing over to the exits by the A, C, and E trains in order to be closer, or catching a crosstown bus. On a breezy summer night, it was a perfect walk away from the nauseating bustle of Times Square.
Gotham West Market is similar to Chelsea Market, where the Brunch with Bear team visited Friedman’s Lunch, in that hipster food hall way. Picture an upscale NYC food court, and that’s the general idea. They have multiple vendors within a single communal dining hall, with individual bars and counters for each purveyor. Ivan Ramen is very close to the entrance, and we were lucky to find a much shorter line than Totto, but with equally crowded tables. The employee on the phone had encouraged us with her friendly demeanor and enthusiasm.
Ivan Ramen has all the standard shoyu and shio ramen choices, but I opted for the more unique roasted garlic mazemen, considering how I order shoyu at almost every ramen place. Add-ons are an additional cost, but ramen isn’t really ramen until you add an egg, so I was willing to fork over the extra dollar or whatever. Our server was really nice—potentially the same employee from our phone call—and was able to make suggestions and give information about the different dishes without being pushy or rushed, even when there was a long line forming. She checked and double-checked about the allergies, and it seemed like all the servers knew that the ramen was dairy-free and peanut-free.
Ivan Ramen wraps the spoon and chopsticks in a darling wrapper, which are served with your perfect bowl of ramen on a silver platter. Like Starbucks, you pick up the tray when you hear your name, and attempt to find an empty couple of chairs at the communal benches. Water is available at a water station, but beware, the bottles that you can fill for your table are slightly top-heavy. Not saying that someone knocked over an entire, mostly-full bottle of water, but hypothetically, if he did, it was a really messy and soggy accident and it’s really hard to pour water when you have paws without opposable thumbs and the bottle is taller than you.
Imagine a fragrant and hearty hug, one that envelopes you in a comforting cloud and makes you feel secure and warm. That is what I imagine garlic to be in the food world, and this garlic mazemen was like eating one of those hugs. The scallions on top were sprinkled with the roasted garlic, and the soup, though less than the shoyu, was intensely flavorful and complementary to the main garlic vibes. Roast pork in ramen is usually sliced thinly, but this pork was thick and juicy, and the soft-boiled egg added a silky texture that really brought the whole meal together.
As with all cuisines, there are restaurants that do well with traditional dishes, and others that do well by “reinventing” foods, or basically adding weird things to them to make them good in a weird way. Ivan Ramen did a nice shoyu and I’d be interested to sample some other classic dishes, but I think they get major flair points for this particular creation.
Gotham West Market is a great place for a casual meal, and I can see it being a welcoming and friendly atmosphere at any time of the day. The majority of the other customers were definitely young professionals, out for a leisurely bite on a Friday night. Ivan Ramen itself was immensely popular, and we were able to enjoy our New York moment. The one complaint is that the prices are a little expensive comparative to the portion size, considering they charge extra for things like eggs and chili oil, and they could have easily put twice as many noodles in the bowl. However, for a special occasion and a real treat, the garlic mazemen was worth the extra dollars, as it made for a memorable and enjoyable evening.
Though I’m still partial to the enormous portions of Totto Ramen and the breathing space of Jin Ramen, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop was a pleasant surprise. I’d be excited to check out their flagship location in the East Village, but the Slurp Shop in Hell’s Kitchen is the perfect place to grab a bite before seeing a show, catching a movie, or people-watching in Bryant Park!