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Ivan Ramen/Minami Kurasuyama


I saved my 100th review for Ivan Ramen, a very enjoyable shop in Minami Kurasuyama in Setagaya-ku, about 5 minutes walk from Rokakoen Station on the Keio Line. Ivan Ramen is a ramen shop run by Ivan Orkin, an American from New York who has been living in Japan for a long time. Ivan Ramen is the only ramen shop in Tokyo that I am aware of that is run by a non-Japanese person. (There are a couple shops run by celebrities of mixed heritage but they are a separate review.) On a cold, cold Saturday afternoon in February I was finally able to get out there after reading about him in the Wall Street Journal, hearing the reports on NPR, and various mentions on other people's blogs. When I got there, there was already a line of 10-15 people outside the shop. This is really impressive after only 7 months of operation. Frequently, ramen shops, even in more centrally-located areas, take a year or more to get famous and profitable.

I had the chashu slow roasted garlic mazesoba. Maze (mah-zay) means "mix", and the mazesoba is noodles mixed with a small amount of thick soup. While the ingredients are different (e.g. compared to a place like Junk Garage), the basic idea is the same - to have a small amount of soup to flavor the noodles. In a certain sense then mazesoba is halfway between regular ramen and tsukemen. The garlic flavor was well-balanced, not too overpowering, and the leek onion topping with a clove of roasted garlic on top complemented it nicely. Other customers in the store ordered other things in addition to ramen, some of the pork and tomato meshi bowls looked exceptionally good and I will get them on my next visit. I was able to chat with Ivan for a few minutes before leaving. He's a very friendly guy who clearly enjoys making and eating ramen and chats and jokes around with both his customers and employees. Having worked in New York City (as he has) and the surrounding areas for a large part of my adult life, I can tell you that this type of positive attitude towards your product and your customers is great to see anywhere. It's also good to see that he supports other local businesses by buying local ingredients and participating in the community.

Please visit Ivan Ramen and show your support for him and his delicious ramen!

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