Japanese Animation at Ivan Ramen and below the wallpaper in the bathroom at Russ and Daughters is an homage to the numbers you take to establish your place in line at the original store (which can often be very crowded especially around jewish holidays).Whitefish Chowder with Piment D’ Espelette and MatzohAt first glance Russ and Daughters and Ivan Ramen would seem to have very little in common: one is the restaurant off shoot of a hundred year old store that has provided smoked fish, herring, “appetizers” and Caviar to the Lower East Side, the other is a trendy spin-off of a Japanese Ramen mini chain.
Below is Ivan Ramen’s Daikon salad topped with dried shrimp and scallops that are made to taste like bacon.
Ivan Orkin is a Jewish kid from Long Island who moved to Japan and fell in love and succeed, against all odds, in opening up an insanely successful ramen shop in Japan (2 actually). Russ and Daughters is still a family run business, that has succeeded in staying open for a century by selling the ultimate New York Jewish mainstay: Lox and Cream cheese. It was the new generation’s idea to sell sandwich out of the shop that became so successful that they needed to open up a restaurant to accommodate the sandwich business. Pictured below was my favorite dish at a recent lunch: Hot Smoke/Cold Smoke, Kippered (baked) Salmon & Scottish Smoked Salmon Spread with homemade Waffle-Cut Potato Chips. Oh baby we have come a long way from bagels and a smear.
Both of these eateries share a crisp, whimsical, elegant look, with idiosyncratic touches that given them warmth and a sense of place. Russ and Daughters succeeds brilliantly at modernizing and evoking the store, only for a new generation: Ivan Ramen uses back-lit panels of Japanese animation (like the one above) juxtaposed to a huge wall of Japanese collage to of set off the spare and clean lines of the rest of the room.Both offer high quality, often very clever food (Ivan makes his Ramen with Rye flour) and Russ and Daughters offers sandwiches with names like: The Heebster.
Below a bowl of Ivan’s heavenly Ramen, which is all about the noodles, the broth was delicious but it was in a ration that almost made it seem like a “sauce for the main attraction: the noodle.Both of these restaurants have opened up to well deserved acclaim. Both have the feel, at least to me as a resident of the Lower East Side, as instant classics. These two new places share a sensibility about making creative food based in old traditions, yet infused with exciting new life. These are places that years from now when I am scooting around on my walker I know they will still be here, still with lines around the block.