If you watched Chef’s table on Netflix, pretending to enjoy some of the world’s finest restaurants from the comfort of your couch, you can now order food from New York’s Ivan Ramen in Dallas and Fort Worth. Restaurateur Ivan Orkin sells bowls of tonkotsu and shoyu ramen for delivery and pickup near Uptown Dallas, Preston Hollow in Dallas, and parts of Fort Worth.
The food is sold in a ghost kitchen, which means Ivan Ramen has partnered with three existing D-FW restaurants. Noodles and broth are Orkin’s recipes, assembled at Blue Sushi Sake Grills in Dallas and Fort Worth.
Orkin and Nick Hogan, CEO of Blue Sushi’s parent company, Flagship Restaurant Group, have struck a deal to sell Ivan Ramen’s food to kitchens in Kansas City, Denver, Cleveland, Austin, Dallas and more. Currently, Ivan Ramen is available at eight locations in Nebraska and Texas only; the others are coming soon.
“We had been having discussions with Ivan for maybe five years,” Hogan says. “He’s received a lot of press and has a lot of notoriety on what is a really interesting story and a great product.”
Orkin joins many famous chefs who stepped into the ghost cooking game during the coronavirus pandemic. Food Network star Guy Fieri has five ghost kitchens in North Texas; Netflix chief David Chang has two. Even comedian George Lopez plans to sell delivery tacos under his name on D-FW starting in June.
Hogan believed his restaurant group – which operates 23 brick-and-mortar stores – could help Ivan Ramen’s two-restaurant business grow. And Orkin was receptive, especially since one of his ramen shops in New York City closed during the pandemic.
“Restaurants are tough,” Orkin says. “When you disappear, people forget about you.”
Starting the Ghost Kitchens with Hogan “gave me hope,” Orkin says, “that I wasn’t just sitting in my room complaining. I was actively developing my business.
On the Netflix show Chef’s table, Orkin is an obsessive ramen student who has spent about 20 years in Japan. He’s a big talker with a rude mouth: one of the first things he says on the Netflix special is, “I’m kind of a go.” [expletive] yourself kind of guy.
“Ramen is not delicate. It’s salty and fatty and has an explosive flavor. It’s full of umami. It is very caloric. And it’s messy. So you’re kinda like [expletive] this: I’m going to eat ramen.
For years, Hogan thought Ivan Ramen would fit into the Blue Sushi brand.
“He’s the white ramen guy and we’re kind of the white sushi guy,” Hogan says. “We are all respectful of the kitchen and love the culture, and I think the brands work together.”
Customers who want to taste Ivan Ramen can order online for delivery or pickup. Ghost Kitchen also sells steamed pork buns, spicy kyuri pickles, Japanese beer, and five kinds of sake. All of Ivan Ramen’s ghost kitchens use ramen noodles made by Sun Noodles in New Jersey, the same company that supplies the Orkin store in New York.
Selling ramen noodles for pickup or delivery was once a controversial topic among chefs. The noodles could be damaged.
“I have to admit I was very stubborn about delivery years ago, because the noodles are so delicate and because it’s so hard to make sure they taste great,” says Orkin. “But very early on in New York, all of my partners convinced me that New Yorkers really want to be delivered. And Americans in turn love deliveries. “
Ivan Ramen noodles are cooked and then shocked in cold water. They’re tossed in a bit of fat so they don’t clump together, and then they’re packaged separately from the broth, Orkin says.
“It’s pretty remarkable how good it is,” he says.
Her food first became available in Fort Worth on February 17, followed by Preston Hollow on March 10 and Uptown Dallas on March 24. This is Orkin’s first time doing ghost cooking.
And of the 30 restaurateurs featured in the episodes of Chef’s table, Orkin is the only person who sells food in Dallas-Fort Worth kitchens.
“It gave me the opportunity to provide my food to people all over the country,” Orkin says. It also forced it to solidify its distribution process, which includes shipping Japanese ingredients to all corners of the United States.
It “puts us in a great place to expand the ghost kitchen or crack open a brick and mortar,” Orkin says.
In fact, Orkin and Hogan together are opening a full-service ramen store in Arizona. Will one in Texas come next?
“There is nothing inked,” says Hogan, “but we are actively looking for opportunities. … We’re all in Texas. And we all agree with Ivan.
Ivan Ramen is a ghost kitchen operating out of three Blue Sushi Sake Grills in Dallas-Fort Worth: at 7859 Walnut Hill Lane, Dallas; 3220 McKinney Ave., Dallas; and 3131 W. 7th St., Fort Worth. Find out how to order Ivan Ramen in D-FW here.