Keizo's been working at Ivan Ramen for about a month and a half now, throwing himself into the world of ramen chefery and learning the tricks of the trade. And, even though I'd had the opportunity to spend a day working with him in Ivan's kitchen at the Tsukemen Festival, I had yet to go visit my buddy at work and eat a bowl cooked by Keizo. Or at least, cooked whilst Keizo was doing prep work and washing dishes in the kitchen.
I rolled up midday on Sunday - hey, sweet, no line!
JUST KIDDING. Turn the corner and you're sunk in 25 deep. What can I say, the hungry masses know what's good and they're willing to wait for it. Ivan had devised a special new menu item - a "Tacomen."
There's recently been a surge in popularity of something called "Taco Rice", which is essentially rice topped with lettuce, cheese, tomato, chili-spiced ground meat, and occasionally some crumbled up tortilla chips. I'd call it the bastard child of a misunderstood cultural union, but since it hails from Okinawa, land of ill-fated GI couplings, I'll hold my tongue. What Ivan's done is reimagined the concept, but with a proper American-style chili, good cheese, and smokey peppers.
Too bad I didn't get to try it. I arrived right between batches of beans, so I had to "settle" for the more standard Red Chili Mazemen (mix noodles) that you see here. Fresh housemade noodles sitting in just a bit of soup and oil, topped with chopped onions and several different types of dried chili. Just the right amount of spicy, smokey, and sweet, this is another damn delicious dish.
A delicious dish that reveals itself slowly. Buried under there is another hidden treat - a layer of stewed eggplant and onion that makes each bite even better. And nothing needs to be said about those lovely gooey and wobbly eggs. By the time Ivan came by to see if I wanted some soup to dilute and drink the oil in the bowl I had already sucked it all down.
Afterwards I got to go back and hang out in the kitchen and at try out each element of the Tacomen individually. Ivan's a fun guy to shoot the shit with, even if I could never hope to match his level of New Yorkness. Before I left, Keizo pulled his most badass "ramen chef" pose. There's an unwritten law that no noodle cook can be photographed without his arms folded and a knowing look on his face. Keep on cookin' Keizo!