Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Best Ramen Bowls in LA #3: The Ramen Joint

I cannot believe I'm writing another post already.  I had planned to have ramen today as I was going to be around LAX, but I didn't expect to go Friday night.  Today, I visited The Ramen Joint, another one of The Best Ramen Bowls in LA, by Discover LA.  It's only about 5 to 10 minutes north of LAX off Sepulveda Boulevard on 6220 W 87th St, Los Angeles.  As I've stated before, I usually only go out of my way for these places when I plan to be in the area.  Either that, or I come up with an excuse to go.  In this case, I was picking up my aunt from LAX as she had a quick layover.

Now, there really isn't much around in that area, at least off that specific side street, except for a Thai restaurant, so safe to say, the line that forms is due to a lack of other choices.  Nonetheless, like any other ramen restaurant in Los Angeles (it would seem), the restaurant itself was quite small, probably could only seat about 15-25 people with only one table for four people.  It's atmosphere is quite minimalist, where menus aren't even handed out, instead your attention is directed to a blackboard with all the choices.  If you're elderly and can't see, hopefully you have friends who can relay the contents orally.  As recommended in the article, I ordered the Shoyu Tonkotsu ramen, in which I also asked to have a seasoned boiled egg and crispy garlic chips.

The bowl comes with pork chashu, woodear mushrooms, green onion, bamboo shoot, and wild perilla seed.  The noodles themselves were very similar to the ones served at Shin-Sen-Gumi, thin and white.  Now I usually prefer my noodles to be firm, as they offer a better texture when it comes to chewing, but I've come to realize that unless the restaurant offers the choice, don't bother asking.

When the bowl came, I was excited.  All of the ingredients were prominently displayed, waiting to be devoured.  From the dark swirls of the woodear mushrooms, to the beautiful sheen of the egg.  To my chagrin, there seem to be a distinct layer of oil in the bowl, about 0.5mm.  It was a little bit disconcerting, but I wasn't too worried.  To begin with, the broth was quite flavorful, almost overpoweringly so.  You could taste the shoyu and tonkotsu mixture based on the saltiness but also the deep pork bone flavor.  Most tonkotsu broths leave a creaminess sensation to the bowl, in contrast, the broth was smooth.  The saltiness of the shoyu and the sweetness of the pork bone really combined beautifully.  The woodear mushroom provided a great earthly contrast of flavors, and help cleanse the mouth in between noodles and broth.  The pork, well not as soft as other restaurants, still packed a punch when it comes to flavor.  It was a sizable piece both in thickness and length.  Later as I explored the bowl, I found that the oil didn't really seem to affect me other than noticing it visibly, and that if anything, it helped showcase a depth of flavor that seemed stronger than most other bowls.  The biggest surprise was the egg.  Typical soy-sauce marinade, the egg was hard on the outside, in the sense that it was solid, however the inside blew me away.  Somehow, the chef recreated the poached like softness on the inside, the egg white enveloping the golden sweet pouch of the yolk.  I was enamored.  It reflected great skill and care in the preparation.  As I bit into it, I enjoyed the sweet and savory yolk with immense satisfaction.  The garlic chips were a little bit unsatisfactory though.  Clearly prepared in advance, there was a bit of a staleness to it and the burnt flavor of the garlic was a bit overpowering when not paired with noodles (as I had run out by the time I poured the rest of the chips in).

If anything though, I was a little bit disappointed with the serving size and I find that the problem lies in the noodles.  With the thin noodles, there's a lack of filling, the portion sizes were smaller than I expected and it didn't feel like I had enough. I finished all the noodles with about half of the soup left, when I usually like to have about 1/3 left to enjoy.  I felt a little bit unsatisfied because I wanted more, but couldn't bear to dish an extra 2$ for more.

Overall, for about 12$, it's not as much as you'd hope, but the quality and the flavors certainly make up for it.  With such a small little business, it seems like a secret gathering.  With only 5-8 people waiting outside, it felt like the restaurant was just waiting to explode with people.  Yet with such a small staff on our visit, they too struggled to keep up with the demand.  There seem to be more to-go orders than in-house dining.  If you're in for a quick layover at LAX and want something other than In-N-Out, I would recommend The Ramen Joint.  You'll leave satisfied, and your appetite just about sated, though I would recommend extra portions of the noodles.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice Bowl (Little Tokyo) Review

I love coming to Daikoyuya Original Noodle & Rice Bowl (Little Tokyo) Not only is it an amazing place to eat, but it also has a great deal of nostalgia factor for me. It was one of the first places I visited as a first year in college.  I remember borrowing a bike from Oxy Bike Share, taking a ride down and having an amazing bowl of ramen.  Looking back, I remember that first bowl quite fondly.  I remember walking into the shop after chaining up my bike nearby, sitting at the bar and just delving into a bowl of delicious ramen.  The tastes, the smells, even the atmosphere, brought me back to my brief childhood in Japan.  I loved it.  I've explored other stores for ramen in L.A. as evidenced by this blog, but Daikokuya is always fun to go back to.

When I go, I always order the Daikoku Ramen with firm noodles and the kotteiri flavor, which is added oils to make the ramen richer and thicker.  Daikoku ramen is their "famous tonkotsu soup base, infused with their secret blended soy sauce."  It comes with chijire style egg noodles, kurobuta pork belly chashu, soy sauce marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, green onions and sesame seeds.  To make it a satisfying meal, I always get the combination which adds a salad and a rice bowl of your choosing.  I get the Oyako Don, or Japanese Chicken & Egg rice bowl.  They have the option to add your own minced garlic and benishoga (pickled ginger).

The quality is always the same, superb.  The tonkotsu, or pork bone broth is simply fantastic.  There's a depth to the flavor that is indicative of a broth that has been cooked for a very long time.  With the added oils, it adds a bit of creaminess that adds another degree of satisfaction.  I always add some minced garlic to help accentuate the broth, but also add a subtle kick that really completes the bowl to my liking.  The firm noodles add a degree of chewiness which I prefer, as it provides a contrast in texture between the crunch of the bamboo and the bean sprouts as well as the soft pork belly.  Finally, the soy sauce egg is sweet and satisfying, that helps wrap up the bowl.  As I finish the broth, the garlic I add reveals that spiciness and kick that helps finish the meal.  

With the oyako don, its always simple.  Sweet and savory, coming together in a small bowl that helps sate my appetite.  That soft cooked egg and chick combine with the rice that honestly, makes a satisfying meal in itself.  Not to mention the onions that have been cooked into the bowl that are soft and crunchy in a paradoxical fashion.  It's not too salty, and actually a bit underwhelming in flavor when compared to the ramen.  Still satisfying nonetheless.  

I always recommend Daikokuya to my friends and family who visit because, in my opinion, it's one of the better ramen places in Los Angeles.  It's a mainstay in Little Tokyo, with its walls decorated with old Japanese movie posters and the bar, designed to be like a typical ramen joint in Tokyo.  All that is missing is the vending machine that prints out ramen tickets.  The atmosphere is busy and electrifying as the door spins constantly as patrons walk in and out.  Food comes at a frenetic and passionate pace in order to keep up with the demands of an always full restaurant.  I arrived at 10:00 PM and waited 15 minutes for a spot at the bar.  For 18$ including tax and tip, this is always a must-visit for out of town visitors looking for ramen.  I always leave satisfied.  

Address is 327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012.