123 Astronaut Ellison S Onizuka St. #202
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Leave it to rameniac to discover (by chance) the newest ramen-ya on the LA scene. Located in Little Tokyo's Weller Court directly beneath the infamous Orochon Ramen, Chin-Ma-Ya of Tokyo takes a risky Sichuan-style jump across the Pacific, hoping to promote good health by making you sweat.
So why does this restaurant look so familiar? Ohhh, it's that chain of ramen-ya's from Japan! I now remember walking by the Ebisu branch, thinking "hmm should I or shouldn't I?...Nah!" I then proceeded to hit up Tsukumo Ramen instead. I now regret not trying it, solely because it could have made the basis for a great comparison. Anyhow, let's see what Chin-Ma-Ya of LA has to offer.
Tan-Tan Men: The signature ramen at Chin-Ma-Ya is the Sichuan-influenced Tan-Tan Men that can be ordered in 3 different spice levels--original (highest), medium, and mild. I chose to begin with the original cuz I'm always in the mood for a good kick. Not nearly as spicy as the dreaded "Special 2" from their upstairs neighbor, this original Tan-Tan Men has just enough spice to still make the flame enjoyable. And aside from its spiciness, there's also a great nutty flavor that permeates a heavy, concentrated soup. The noodles are average at best, but most importantly they match the soup almost perfectly. The toppings (ground pork & spinach) are typical of a simple tan-tan ramen and just as important as the noodle itself.
On the backside of the menu, a brief explanation of the inherent benefits of this type of soup are explained in Japanese. Apparently, the ingredients that make up this ramen (including capsaicin) are very good for you. From increasing circulation and promoting a healthy digestive system to stimulating the brain and building a better immune system, this bowl may end up quieting all the ramen haters out there.
Karaage Ramen (Shoyu): Aside from their signature Tan-Tan Men, they also offer a few bowls that use a traditional Shoyu or Shio base and the Karaage Ramen is one of them. As basic as it sounds, this shoyu-based ramen is simply topped with spinach and a few pieces of fried chicken. The soups flavor was enjoyably strong, but it was also a tad too oily. Perhaps it was the added oil from the karaage? The noodles were the exact same as above and not any more impressive.
The one thing that stood out the most was in fact the Karaage. I was shocked to see that it had held its crunch even after being submerged in the soup. Impressive! And oh yeah, the flavor of the Karaage was excellent!...though I'll probably just order them as an appetizer next time.
Gyoza: Notably fresh, they weren't as flavorful as one would expect. But dipping them in the tan-tan soup gives them a unique identity.
Overall, I would still prefer Shisen's soup head-to-head, but let it be known that there's a new Sichuan ramen-ya in town--a ramen-ya that can definitely hold it's own weight!