Welcome to my ramen dream... Currently being interpreted in Ramen Burger Land... Looking for a good slurp? Email me ! - Keizo

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ramen arrest...

Day 638:

I heard there was a new ramen joint in the SGV that was worth trying. So we went to try it before spending the day in Hollywood. Ton-chan, located where Aji-man used to be, serves "Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen" (Iekei?) with a mission "to spread happiness in a bowl of ramen." Oookay, let's give it a try!

When we arrived the place was packed. Normally this is a good sign, but I quickly saw that the service was in shambles. The frustrated faces of waiting customers told me that we would be in for some fun. Yay. Let me just first say that the service was indeed horrible. But I can't put all the blame on the servers. Lack of proper training seems to be the main culprit. The kitchen was a mess. Orders kept getting mixed up and forgotten, explaining why the customers were so frustrated. I honestly felt like getting up and helping them, but I resisted. When the chaos somewhat settled down, I received my bowl of shoyu ramen. This was not an attractive bowl as you can tell--a sure sign that the chef was losing his cool. The soup was interesting. It was thick, but tasted a bit watered down (I'll get to that shortly) and it left my lips feeling very oily. I didn't like it very much.

The noodles were chewier than what I've found in most other bowls slurped in LA, but nevertheless they were missing something. Now getting back to the soup: After observing the chef make several bowls, I noticed that he wasn't shaking the water out of the noodles at all. Once again a lack of proper training.

And what is this? Unacceptable!

So after I received my bowl of ramen and then finished it, my girlfriend's tsukemen finally came out. Bad timing also equals bad service.

As for the taste...very fishy. In my opinion, tsukemen should not be served in LA until someone figures out how to make good noodles.

Another clump? Are you kidding me? Sigh.

Where's Neo when you need him?

I would have called on MJ...

...but he was too busy hustlin'.

Anyway, I wasn't gonna leave LA without trying Ramen Jinya, especially after reading Mr. Gold's description of the soup as "a broth on steroids, a broth that seemed to be trying to establish the record for the most umami per milligram."

I ordered the Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen. So what did I think? There won't be any Oscars given out for Best Ramen this year. I could definitely tell that this bowl was cared for (unlike Ton-chan's), but the soup just seemed very average. And where was this aforementioned umami? The spinach needs to go and the fried onions need to stay on grandma's casserole.

In this case, strangely enough, I would have liked the noodles to be more stiff with more bite. But that's just me. I'm not an expert, I'm just a freak.

I respect all these new ramen shops in LA and what they are trying to accomplish, but after spending the last few years devoted to the noodle, we still have a long way to go. Anyway, I'm done with eating ramen in LA. I still have a week left, but I won't be slurping another bowl until I get back to Tokyo. For now I think I'll just climb buildings and act angry and enjoy the views from above.

If you visit Los Angeles, you absolutely have to visit the Griffith Observatory at dusk.


  1. Your experience at Ton Chan was very different from mine. My bowl was prettier to look at, no clumps, not watery, not oily. But for a place to be truely good, they have to be consistently good. Since it's so close to home for me, I'm hoping they find a way to get it together and keep it together, even when the pressure is on.

  2. Anytime a critic like Gold showers one place with such glowing praise it reeks of fakery.

    But more importantly: What does he know anyway?

    Jinya just reminds us of what plagues most ramen in LA: OK-ness.

    Keep slurping!!!

  3. Hey Keizo! Gold's a great writer, but I think he should just stop reviewing Japanese food altogether.

    I've found the only passable tsukemen outside of Japan is, no surprise, at Ramen California, which uses a thicker noodle and has a pretty good tonkotsu gyokai soup. no soup wari though.

  4. @MRatito: you must have gone when the owner was at the helm. the owner was absent when i went.

    @Wheresthebeef: haha well said. thanks!

    @Bryan: they have soup wari! at least they did when i tried it last year.

  5. I've been reading Jonathan Gold's food reviews for 20 years. About 10 years ago I bought "Counter Intelligence", his collection of reviews of Hole-in-the-Wall restaurants in LA, and went to as many of those as I humanly could. It was a lot of fun, even if it led to few of the revelatory food experiences I had expected.

    Yeah, the food at the places he reviews is rarely as good as he makes it sound . . . I don't know if that is a testament or a condemnation of his powers of prose but as much as I enjoy reading his food writing I don't particularly trust his judgment as to how good the actual restaurant is. I can't recall ever having gone to a restaurant he reviewed and the food being as delicious, abundant or interesting as he made it sound. However, I don't think it is entirely fair to criticize him on this basis. He is a food writer first, a food critic second. Unfortunately this does mean that to truly hold Jonathan Gold's tastes in esteem it helps to never actually test his opinions.

    But I think you have to separate Jonathan Gold, writer from Jonathan Gold, critic. He still deserves props for having tirelessly promoted ethnic food in LA to two generations of Angelenos. And here in Tokyo I still read LA Weekly dream about the food that he writes about that I have not eaten, which is the way it should be.

  6. @heller66: couldn't agree with you more. he is a great writer. hey are u back in tokyo?

  7. Yep, back in Tokyo after a few months in Singapore with my wife and daughter . . . 2011 hasn't been the easiest year but compared to so many who have suffered in Japan it's been a paid vacation so I can't complain.

  8. welcome back! i hear ya. if you ever want to grab a bowl somewhere, let me know!