Ramen seems to be having a moment right now.
Early December, the EaterLA posted a little announcement that ramen would be served to the first 20 customers every Monday and Tuesday night at the bar at Animal on Fairfax. Hmm, this made me wonder… are the Los Angeles chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo testing the waters for a new restaurant? Perhaps. Are they simply making good use of the 7-seat bar for an ALT dining experience? Could be…
I called up The Ramen Squad — a group of Ramen-loving friends who just happen to coincidentally all hang out whenever there is a ramen happening. For instance, we sampled traditional bowls from around the world at the Yokocho Ramen Festival, we got to check out the opening of the Original Ramen Burger brick and mortar in Koreatown, and learned how to make ramen at home from this Japanese cook who teaches workshops. So, it only seemed natural that when we discovered this special ramen pop-up — we just had to check it out.
The “Squad”, (my friends and I) got to the restaurant around 8pm on a Tuesday night. We waited… and waited… and although we were the second group to put our name on the list we didn’t actually get seated until around 9:30ish. All was good though… we worked up an appetite and we were glad we did because… BOOM.
The ramen was HUGE. The soup was made up of a rich, thick, Tonkotsu broth, ham hock, pork belly char siu, kale bean sprouts and swiss chard. The cuts of meat were thick and fatty and the vegetables, though quite untraditional, were a nice compliment to the heavier soup base.
One blogger friend, who I consider to be an expert of ramen, mentioned that it tasted more Chinese in flavor than Japanese. Another pal, who makes ramen regularly at home, said it was untraditional. Another, found the broth complex and the dish quite tasty. I found the ingredients to be both current and innovative, packed full of bold yummy flavors. There was much devouring and savoring of each bite (though I personally found the broth too heavy to want to slurp). Instead, I was all about the texture of the noodles and umami of the pork. Lucky for me, you can get a refill on the noodles, a “noodle reload” for just $3.
This pop-up experience is like a restaurant within a restaurant. We were told that they plan to offer up additional small plates at the bar in the coming weeks. I look forward to seeing where they take this little experiment.
Some tips if you go:
Starts at 9pm — 20 bowls only (every Mon and Tues night) so get there by 8 to get your name on the list, and then go for a walk around the block to work up an appetite.
Come with a small group (1-3 ppl to be comfortable). The bar seats only 7.
Cost is $18. It’s pricey for a bowl of ramen that’s for sure… but you won’t be hungry at all afterwards. It’s truly a MEAL.
If you go, let me know what you thought of the bowl!