Pingtung Brings Pan-Asian Café Favorites to Melrose

Neighborhood Hot Spot

It’s curious that Pingtung is called an “Eat-in Market,” the “market” designation perhaps being a way of propping up the Asian goods that lie on overhead (to me) shelves along the sides of the deep-drawn cafe. Though I have a few guilty snack pleasures such as Yan Yan, Shrimp Chips, that clear, Japanese soda with the swingy little ball, Calpico and the like, I’d make the trek to 99 Ranch, Mitsuwa or Zion if I wanted to go Asian grocery shopping. (I’m trying to cut down on the snacks, much less MSG-laden ones, anyway.)

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First Taste: Tsukemen at Ikemen, Hollywood

Johnny Dip (topped with pork)

I love all the Metro L.A. expansions the noodle shops have been undergoing, lately. When I say lately, I mean especially within the past month or two. After all, I was never quite a South Bay (or Daikokuya) kind of gal.

"Eat ramen here." Okay.

Yamadaya in Culver City. Shin-sen-gumi in Little Tokyo. Robata Jinya is even within the same proximity to my workplace as Ramen Jinya is to my Hollywood apartment. Ikemen itself is not an expansion, but another project of Yasumasa Kawabata and Sean Nakamura – the latter of Ramen California fame.

But Ikemen. I can walk there.

I’m lucky because the parking at this plaza, quite frankly, is as horrendous as you might expect parking would be for any establishment at the Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue intersection. I went solo the other night and sat at the counter beneath several sticks of bonito. Equipped with the knowledge that tsukemen (dipping noodles) is their specialty, I ordered the Johnny Dip topped with pork (chicken is your other option). The dipping sauce is described as “Tonkotsu au jus mixed with green onions and Italian basil.” The non-traditional flavor was very good in that familiarly super rich way. Of course, the basil flavor was the most novel thing about it. The noodles were thick – all the better texture to sop up that delicious dipping broth.

Pre-shaven Bonito

My next visit will be soon, and I’ve already decided on the Zebra Dip tsukemen, flavored with slowly roasted garlic. Only after then might I venture into traditional (or “genuine,” as Ikemen labels it) noodles in broth. Perhaps those recipes are from Ramen California?

Oh, Hollywood. The best part about this ramen movement is that finally, ramen as drunk food really will become a reality. That is, really good ramen – and not just the dehydrated form we’ve all grown up with. Ikemen is open until 12 AM on the weekdays and 4 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. With all the flack L.A. gets about last call and lack of late night food, Japanese noodles may turn out to be my saving grace.

Further reading - Ikemen Ramen: Now Open + Bringing Hollywood Cool to Japanese Noodles – LA Weekly Squid Ink

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Mon – Thu

12 – 2 PM, 6 PM – 12 AM

Fri

12 – 2 PM, 6 PM – 4 AM

Sat

6 PM – 4 AM

Cash only

Ikemen
1655 N. La Brea Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90028
323.800.7669

Legit Ramen “Pops” at Ramen Bull, Breadbar

Spicy Ramen (with ground beef)

Breadbar, with its regular offerings being that of breakfast through lunch, is the site of many a nighttime pop-up. The latest one is curated by a regular of the space, Chef Noriyuki Sugie of Ironnori Concepts. It’s a casual stint to last through September, but as my recent dining experience has shown, Chef Sugie can sure serve up a solid bowl of ramen.

Corned Beef Side

I accompanied Fiona; together, we were able to try the Oxtail and Spicy varieties. Though the gastronomic foam layer on top of the broth intially threw me off (how good can fancy-looking ramen taste?), when I took a slurp I was pleasantly surprised by both the flavor of my Spicy broth as well as the freshness and bite of the noodles.

Fiona’s Oxtail bowl of ramen differed more than just in toppings; her noodles were even a bit different (round and maybe a tiny bit coarser, whereas mine had four sides and were more tender) and the broth had a decidedly deeper, richer taste. My broth was a bit more “mapo,” with tinges of bean curd in the broth. Both were delicious, but I loved mine for the familiarity.

Beef Tongue Side

You can also get the types and toppings of ramen as sides on a plate. The corned beef “is what it is,” so if you’re a bit more adventurous I’d recommend the tongue. The hibiscus and pineapple sodas, a substantial add-on at $4, are housemade and delicious but also a refreshing off-set to the salty ramen.

So stop on by Breadbar on 3rd Street (not to be confused with the other locations) one of these summer nights. Personally, it’s a closer alternative than the trek to my trusty Santouka, and since it’s temporary, it also carries a bit of welcome novelty.

(Vegetarian? They’ve got you covered, too, with the appropriate modifications and omissions. And apologies for that tongue photo in this post.)

All food and drink were hosted.

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Mon – Sat until 9/30/11

5 – 10 PM

Ramen Bull at Breadbar
8718 W. Third Street
Los Angeles
310.205.0124

Ramen Jinya Is Good For Your Ramen Fix

Tonkatsu Premium Ramen

I’ve had a lot of ramen. Truth be told, those bowls of ramen don’t come from very many places. My inaugural non-Top Ramen bowl was at Shin-sen-gumi in Arcadia, but my favorite is (and the majority of those aforementioned bowls were from) Santouka with their Shio broth being the trump card to my ramen cravings. With those locations being San Gabriel and the Westside – and my new apartment being in Hollywood proper with Torrance and Gardena even further away – I became eager for other options. Ramen Jinya does a great job filling in.

Curry

Another confession: I have a bias against chicken broth ramen. Give me that chashu in all forms – fatty pork slices and fatty pork bone broth. So while Ramen Jinya is like Ramen California (so I have heard, haven’t tried) in offering chicken broth options, I just have a hard time making the leap. So Tonkatsu and Premium (bonito-infused) Tonkatsu ramen it is. With, perhaps, a side of curry. In retrospect, it’s not the most complementary side you can order with ramen, but I can always eat curry. For everyone else, I’d go with the gyoza. They’re bite size, but they’re good and have a proper crisp on the outside and a hot center. (Unfortunately, I was off form on my first visit and don’t have a picture.) As far as price point, you can get a salad, side and ramen combo for $13.50 and a bowl of ramen alone for $8.50.

I’m not sure where my menma (bamboo shoots) were, and the egg was perhaps a little stale, but the broth was solid and less salty on my second visit than my first – a good thing. It could maybe use more body, though I did like the Premium broth better than the regular Tonkotsu. A bonus: You’ll find yourself scooping soup less since the spoons are so big. The noodles, though, are my favorite thing about Ramen Jinya, and house made from what I could tell. They have good bite yet are plump enough to keep you satisfied.

Ramen Jinya is great for this South Bay-averse ramen lover. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be adventurous enough to try the chicken. According to a tweet of Mattatouille’s, however, I hear that the newly-opened Robata Jinya on 3rd Street offers their restaurant family’s ramen – and I just so happen to work in Beverly Hills. Even better. Who can argue with accessible, good ramen?

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Sun – Thur 11 AM – 10 PM
Fri – Sat 11 AM – Midnight

Ramen Jinya
11239 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City,CA 91604
818.980.3977