After a year of incredible growth and national accolades, it’s almost a surprise to hear about a new concept not heading into the Grand Central Market these days. Despite plenty of early word to the contrary over the past few months, it looks like Alvin Cailan is officially opting to take his ramen talents to the Far East Plaza in Chinatown instead.
The change of address on Cailan’s ramen shop seems like a real coup for the burgeoning plaza, which already hosts Chego, Scoops Chinatown, the upcoming Cognoscenti Coffee cart and at least one concept from Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker. What’s better, Cailan says the second floor space he found came pretty fully formed, which means he and his Little Tokyo ramen team should be able to open well before the end of the year.
Also gone is the Eggslut Ramen name — Cailan has been throwing around the name Ramen Champ for a while now, and it looks to be the official moniker for the Chinatown space, though he’s quick to point out that the name is not a brag. "It’s not us being the ramen champ, it’s you, the customer," says Cailan. "We were ramen binging when coming up with the concept, and there’s always that moment when you knock out a bowl, slurp it all the way through, and it really makes you feel like a winner."
Cailan is also quick to note that, despite being an East L.A. kid and working with a ramen team that mostly hails from South East Asia, this is not a fusion restaurant. "We’re still doing things super traditionally," like focusing on a long-simmered bone broth and using proprietary noodles made by a couple of crazy dudes in a warehouse in South L.A. Ramen options will include a tonkotsu, chicken shio, a non miso-based spicy bowl and a mushroom-based vegan options, using eggless noodles.
As for the previous notion that Ramen Champ was heading for the Grand Central Market, Cailan blames the amicable break up on "lots of miscommunication," saying that ultimately "they envisioned something else." He's also quick to note that GCM will still be getting a ramen stall eventually, but not from Cailan himself.
Look for the evening only, mostly bar seating Ramen Champ to soft-open in Chinatown in the coming weeks, as Cailan and his team continue to hone their recipes and finish out the look of their space. But it finally seems that Cailan's long-anticipated ramen bowls will soon be upon us.
Eater Video: Eggslut Makes the Sluttiest Breakfast Sandwich | Subscribe to Eater on YouTube