Lucky Peach, which just launched a full online site, has been rumbling on about ramen for quite some time, returning to the subject matter of its first issue. Co-founder Peter Meehan sits with Jonathan Gold to discuss the state of ramen in Los Angeles, a scene that's been lurking in the Southland since the 80s.
Stating Daikokuya as the first "really good" ramen joint to open in L.A. back in the mid aughts (though Gardena had some noodle shops prior to that):
I wrote about Daikokuya as the second coming when it opened, and it's always hard to know whether the rave review precedes the lines or the lines engender the review. A lot of people think of the restaurant as terribly dated now, but when it opened, suddenly ramen seemed to be on everyone's map in a way that it hadn't been before.
On the various styles of ramen pervading LA at the moment:
I don't think we're anywhere near peak ramen yet. There's probably a half dozen places to get ramen in Little Tokyo; there were just two before. There's a street called Sawtelle that had bad ramen forever, where ten different places opened after the Tsujita phenomenon-five of which are good.
Finally, on why ramen is more than just a trendy food right now:
Ramen offers the pleasures of communality and it offers the pleasures of extreme connoisseurship. It has those things over other foods. It's not expensive. A college student can become an extreme ramen snob-your intern might know more about ramen than you. I think that ramen and tacos are the entry point for connoisseurship for a lot of young people.
With places like Ramen Champ opening up in Chinatown, it seems that the limits are boundless for the Japanese comfort dish in Los Angeles.