This week, Besha Rodell hits Alvin Cailan's follow-up act to Eggslut, Ramen Champ. The tiny 22-seat restaurant on the top floor of Far East Plaza is a sort of haven for those with "hip-hop food-nerd" sensibilities, and has instigated contentious debate over its extremely viscous tonkotsu ramen broth. Besha is less than pleased with the "liquefied pork" substance, explaining:
I'm afraid I must side with the detractors on the matter of Ramen Champ's tonkotsu. As much as I love pork fat, and as much as I crave the comforting wonder of a super-rich tonkotsu on a cold day, I could not make it through even one-third of a bowl of this version. The texture was disconcerting, but more than that it's simply too one-note. The thick broth does nothing to set itself apart from the soft, blubbery chashu pork and from the beautifully cooked egg, which usually would add luxury and comfort but here becomes just another kind of wobbly fat. There's not enough contrast, and no amount of chile oil or garlic oil or any of the other condiments available could cut through the overwhelming corpulence. [LAW]
That being said, the LA Weekly critic finds plenty to love in the noodle shop, citing the shiitake ramen as the best thing on the menu, appreciating the "miraculous" noodles, and declaring that the mazemen ramen, an upcoming lunch offering previewed at Coachella, "will be one of L.A.'s great lunch dishes."
Ramen Champ snags two stars out of five.
The Elsewhere: kevinEats lauds the fresh Cali-Italian fare and serious cocktail game at Love & Salt, Bill Esparza appreciates the gaucho tradition at Downtown's Fogo de Chão , and Jessica Koslow and Besha Rodell run down the 10 best restaurants for outdoor dining.