Looks like another about-face for Ramen Champ, the second floor Far East Plaza purveyor of all things noodle. As of last week, the stripped-down mall space has partnered quietly with Takoyaki Tanota, a local takoyaki specialist that’s been working the LA circuit food truck and night market circuit for several years.
Alvin Cailan of Eggslut and Unit 120 fame originally opened Ramen Champ at the beginning of 2015, ultimately selling off the place to Yoshimassa Kasai, a longtime director of ongoing food festival Ramen Yokocho. That team has been quietly continuing to turn out bowls of ramen upstairs even as the Far East Plaza has grown into a boisterous space thanks to the long lines at Howlin’ Rays and big weekend crowds for Unit 120’s LASA dinners.
The collaboration between Tanota owner Takeo Shibatani and Ramen Champ mostly came about because of Chinatown’s ongoing First Thursday events at Far East Plaza, with both sides deciding to make things official moving forward. The menu won’t really change until sometime in July, when the introduction of takoyaki snacks will move up on the menu and the Ramen Champ team will rejigger their ramen offerings.
For those unfamiliar, takoyaki is a lightly fried Japanese snack made of flour that’s specially cooked in hot pans containing indents about the size of a golfball. That’s where the takoyaki is made, and the resulting orbs emerge golden brown just in time to be covered in options like ponzu sauce, kewpie mayo, bonito, and more.
Add those delicious offerings to what’s planned for Lao Tao, the Taiwanese street food concept also slated for the second floor, and suddenly the upstairs at Far East Plaza seems like the place to get your snack on. A look at the most recent takoyaki menu that the Tanota team worked up for First Thursdays is below, and should give a decent glimpse into what's to come.