Last week, Jonathan Gold tried the insanely spicy level six tantanmen at Killer Noodle and lived to tell the tale. His review encompasses the Japanese-style spicy ramen restaurant from the Tsujita group that opened in October in Sawtelle Japantown in the former Ohana Burger space.
First, Gold sets the context for the restaurant: a unique take on ramen that incorporates Chinese dandanmien elements like sansho peppercorn and sesame. He likens tantanmen, or the Japanese take on dandanmien, to a kind of cult subcategory in the world of noodles. He dips his toes into the Downtown style first:
The downtown-style ramen you swipe from the bowl next to you is good too — a little sweeter, a little more vinegar-forward, with broth a bit thinner; not dissimilar to what you might taste at a Sichuan place like Chong Qing Special Noodles in San Gabriel. Your lips do not vibrate quite so vividly with the particular numbing effect of the pepper.
But then Gold jumps right into the level six spice level, the highest on the menu, and it’s something that spice hounds and fans of Howlin’ Ray’s might want to seek out:
Servers hover around you, making sure that you are not in too much physical distress, offering you towels, refilling the ice water. And then you are done, floating on a sea of endorphins, feeling perhaps the level of distress that you might after a Guisados chiles toreados taco or two but no worse for the experience. Still, the next time around you are thinking you’ll go back to three.
Like many reviews of this type, it’s not immediately clear if Jonathan Gold loves Killer Noodle. But he does say, “ there has never been a local tantanmen restaurant remotely like Killer Noodle” and that might be enough of an endorsement.