Chinatown: Ramen Champ, Under New Ownership, Re-opens Friday, October 2
When Ramen Champ opened in Chinatown earlier this year, it was quickly lauded to be the hottest ramen joint in town. I went and loved it. Then I started taking people there and tried three different times to recapture that old magic. It just wasn’t quite what I remembered and I was puzzled. I finally gave up and over the summer, Ramen Champ quietly closed. Quickly, it was announced the staff was just prepping for the innumerable food fests but still… and then Los Angeles Food and Wine came along and there they were… without ramen. Instead we found Chef Charles Olalia of Rice Bar, a wonderful spot in Downtown Los Angeles in its place. Sure, owner Alvin Cailan of Eggslut was hanging out at the booth but where was the ramen?
A couple of weeks ago, I was mysteriously invited to check out the “new” Ramen Champ. A follow up email revealed it was sold to Yoshimasa Kaisai, a former director of the Yokocho Ramen Festival. Now with an all new staff and new recipes, they are preparing to reopen this Friday, October 2. They will be open every day starting at 11 a.m. Weekdays, they will close lunch out at 3 p.m. and reopen at 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. On weekends (Saturday and Sunday), they will be open from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. with last ramen orders at 11 p.m.
I tasted three different ramen offerings this weekend. Although the description seems similar (as does the decor, dishware and of course, location), the bowl was immediately different because it’s now only $8.99. Previously, the tonkotsu was verging on hipster-taxed prices at $12.99 (not that I didn’t order it all the time, Alvin!). This version was very good but sadly no eggs were available to plop into the bowl. In fact, the new owner Yoshimasa has acknowledged Alvin’s eggs were really good and he’s working on something special. I’m excited to see if he’ll also bring different side dishes to the menu.
One of my favorite types of ramen is tan tan men. Ramen Champ is offereing a tonkotsu tan tan ($9.99). That’s with the original tonkotsu broth but now spiced up with Sichuan peppercorn. It also had a nice garlic zing in the broth. It should be served with a scoop of ground meat but they had run out and it was offered with the chashu pork. It was just as good. I never seem to get enough protein anyway in ramen and was glad to have the sliced pork. This is now my new go-to.
There is still a vegan ramen on the menu. I never tried the shitake shio before so I cannot really compare the two but I found this vegan broth very lovely and I really liked the spinach noodles. However, I wasn’t into the soy meat and would opt for a seasoned egg next time. Or pork. I realize this does not make sense for a vegan bowl but I’m not vegan and would totally order it that way if I just wanted a lighter broth. I did note the price remains the same at $10.99.
There will be a chicken-broth based ramen on the menu called hot and sour ramen ($10.99) but its protein is pork. Sorry chicken fans.
All in all, I’m excited to put Ramen Champ back on the Minty’s rotation of Chinatown favorites.