The Ramen Shaman: Chibiscus (Hollywood)
Last week a reader asked if I had tried Chibiscus. Apparently it had been compared to Tsujita -- a bold statement. I promised I'd check it out.
I assumed it was the random shop that opened on Sunset Blvd earlier this year around the same time as Maki Maku on Hollywood Boulevard. I tried it and immediately swore off random Hollywood shops. I never bothered to write up Maki Maku because the review is two words long: don't go.
Well, I'm a bit out of the loop because Chibiscus is one of two shops on Sunset directly across from each other! Takara was the one I had heard about earlier in the year, but Chibiscus only opened three months ago and is still in its 'soft opening' phase. Their website looks like a kitten had a paw in the design and paints a nice picture of three friends learning to run a business and constantly striving to improve their product. Instant intrigue.
Their small, sparse shop serves up two primary ramen options (along with an extended menu): The Chibiscus Tonkotsu (my choice) and a Spicy Miso.
Their website also forewarned me that this was an intentionally light tonkotsu. Indeed it was -- much thinner than other LA tonkotsu stalwarts like Jinya, Yamadaya, Men Oh, Tsujita, etc. It kind of reminds me of Shin Sen Gumi circa 2012, before they bulked up their broth in response to the competition.
But Chibiscus is meticulously designed, and by the second half of the bowl the flavors came together. The initial garlic burst was balanced out by more subtle shoyu and... miso?
Sure enough, there is miso in the tonkotsu broth. After I finished, Priya, one of the owners, came over and confirmed it. He also said their tonkotsu is more of a homemade soup than commercial broth, they even strain out most of the kotteri fat bits, and as a result everything about this bowl feels infinitely more healthy than most any other ramen. He is the first person I've talked to who understands the difference between miso ramen in Japan vs what we have here, and for that reason I can't wait to go back and try their spicy miso, which they also take liberties with and isn't your run-of-the-mill spicy miso.
As for the rest of the bowl, the noodles were al dente excellence and just the right shape (slightly wavy) and size (medium thin) for the soup. The pickled ginger, bamboo shoots, green onions, egg and mushrooms were good, but their chashu, despite a blowtorch browning (I'm not the biggest fan), was awesome. Much better than Ikemen up the street.
Chibiscus is doing something right. They might not have the best ramen in LA (and no, they're not in the same league as Tsujita -- no one is)... but they're working on it. Bottom line: I trust them. Priya was as passionate about ramen as I am, and unlike other shops they're not making the mistake of putting concept before cuisine (I'm looking at you, Tatsu).
Go henceforth and support a worthy addition to LA's burgeoning ramen scene, and I bet in a year's time they'll surpass almost every shop outside of Sawtelle.
7361 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046