Two years ago, bored at work with nothing better to do but read through American ex-pat ramen journals, I decided to start my own ramen blog. I didn't tell anyone about it for a year because I was only using it to learn more about ramen and chronicle the bowls I downed.
I never would have guessed that one day a multinational Japanese corporation would ask me to be a ramen consultant. But that's exactly what happened last weekend.
The president of the U.S. branch of a Japanese ramen company found my blog and invited me to give my thoughts at a secret ramen tasting. It took place at a random hotel room in Torrance, so I brought my friend Hanae for protection. It was just her, myself, the president of their American operations, and a middle-aged cook... who turned out to be the founder and current chairman of the entire company. Cooking our noodles for us. Unreal.
I can't go into detail, but the shop specializes in a pork-based shoyu ramen with medium thick, flat, hand-crumpled noodles. They are still figuring out how to build the broth and procure the proper ingredients from American distributors but this is already the best-tasting shoyu ramen I've ever had this side of the Pacific. Considering that we have loads of tonkotsu shops and a fantastic shio shop (Santouka), this place will fit into the ramen scene perfectly when it opens in either late 2013 or early 2014.
I mean, look at this!
The broth was complex, yet not too salty or "soy-y", letting the noodles steal the show. At first, the noodles were a little soft, but after voicing my opinion (my only criticism) a second bowl suddenly appeared. It was perfect.
They gave us a few small cups filled with flavor 'bombs', not something on their menu in Japan but a concession to the American palette. Normally I would be against it, but one of the bombs was pure tonkotsu essence (unbelievably milky, pure liquid pig) and another was miso... proper miso. It was the first time I've tasted that caramel note in a miso here in America, something I've been searching for over the years.
Hanae and I stuffed ourselves and chatted about their plans. They have no location yet, but are considering the westside of LA. No official announcements have been made so that's why I can't say anything else -- but I can say that I can't wait for this shop to open. It's on par with Santouka, and they aren't finished yet.
Quick tangent: In between bowls, the Ramen Shaman writes music and plays in bands in LA (three at the moment). I just released a new album yesterday, so take a listen to hear some ramen-inspired songs (a joke, but the working title for the song 'Kyoto' actually was 'Ramen Bowl').
Click the photo.