Last month, I got myself into a very messy situation—at the dinner table that is.
Not that this should come as a surprise, seeing as I’m not always the daintiest diner, but this meal was me at my sloppiest (and for good reason). I was invited to be one of the first to check out Chinatown’s latest addition Okiboru, a casual eatery that serves up famed Japanese Tsukemen, a ramen-like noodle dish that’s a true rarity in Los Angeles.
I honestly had no idea what to expect, with the exception of a carb-heavy meal. I’ve never been big on ordering ramen, though I do love a good Japanese meal.
The difference between traditional ramen and Tsukemen is the latter is a “dipping ramen,” one that’s noodles (served cold and thicker) are accompanied by varying hot broths. My friend and I were served the chicken-pork broth and the vegan broth made from puréed grilled mushrooms and other vegetables. While both items packed plenty of flavor, we were both especially taken by the vegan option. We were shocked when Chef Hyun “Sean” Park told us there was no cream or flour in the concoction, as it definitely had that taste and consistency. It’s apparently made up of just the pureed veggies. No way!
Additional ingredients used in the dish are typically served atop or on the side within the dish of noodles. Toppings at Okiboru range from chashu pork ribs—which brine for a day before getting braised for four hours and are then grilled—to a simple soft-boiled egg with house-pickled radish.
The noodles were very slippery, and getting them on the serving spoon, dipping them into the broth and then making them into our mouths was no seamless process. We definitely went through at least 10 napkins each, and I joked to my friend that thank goodness we’re so comfortable around each other and not like on a date or something, because all my table manners went out the door. But hey, I think that’s part of the fun, and I think experienced ramen diners are aware it comes with the territory (it was just a little new to me). All of that said, we both licked our shared bowls clean and left extremely full.
While I was a little bummed that the spot doesn’t serve any alcohol—a refreshing beer or bottle of sake would have been icing on the cake to this delicious meal—they did offer a wide variety of specialty sodas, something I don’t see elsewhere often.
An additional added bonus? Okiboru is the first ramen shop in the U.S. to use handmade noodles for the dish. To get a behind-the-scenes peek of the noodle-making process, check out my Instagram video below!
635 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, Ca 90012