Day 2. After a fruitless shopping trip to Burbank, I was super excited to bring my parents to visit Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, partially because I’m hungry, but also because I’m hoping all the good things I’ve read online about the restaurant will let me relive my ramen experience while in Tokyo. I knew I wasn’t going to get the fuss free countertop dining experience in Shinjuku, complete with a ordering vending machine that, with a few punches on different buttons, will spit out a meal ticket for me to hand to the cook behind the counter. Ambiance aside, I was looking forward to huge bowls of springy noodles in creamy broth topped sky high with veggies and menma, garnished with slices of fatty pork, and finished with a runny egg.
Since it was a holiday, we parked inside the Honda Plaza for free. There was a short wait for seats, and the restaurant was lively with guests chatting away over sizeable bowls of ramen, plates of karaage and gyoza, and glasses of beer. I eagerly eyed the countertop seating to my right, but unfortunately the tables freed up first. Both my dad and I got their signature Tokushima ramen (I requested extra menma, or bamboo shoots), and my mum ordered the spicy tonkotsu ramen.
Our ramen arrived rather quickly, and a slight twinge of disappointment set in when I saw the meager portion of “extra” menma I ordered sitting in a separate soy sauce dish. It was probably two bitefuls all together, whereas the cook in Japan had given me a small hill of them. Nevertheless, I dumped my menma on top and dug in.
The soup was incredibly rich and creamy, with small globules of oil floating to the top. It tasted intensely of pork, and I could tell that they must have simmered their soup with pork bones for at least an hour. Judging from the color, it’s probably the kurokei (黒系) variety of Tokushima ramen. My only complaint was that it was too salty, and I couldn’t drink the soup after slurping all my noodles like I usually do. The slices of heavily marbled pork belly were so tender they melted in my mouth, and the egg yolk had a perfect jelly liquid texture. The noodles were not too remarkable though, a bit limp when I wish for more chewiness.
My mum’s bowl had a beautiful creamy orange broth that could only be attained by adding chili oil to a thick soup base. It was definitely less salty, but didn’t have the kick of spice. Texture wise, everything else was the same.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by Men Oh, especially when food bloggers and press alike have raved about it. I know that food memories associated with certain places tend to get distorted into something more beautiful than it may have been, but Men Oh doesn’t stand a chance over a casual ramen stand in Japan. Meanwhile, I will just have to keep hunting for a good ramen place.
Men Oh Tokushima Ramen
456 E 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012