L.A. Ramen

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On my trip to Southern California a couple of weeks ago, I sampled the ramen in Japantown. Our plane got into LAX around nine and by the time we got to the Grand Kyoto Hotel in downtown L.A., I was starved. The hotel restaurants were closed, but somebody recommended the ramen shops on 1st Street. These restaurants are open until 3 a.m., and getting a bowl of late-night ramen has become a hipster thing to do.

It was chilly outside, but it was only a couple of blocks. I got over there around 11 p.m. and found the most popular of the ramen stands packed. So I opted for the more sedate scene at Mr. Ramen, where I ordered a bowl of roast pork ramen soup. The freshly made noodles were excellent, and the dark-colored broth was warming and satisfying on a cold night. The big slices of pork loin tasted like Sunday-dinner pork roast. I liked the hard-boiled egg garnish too.

On another night, I went to a ramen shop called Orochon Ramen, where they specialize in spicy noodles. I ordered the spiciest noodles on the regular menu and loved them. They came in a miso broth with lots of red chile paste. The stock tasted like spicy Korean soon tofu soup. Orochon Ramen is famous for its challenge -- eat the super spicy bowl of noodles on the hotter-than-shit flame-thrower menu in 30 minutes, and you get your picture on the wall of fame. Adam Richman did this challenge on Man vs. Food. While I was there, a Vietnamese-American guy from Houston was doing the challenge. He was only halfway through the bowl, and he didn't look like he was having much fun.

We don't have much ramen in Houston -- instead we eat Vietnamese mi. But I've heard the House of Bowls on Corporate has some spicy ramen. I'll go check it out and let you know.

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