This South Pasadena eatery soft opened in the Bristol Farms plaza a few weeks back, but had their official grand opening this past Monday. The promise of tonkotsu ramen near Pasadena had me scurrying over for a taste.
The restaurant is small and has modern, hipster-ish finishes like unfinished wood, Edison light bulbs, chalkboard walls, and lemon water served in mason jars with handles. The twee "artisanal" in the name was consistent with the decor. In other words it was pleasant and clean. There is no customer bathroom on site--you have to use the one in Bristol Farms, so come prepared. We waited about 5 minutes for a table but I can see this place getting crowded.
SO and I went for the spicy ramen, which is the tonkotsu made spicy ($9.50) and we added a choice of don and side salad for $4 more. The regular tonkotsu (Modan) claims to have black garlic truffle oil, which also sounded tasty. These prices seem on par with Daikokuya. I had the spicy tuna don and SO had the chashu. The salad was simple mixed baby greens with chopped tomato and mandolin sliced and fried zucchini (or was it a winter squash--regardless, excellent counterpoint) dressed in a light and tasty sesame vinaigrette. The spicy tuna was good, but very finely ground; I prefer a coarser chop. I liked how it wasn't coated in mayonnaise. The chashu was excellent, however, balancing fat, sweet, savory and char. Some pickled ginger over the top balanced it all nicely.
The ramen broth was very good. I inquired about their broth prep time and was told it was simmered for over 16 hours. The tonkotsu was characteristically rich but somehow clean tasting and didn't leave an oil slick in my mouth. I was also surprised not to find the usual chile oil bomb in the spicy broth but a few dried red chiles floating around and somehow the the broth was infused with spiciness. The noodles were well cooked and might be Sun Noodles. The egg was well cooked (not hard boiled like Shin Sen Gumi's) with a soft whites and jelly-like yolk. The chashu appeared again in glorious slices. I'm pretty sure they lacquered and grilled each slice. Truly excellent meat. The meal was quite filling and good value for money.
The service was a bit chaotic and perhaps slightly inexperienced. No major hiccups but they seemed green. I asked for the gratis ice cream that was promised at the opening on their FB page and we received creamy green tea (sesame and chocolate were also options) with ramen brittle. Think candied pieces of broken Top Ramen. It was a nice ending to the meal.
Other menu items were fried and skewered brussel sprouts with truffle, garlic aioli and some tasty looking karaage wings. This is a nice addition to this part of town. I'm looking forward to hear what other think.
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