Friday, May 25, 2007

Mr. Ramen - Roots Ramen and Reggae

Tonight was Friday night, the beginning of memorial day weekend and we thought it would be fun to all go down to Little Tokyo and begin our exploration of the large block of Japanese restaurants on First Ave.

One of the first places that caught our eyes was Mr. Ramen. We walked up and down the block looking for a the right menu and MR. Ramen had what we were looking for: some solid ramen options, good appetizers and reasonable prices. We headed inside and learned that they have no high chairs. The fate of our night was altered by that fact a bit.

We chose a double table and ordered one mabo ramen and one friend chicken ramen. I also got the bud + gyoza special which was one bud for a buck and an appetizer of gyoza. The beer came first and then the gyoza a few minutes after that (at prescisely the moment when I was getting tired ot waiting). The gyoza had been very freshly fried; they were crispy and hot hot hot to eat! Mr. Ramen supplied a small amount of shoyu and vinegar and two dipping cups for a make your own situation. I added 4 or 5 drops of chili sauce to some shoyu and enjoyed the gyoza. They were purely veggy gyoza which I immediately found a bit disappointing. But the mix of cabbage and onions and hotness were a fine way to kick off the meal. I usually prefer gyoza with meat and a veggie mix but that was not to be had by us tonight.

Then two enormous bowls of ramen were brought out of the kitchen. The first thing I noticed was that the meatyness of the ramen seemed a bit congealed from the start, but that was somewhat of an illusion. The fried chicken (kara-age style) was a bit fried in a sauce style as opposed to the drier style I am used to. The noodles were cooked just a hair more than needed but were firm enough. The mabo ramen was a bit on the bland side. I stirred up the bowl after about half way and realized that there might have been enough tasty goodness in the bottom that I should have mixed the ramen around first. The ramen at mr ramen made me wish it was the dead of winter outside and i needed a hearty hot meal to brave the cold outside. the meal was solid and good but not the amazing ramen dish that i know must reside in little toyko.

To some extent Mr. Ramen likely was hurt by it being my first stop in the discovery of Little Tokyo. At the same time, the pork in my mabo ramen was boring, there were few spices or extras in the bowl other than a few pieces of scallion. It was a decent meal for sure but one iId be even happier about if it were 20% cheaper or 15% better. Or if I had been 85% drunker.

The atmosphere was really mellow, which made our fussy son sound all the louder. But there was some interesting reggae playing throughout our meal. The music started off charming and quirky but then became somewhat odd as the same artist played for awhile. Not that I needed to hear some cd purchased at the Japanese art museam at LACMA, but the ramen/reggae combo was weird after awhile. The service was just ok (though with no high chairs it is clear this is not a kid friendly place) and the food just ok. Then again, if I imagine myself a bit tipsy and transported to a Harajuku ramen shop this would be what I'd expect to find.

I will go back for sure...but it will be a long time. I'm just sure there are better spots out there. One new one opened up that specializes in mainly sushi and had an employee handing out fliers by their door. And i regret a bit not going there. Maybe next time. Not bad dishes for the price but instead of inspiring me to come back, Mr. Ramen has inspired me to keep searching for the Ultimate Little Tokyo Ramen spot!

Mr. Ramen is located at 341 1/2 E 1st St Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-4252

Find Mr. Ramen on Google Maps

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