Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Ramen Bull at Breadbar (Los Angeles, CA)

Ramen Bull at Breadbar
8718 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Wed 07/06/2011, 07:05p-08:45p

When it comes to hosting pop-ups and related dinners in LA, Breadbar reigns supreme. Who can forget the likes of the Ibaraki benefit dinner, Bistronomics, Hatchi, and of course, the original LudoBites, among others? The latest in this long line of temporary eateries is Ramen Bull, a modern ramen concept from Breadbar's resident chef, Noriyuki Sugie. The series runs from June 8th to September 1st, Mondays through Saturdays, from 5:00p to 10:00p.

Though Chinese in origin, ramen is often viewed as sort of the Japanese noodle dish. A typical bowl of ramen comprises a mass of wheat noodles in an umami-rich pork- or chicken-based broth, flavored with soy sauce, salt, or miso, and accompanied by a variety of toppings including sliced pork, egg, scallions, fishcake, and kelp. Ramen Bull, however, bucks the trend with its bovine-centric menu. The broths here are beef-based, and all the proteins come from cow as well, while garnishes include soy-marinated poached egg, wood ear mushroom, and scallions.

Ramen Bull at Breadbar Menu
Ramen comes in five standard variations on Ramen Bull's menu, differing only in the protein utilized: beef short rib, oxtail, beef tongue, spicy ground beef, and corned beef. In addition, all the meats are available as sides, and there's a selection of interesting sodas to wash it all down. There's even an off-menu vegetarian ramen, which seems like quite the achievement.

Ramen with Sea Salt and Vinegar Powder
We began with an "amuse bouche" of sorts, a small bowl of dry ramen, flavored with sea salt and vinegar powder. The noodles were loaded with flavor and quite addicting, with an intense savoriness at first, followed up by a creeping bit of tartness from the vinegar. These actually reminded me of my childhood habit of eating dry chunks of instant ramen!

beef tongue
beef tongue [$5.00]
We were subsequently brought a side of beef tongue. It was absolutely lovely, unabashedly rich and probably the tenderest preparation of tongue that I've ever had, with a wonderful bovine sapor moderated by the piquancy of the tiny dollops of ginger-scallion purée.

Pineapple Soda, Hibiscus Tea Soda
Of the intriguing sodas offered, two are actually made in-house. The Hibiscus Tea Soda [$4] showed off a delightfully succulent sweetness that was tempered by the cool tang of the included mint. The Pineapple Soda [$4], meanwhile, was also delicious, with a remarkably pure pineapple flavor that was reminiscent of biting into the fresh fruit.

short rib ramen
short rib ramen [$14.00]
Our first bowl of ramen was of the short rib variety, with its rich, heady aromas grabbing my attention instantly. The meat was expectedly tender, and showed off the dark, heavy, lingering flavors that one would expect from short rib. At the same time, the scallions provided an offsetting tang, while the broth itself had a subtle bitterness that helped balance the dish. I also appreciated the slight chew of the straight, thin wheat noodles here, as well as the delicate crunch of the wood ear fungus. Note that we requested that our ramen be split into two portions, so the photos depict only half of a standard bowl.

ox tail ramen
ox tail ramen [$16.00]
Our next ramen came with a delightful chunk of oxtail, served on the bone. And indeed, the meat was falling-of-the-bone tender, and even more decadent than the short rib above, with a subtly sweet, almost BBQ-like flavor to it that I rather enjoyed. Again, the sheer gravity of the beef was countered by the hints of astringency in the broth. And the poached egg? Superb. Note that Chef Sugie changes up his noodles for each ramen dish, and for this particular one, he used a curlier, slightly thicker wheat noodle, which had a more solid texture and bite.

AleSmith X, Karl Strauss Blackball Belgian IPA, Anvil Ale ESB
Ramen Bull features BYOB and no corkage on beer, so we brought along a threesome: AleSmith X IPA, Karl Strauss Blackball Belgian IPA, and AleSmith Anvil Ale ESB. We ended up finishing only the first two, so we left the Anvil behind for Sugie and his staff to enjoy.

spicy ramen
spicy ramen [$14.00]
For his spicy ground beef ramen, the Chef utilized a thick wheat noodle, which was considerably chewier than the versions used above. This was perhaps to balance out the less substantial nature of the ground beef. In any case, I appreciated the palpable heat in the dish, but at the same time, was thankful that it wasn't overwhelming. The soy-marinated poached egg was actually served on the side here, and it was nice to enjoy it alone.

corned beef ramen
corned beef ramen [$14.00]
Our final bowl of ramen was arguably the most cohesive. In it, Chef Sugie used noodles made from organic Canadian flour, which is certainly something you don't encounter too often. They were the silkiest noodles by far, and thus worked beautifully with the tougher, more austere consistency of the corned beef. Perhaps more so than in any other dish, the meat really stood alone here, its brazenly salty flavor unapologetically coming to the fore.

Chef Noriyuki Sugie
Ramen Bull's creator, Chef Noriyuki Sugie.

I don't consider myself a ramen expert (see Go Ramen or Rameniac for that), but I must say that it was great to be able to taste Chef Nori's modern riff on this iconic dish. Having beef as the base ingredient is certainly a game changer, and represents an almost completely different eating experience for me, one that's nonetheless delicious. I don't view beef ramen as superior or inferior to more traditional pork-based products, but rather as a refreshing departure from the norm.

Breadbar West Third


Blogger Pandalicious said...

OMFG. this looks amazing! i def want to try the oxtail and spicy ramen.

Monday, July 11, 2011 8:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is that saffron on top of those noodles?

Monday, July 11, 2011 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Amy: Nice choices, though all four that I had were worthy of trying out. ;)

Anon: I believe those were actually chile threads. See here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 12:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Chris Hei said...

I was a little skeptical when I first heard about this, but after reading this, I'm very intrigued now. Going with a group of friends next week. Thanks Kevin!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 2:01:00 PM  
Blogger Keizo Shimamoto said...

thanks for the shoutout! i'll be home next week to give it a try!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 6:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Marian the Foodie said...

Oxtail ramen?!!! I'm sold! You know how much I love oxtail :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 4:49:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Chris: Be sure to tell Nori-san that I sent you. ;)

Keizo: No problem. You're the first person that comes to mind when I think of ramen. Curious to hear your thoughts.

Marian: I thought that was only in poutine form!

Thursday, July 14, 2011 12:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Marian the Foodie said...

Nooo all oxtail! I love that stuff :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011 2:00:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I somehow did not stumble upon your blog until recently and took it upon myself to read all your reviews for Los angeles in on day. A WEALTH of information! And am going to Ramen Bull tomorrow night with your review in hand (or mind, rather).

Thursday, July 28, 2011 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

One day eh? Impressive. So did you end up coming here?

Sunday, July 31, 2011 3:47:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I did! I went with a ramen pro and am inclined to believe his conclusion that it was too fatty and heavy (just because he's a pro). I ordered the corned beef and spicy ramen - agree with you that the former seemed more cohesive overall. The chef used the same noodles for all our bowls, something I was disappointed with...anyways, GREAT blog! So glad "T" and "Syori the Foodie" pointed me in your direction.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

That's too bad. Did you ask why you didn't get different noodles?

Also, who's "T?"

Thursday, August 04, 2011 1:13:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Tsz Chan :) of Gastrophoria!

Thursday, August 04, 2011 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I just saw Tsz at Plate by Plate the other day. How do you know her?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011 4:26:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Through a mutual friend (also a foodie) from USC. We attended one of his dinner parties together :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 9:07:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Who's the "mutual friend?" Do I know him? I also went to USC.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 1:00:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

His name is Nathan Carter. I'm sure if we took the time, we'd find a lot of mutual friends from USC ;)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 9:08:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Hmm Nathan doesn't ring a bell.

Sunday, August 21, 2011 1:51:00 AM  

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