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molecular gastronomy ramen?! wth?! oh yes, RAMEN CALIFORNIA is here. (review w/ pics)

alright, so i've been away for a while. but i had to come back just to post about Ramen California. seriously, I'm going to sound like a corporate shill in about two sentences except i'd like to think some of you old chowhounders still remember me.

anyway, shigetoshi nakamura, one of japan's most highly regarded ramen chefs has opened an experimental new restaurant, in Torrance, based on the principles of molecular cooking (the guy is buddies with ferran adria and ippudo's shigemi kawahara). he's blatantly trying to "invent" a "california ramen" style using local produce. at first i was pretty skeptical and though it would turn out to be some fusion-type wankery (well ok, it kind of is haha) but it's actually pretty freakin' great.

to really appreciate it though, longtime ramen fans might have to turn their expectations of super-saturated taste and notions of "authenticity" on the side. i sure did. (exilekiss, pho minh fans, you guys are gonna love the clean, earthy flavors). instead of deep, rich steaming ramen complexity, the chef has gone in the totally opposite direction, using seasonal california vegetables and a simple chicken soup. it sounds retarded and it took me a few visits, but i totally "get it." it's ramen with wine pairings and a slew of italian/euro influenced appetizers.

alright, i'll stop gushing. here's a quick breakdown:

the ramen:

"the californian" - ramen in chicken soup with 20 different seasonal vegetables.

"reggiano cheese tofu ramen" - the cheese tofu literally melts into the chicken soup and creates this umami bomb that is like tonkotsu, but cheesy in flavor. far out and damn good. the one that really woke me up to what he's trying to do.

"marsala ramen" - with indian curry powder, it actually has a strong punchy flavor and works well.

"heirloom tomato ramen" - simple and light with fresh tomatoes in chicken soup ramen. surprisingly good. actually not that surprising, all things considered.

the sides:

there's a reggiano cheese tofu appetizer that is basically the same cheese tofu served mediterranean style over tomatoes. it's fantastic.

a fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomato dish that is about as fresh and quality as anything similar i've had.

a whitefish (snapper/flounder) carpaccio served with 5 different salts ranging from volcanic hawaiian ash salt to burmese pink salt, i believe it was. spartan, surprisingly devoid of excess moisture, but not dry.

some very flavorful smoked oysters that the chef smoked himself, in the shop.

if you guys go, the restaurant is still in a pre-opening phase (official opening is towards the end of june) but i get this feeling that the chef will be experimenting/tinkering with the menu for a long time to come. he asked me if i knew of a place in LA to get liquid nitrogen, so i did some research and found him a source. frankly, i can't wait to see what he does with it.

pics, and more effusive raving than you can shake a chopstick at: http://www.rameniac.com/resource/comm...

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  1. Wow. Thank you for the in depth review. Now I know what to have for lunch today. :)

    1. That looks great. I'm excited to check it out.

      1. Wow, thanks for an interesting review! I am intrigued. (And of course we remember you!)

        1. oh heck yes... this might qualify for a weekend trip out of the beach!

          1. Beautiful!!! I've been craving ramen for WEEKS and have not pulled the trigger because I just can't tolerate the salt anymore (SOB!!!!!!!). This sounds right up my alley!

            --Dommy!