When I Say Ramen, I Think Gangstas

I like food a lot. I like restaurants a lot. I like learning about food and food trends. I watch Top Chef. I have email subscriptions to websites that are for “foodies.” I enjoy reading about these restaurants I will never be able to afford, in a part of town I’m not keen towards, and I like thinking that it’s too trendy, too over-priced, and that soon enough I’ll get to read about it closing.

And every once in a blue moon, I will actually go try one of these places.

There was the bar in Eagle Rock that had pretty good drinks. There was the hot dog place that served exquisite combinations of things that should have never, ever gone on a hot dog, but somehow worked. And then there was a past Friday night.

Nick and I have our usual food dilemma. Both of us are hungry. Both of us can’t make decisions when we are hungry. Both of us get upset and irrational when we are hungry.

But this time, using my magical email newsletters, a bit of research and voila! we had a restaurant in Little Tokyo to go to. It sounded perfect:

Genkotsu’s a midsized ramen house w/ bottom-lit bar, plush, couch-like seating and a restaurant-wide exposed brick wall, all from a guy whose family owns the longest-standing Japanese restaurant in the US, and whose mother was America’s first female sushi chef… Their specialty’s Tonkotsu (pork-bone ramen), with piggy options flavored by either soy sauce, salt, or miso, all of which are jammed w/ roasted kurobuta pork, bean sprouts, green onion, boiled egg, seaweed & bamboo, and available w/ your choice of noodles…

But when we got there, what we found was an awkward arrangement of lounge, diner, and neon-ness. I felt like I might have been in the Japanese version of the diner from the early 90s tv show Saved by the Bell. The biggest difference was the traditional Japanese hospitality and the table of gangstas in the corner (and no, they were not Japanese).

The tables were awkward and low and they were oddly arranged, with oddly staged sections above others. The “couch-like seating” was non-existant and instead were tables jammed up against red plastic booths. But they were only on one side and there seemed to be a shortage of chairs.

The line-up of flatscreens against one wall promoting the wide world of sports (I think there was cricket on) made me think I was at some sort of betting parlor. All in all, the confusion was rampant. So much so, that Nick and I became so confused that we forgot we were hungry, something that never ever happens.

Despite all of this, the gyoza I got were good. (We felt bad for getting a table and decided to get one thing – well I got a gin and tonic, too.) What other people were eating also looked good. But as for a Friday night dinner, it would not do. Maybe for lunch. But there was no way I could manage to overcome every instinct that was telling me this place was wrong. “Maybe it would work in Japan,” Nick said. I’d like to give Genkotsu that.

I did, however, enjoy being able to relive one of my college past-times – gin and gyoza. It’s the best combination for when life is hard and you need something fried, liquored and delicious.

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