October 30, 2013

The Ramen Shaman: Chibiscus (Hollywood)

by Will VanderWyden

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Last week a reader asked if I had tried Chibiscus. Apparently it had been compared to Tsujita — a bold statement. I promised I’d check it out.

I assumed it was the random shop that opened on Sunset Blvd earlier this year around the same time as Maki Maku on Hollywood Boulevard. I tried it and immediately swore off random Hollywood shops. I never bothered to write up Maki Maku because the review is two words long: don’t go.

Well, I’m a bit out of the loop because Chibiscus is one of two shops on Sunset directly across from each other! Takara was the one I had heard about earlier in the year, but Chibiscus only opened three months ago and is still in its ‘soft opening’ phase. Their website looks like a kitten had a paw in the design and paints a nice picture of three friends learning to run a business and constantly striving to improve their product. Instant intrigue.

Their small, sparse shop serves up two primary ramen options (along with an extended menu): The Chibiscus Tonkotsu (my choice) and a Spicy Miso.

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Their website also forewarned me that this was an intentionally light tonkotsu. Indeed it was — much thinner than other LA tonkotsu stalwarts like Jinya, Yamadaya, Men Oh, Tsujita, etc. It kind of reminds me of Shin Sen Gumi circa 2012, before they bulked up their broth in response to the competition.

But Chibiscus is meticulously designed, and by the second half of the bowl the flavors came together. The initial garlic burst was balanced out by more subtle shoyu and… miso?

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Sure enough, there is miso in the tonkotsu broth. After I finished, Priya, one of the owners, came over and confirmed it. He also said their tonkotsu is more of a homemade soup than commercial broth, they even strain out most of the kotteri fat bits, and as a result everything about this bowl feels infinitely more healthy than most any other ramen. He is the first person I’ve talked to who understands the difference between miso ramen in Japan vs what we have here, and for that reason I can’t wait to go back and try their spicy miso, which they also take liberties with and isn’t your run-of-the-mill spicy miso.

As for the rest of the bowl, the noodles were al dente excellence and just the right shape (slightly wavy) and size (medium thin) for the soup. The pickled ginger, bamboo shoots, green onions, egg and mushrooms were good, but their chashu, despite a blowtorch browning (I’m not the biggest fan), was awesome. Much better than Ikemen up the street.

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Chibiscus is doing something right. They might not have the best ramen in LA (and no, they’re not in the same league as Tsujita — no one is)… but they’re working on it. Bottom line: I trust them. Priya was as passionate about ramen as I am, and unlike other shops they’re not making the mistake of putting concept before cuisine (I’m looking at you, Tatsu).

Go henceforth and support a worthy addition to LA’s burgeoning ramen scene, and I bet in a year’s time they’ll surpass almost every shop outside of Sawtelle.

CHIBISCUS
7361 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
T: 323.977.9877

2 Comments

  • Tripeler
    Posted October 31, 2013 at 5:16 am

    The shred of 紅生姜 (benishoga) looks totally whack and out of place in that bowl, but, you know, it is probably really pretty good. The blowtorch chashu also skeeves me a bit, but what matters most is how it tastes. Looks like a fine bowl there.

    Great review, too.

  • Posted November 1, 2013 at 5:51 am

    Will, thank you for stopping by and a great review! I enjoyed our conversation as much as making you the ramen. Serving a great bowl of ramen is my life long dream. We can never make a perfect bowl, but we do hope that our sincerity and the love and care that goes into each bowl won’t go to waste. We feel blessed and grateful that our food and our practice is well received. After 18hr/day worth of broth skimming, hot noodles splashing, and bellies rolling, nothing beats knowing that there is someone out there notices and share the same passion as we do. Thanks again for your support!

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