Maybe because of all the stress of moving (and don’t kid yourself: moving is stressful), last week–having survived the ordeal of flying with a cat (I gave her a test sedative the week before which worked almost instantly; the morning of the flight, I gave her the pill at 7, went to a diner, and when I came back at 7:30 she was totally unaffected leading me to believe she’d done like Rosemary in Rosemary’s baby and secreted the pill somewhere. So I gave her a 2nd sedative, which she promptly threw up. Freaking out and already late for my flight, I gave her half a pill, put her in her carrier, and sure enough her eyes glazed over in the cab and she was fine on the flight. Phew!) and the endless ordeal of leasing a car (a Toyota Camry) and getting car insurance (Geico) and the thankless task of dealing with movers (“we’re coming Tuesday” “now we’re coming Wednesday” “now it’s Friday”)–I got sick. This happens to me; when I’m stressed out, I get sick. So I had a nasty cold and I felt crappy and depressed and unsettled. And having been as enthusiastic about Yuko’s guest post as you all were, I decided that I wanted ramen.
I have a folder on my Bookmarks Bar called “LAFood” and in there I file away any L.A. restaurant review or tip that I want to remember. In there, I have this post from Midtown Lunch bookmarked: Ramen Yamadaya Comes Between Santouka & I.” I like this post because my kindred New York exile, Zach Brooks, lays out where to get the best Ramen all over L.A.: “most people choose their ramen spots by location. If you’re Downtown, and have a lot of time on your hands, you go to Daikokuya. Mid City? Robata Jinya. The Valley? Ramen Jinya. Westside has always been owned by Santouka. And if you live in Torrance you go to- oh, who am I kidding. If you live in Torrence, you’re not reading what a short fat Jewish guy thinks about pork bone ramen.”
I don’t live in Mid City (at least I don’t think I do) but it’s the closest of all the places Zach mentions (and by the way, I’m meeting Zach for Peruvian food today. Should be fun!) So off I went to Robota Jinya.
Parking in L.A. is a bit stressful because there are all these signs that say things like “NO PARKING: EXCEPT 10 to 12 on Tuesdays for people who have such-and-such-a-pass” and so on. I ended up parking many blocks away from Robata Jinya, unnecessarily I later discovered. I’d misread signs. And my walk over there was hot and unpleasant. Sniffling and sneezing, I was in a sour mood.
But once inside–and I was the only customer, having arrived at 11:30 AM (I think I’m still on New York time)–I felt somewhat at peace. I sat at the bar where I studied the menu. My eyes went straight to the ramen section, even though there are many intriguing items to choose from (including homemade tofu that they make right in front of you). And there I saw this: “Shio Tonkotsu Ramen–HAKATA Pork premium rich broth–Limited to 20 servings a day.”
Premium rich broth? Limited to 20 servings a day? This is what I was going to have: (a) because of my nasty cold, I wanted a rich broth to cure me; and (b) being the first and only customer there, I knew I’d have a good chance of being one of the 20.
And sure enough, I was. Here’s the Shio Tonkotsu Ramen in all its glory:
People, I’m not going to lie: this was undoubtedly, unquestionably the best ramen–the best broth–I have ever enjoyed as a human being on this earth. Sure, context is everything. Imagine me sick and furnitureless and bitter and suddenly, this bowl is set before me, and the clouds part and a big blast of sunshine lights up my insides. But that’s how it was. I slurped it up with reckless abandon and the noodles, which you can barely see beneath the surface in that picture, were long and chewy and satisfying in a deep way. Then there was this egg which coast $1.50 more and was probably cooked in soy sauce:
“Please add to your broth,” said the man when he set it down.
Isn’t that beautiful? I did indeed add it to the broth and it gave everything even more heft; some of the yolk mixing in with the noodles and the liquid.
But it’s that broth by itself–that intense, premium pork broth–that calls into question the cold-fighting hegemony of chicken noodle soup. I realize it’s rather controversial for a nice Jewish boy to praise pork broth over chicken broth for its cold-fighting abilities, but let me put it this way: after I finished this soup, not only did I get better 24 hours later, our furniture arrived a day early. And now I’m writing at a table in my dining room instead of from the floor leaning against the wall. And I’m loving life in California, where we keep the front door open in the morning and the afternoon and I look out at an orange tree and a lime tree and a rose bush. Things are good.
So thank you, Robota Jinya. Your Shio Tonkotsu Ramen cured me in more ways than one.