ith the countless traditional ramen options available to noodle lovers in Los Angeles, it is truly thrilling to explore a new restaurant specializing in its thicker, made-for-dipping cousin: tsukemen (literally translates to “dipping ramen”). Okiboru. If you’re new to this style of ramen, be sure to make your way over to the south-ish wall of the restaurant, where the staff has chalked out a very informative list of Do’s and Don’ts of Eating Tsukemen.
The most relevant for us on this list: “DO try squeezing some lime juice on the noodles.” …We might have completely missed this originally and squeezed the lime juice into the broth, but now we know for next time. Learn from our fudge-ups!
While waiting for our noods to arrive, we sipped on a few different flavors of Stubborn Soda,
a line of craft fountain drinks by Pepsi Co. which contains no artificial sweeteners nor corn syrup—HOORAY!
Among the three we tried, the Lemon Berry Açai really sparkled, especially if you’re looking for a refreshing beverage that will offset this somewhat heavier meal. Bottled Bundaberg Soda and hot/iced green tea offerings are also available if you prefer.
For our tsukemen experience, we went with the restaurant’s namesake, The Okiboru (“the big bowl”). And it was two big bowls!
The clay bowl is filled with rich and creamy house-made broth, bits of chashu pork, a marinated soft-boiled egg, and bamboo shoots. The shallower, wider bowl is filled with a heaping portion of housemade, hand-pulled tsukemen noodles, generous thick strips of grilled pork ribs (marinated overnight and then braised for four hours!), pickled radish, nori, and lime wedge. Remember, the lime is for the noodles! Go ahead and twirl a bundle of noodles around your chopsticks, and as their awesome graphic shirts instruct: Dip it! Dip it good!
Also, if you love a little (or a lot of) extra heat with your noodles, they do have chili paste available!
As a plus, they come in cute little canisters that are very instaworthy, along with their noodle strainer napkin/chopstick holders.
For those of you that would rather stick with traditional ramen and/or are vegetarian, the Veggie Ramen
was super slurp-worthy! Served as a single bowl of house-made ramen noodles (slightly thinner than the tsukemen noodles) in a creamy mushroom and veggie broth. Even though we are a far cry from being vegetarian, your SmvEATS team thoroughly enjoyed this bowl of brothy goodness. The grilled tofu is perfectly firm and absolutely divine in Okiboru’s veggie broth. As a note, while the broth itself is vegan, the house-made noodles are not vegan, but they are phenomenal.
Why are the noodles here are so amazing? It could have something to do with the fact that co-owner and chef Sean Park has spent some serious time traveling to Japan to study the art of making tsukemen and ramen noodles, tweaking the recipes to his own style of perfection. It could also be the ingredients themselves, as the Nippon whole-wheat flour he sources is of the best quality one can find for these noodles. This combination of experience and dedication with premium ingredients, mixed and hand-crafted in-house is what really makes Okiboru unique in LA’s Japanese noodle scene.
[Menu Change Note: During our interview with Park, he had mentioned he had new recipes in the work, and since this review, Okiboru does have a new menu reflecting these changes. Be on the lookout for a follow-up review!]
Parking Pro-Tip: Parking in Chinatown LA is not always the most friendly, but fortunately, Okiboru offers one hour of free parking in their building’s parking garage, so make sure you get your parking ticket validated by their wonderfully friendly staff!