Filipino cuisine is very hot right now, so it's not a total surprise to see elements of it show up at what is ostensibly a ramen joint — that other food trend L.A. is wild for right now. But Ramen Room's culinary smashup isn't some soulless attempt at cashing in on current crazes. Owner Andre Guerrero has been dropping love notes to Filipino culture into his menus for years now.
Guerrero's L.A. career has taken all kinds of twists and turns, but he is perhaps best-known for the Oinkster, the burger spot he opened in Eagle Rock 10 years ago, followed by a second, Hollywood location in 2014. There, too, the menu didn't hew to one strict genre: Pastrami and roasted chicken were just as important to the place as the burgers. And Guerrero nodded to the Philippines with pulled pork and the now-famous ube milkshake, a lovely light purple concoction that introduced many diners to the versatility of sweetened taro.
With Ramen Room, Guerrero has once again gone for solid flavors over unified concept, something that in less experienced hands has the potential for disaster.
The Sherman Oaks restaurant (currently battling for a beer and wine license) is located in the same space that briefly, gloriously held Max, and then Marché LA. Ramen Room is much more casual than those two concepts, which is probably a better fit for that stretch of Ventura.
Though the restaurant is named after noodle soup, the menu is dominated by other items. There are two rice bowls, one topped with green leaves, mushrooms, lumpia and pork, chicken or baked tofu. One could make a full meal of the “starters” section, with the cucumber and fruit pickles, the honey-glazed chashu ribs and the caramel/fish sauce chicken wings. If you don't mind a little sweet with your savory (which is one of the glories of Filipino cooking), there's a good chance you'll be over the moon for those three dishes in particular. And if you've never had lumpia, the Filipino fried spring roll, now's your chance.
The ramen comes in five varieties, with either a fish/chicken or mushroom broth. The vegetarian version is an interesting mix of miscellaneous mushrooms, bamboo, green papaya, chilies and tofu, while the meaty options have more traditional add-ins like seaweed, eggs and various cuts of pork. There's also an herby, Filipino rice noodle soup topped with chicken cracklings — it's nice, but L.A. is ready for “fish sauce and ginger” to really taste like fish sauce and ginger.
This unassuming restaurant happens to have a menu of trendy items, but at its core Ramen Room is all familiar comfort food. Guerrero's sons have made a bit of a splash with Burgerlords, but dad's still king of the crowd pleasers.
13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 855-1706, ramenroomla.com.