The Ramen Joint opened in 2016 and has been serving bowls of rich ramen ever since. Located on a quiet, one-block stretch of almost suburban Westchester (despite being a stone's throw from LAX), it often has lines out the door. The setting is very Main Street USA, with a vacuum and sewing machine shop next door that has the aged patina of a place that has been in operation since the infancy of the Eisenhower administration.
The tattooed chef at the Ramen Joint, Jimin Kim, singlehandedly prepares bowls of ramen from his tiny open kitchen overlooking roughly a dozen counter seats and a few tables. Sandy Han, the host and co-owner, likely will take your order, explaining add-ons and appetizers. It is a supremely busy, fast-paced cafe, reminiscent of the bustling ramen shops you'll find near train stations in Tokyo.
The brief, simple menu is listed above the kitchen counter: two types of ramen — the traditional pork and the more novel chicken; a few appetizers, and various Japanese and Mexican sodas and canned teas. The chicken karaage (fried chicken, Japanese style) is a rustic take on chicken nuggets. Greaseless and perfectly fried, they are paired with an aioli.
The oysters, fried in Japanese panko bread crumbs, are flavorful on their own, but they come with katsu sauce, a thick melange of soy, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar, which complements most fried dishes. A refreshing seaweed salad, fried squid and salted edamame just about round out the succinct starter menu. (Sadly, beer and wine are not offered just yet.)
Moving on to the main event, there's the classic, creamy pork-based tonkotsu ramen broth. But the reason you probably came here is the true rarity in our metropolis littered with ubiquitous pork ramen: the shoyu chicken ramen. The broth is based on chicken bones that have been laboriously boiled down for at least 13 hours. The thick broth is loaded with noodles, wood ear mushrooms and spinach leaves. (If you have the appetite of a bona fide trencherman, you should definitely add extra noodles.) The slice of chicken terrine floating on top of the broth is influenced by classic French technique: to finish, Kim sears the terrine with a blowtorch.
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Don't be afraid to order it spicy: The crushed red chili pepper adds a kick that rounds out the rich, umami-intensive broth. You can also doctor your broth with myriad add-ons, from sweet corn to mushrooms to kimchi.
This might be your new favorite post-LAX restaurant.
6220 W. 87th St., Westchester. (424) 227-9328, theramenjoint.com.