ikemen at arms
Ikemen is now open. "What?" you say. The hot new thing to hit the Los Angeles slurping scene is a heavyweight that has thus far flown low, low, low under the radar, the product of one Sean Nakamura, yes, that one, he of Ramen California fame. When disquieting reports of Nakamura-san's mysterious abdication of the south Torrance throne began making the rounds last month, I was inundated with requests for more information, as if I alone had the inside track to all the noodlings-on in Tinseltown.
In truth, I did know what's up. Kind of. But like any good film producer worth his weight in hookers, cell-phones, and cocaine, I've tried to keep things under wraps, lest the local food geekery drum up unrealistic expectations of what is, and should remain a modest yet ultrahip temple to state-of-the-art neo-Tokyo tsukemen.
This past Thursday, I was invited to a preview of Ikemen's super-soft-soft-opening. In fact, my sporadic photographic sidekick and I were treated to the first ever public samplings from Nakamura's Ikemen menu, itself a work-in-gestation. I won't "review" the place yet. You shouldn't either, dear foodblogger, dear Chowhounder, Yelper. It is worth noting that Chef Nakamura, one of the most celebrated chefs in Japan, is merely producing the restaurant, conceptualizing it, designing the menu and whipping the new ship into shape. Thomas Keller doesn't actually cook at Bouchon. Jose Andres doesn't helm the nitrogen tanks at The Bazaar. But we never expected them to. Suffice it to say, the tomato and basil pesto and tonkotsu-infused "Johnny Dip" tsukemen, the garlicky, Kumamoto-esque "Zebra," and the wafu gyokai, bonito-heavy namesake Ikemen (which, by the way, is a pun on the Japanese slang for metrosexual that means "chic noodles") are all bona-fide fantastic, as are the blowtorched chashu pork buns.
Ikemen is in Hollywood. If you're used to schlepping around Torrance and Gardena in search of that perfect bowl, it's a drive in the opposite direction. Brave traffic if you must, for noodles like these must be earned.
1655 N La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
photos by Pirikara