オロチョン orochon ramen: b.y.o.m.
There is something seriously amiss when Korean teenagers bring their own milk to a restaurant simply because the food is too spicy. I’ve seen it happen, on more than one occasion, and the last time I witnessed a guy - pasteurized process vitamin D in hand - attempt to make Orochon Ramen’s “wall of bravery”, the results certainly weren’t pretty.
Truth be told, I’m much too chickensh*t to even attempt the challenge: downing a bowl of “Special 2” ramen within thirty minutes (as an added flourish, the waiter even brings a timer to your table) - but it’s mainly because I highly value my colon as a vital, functioning component of my anatomical machinery. Evidently, many people prefer fleeting celebrity these days. After all, you get a Polaroid of yourself on the wall, that is, if you empty your bowl. And no you can’t pick out the bell peppers.
Here’s a hint. Do it with the miso. I’ve gotten as far as the “Hyper Orochon” level by ordering miso ramen. The thick bean paste soup acts as a defensive line against the spices - a “secret” blend of chili peppers, hot oil, and quite possibly the fires of hell - neutralizing the heat of the capsaicin to a slight but crucial degree.
Orochon Ramen is definitely a “gimmick” ramen shop. Which is something of a shame, because the whole spiciness thing detracts from the otherwise above average assari-kei ramen. Like many places in town, Orochon’s menu consists of a shoyu, miso, and shio ramen along with a few side dishes (avoid the star-shaped “gyoza” at all costs). But diners choose from, count ‘em, nine levels of spiciness for their noodles - ranging from non-spicy to “Special 2.” In between are osae-osae (a tiny bit spicy), osae (a little spicy), simply “Orochon” (the signature level I guess), and then levels with names like “Impact”, “Extreme,” “Hyper”, and finally, “Special 1” and “Special 2” taking the crown.
One can only guess how subtle the differences are, and to be honest, I’ve had days when the fourth or fifth levels were fairly mild, and days when they’ve been responsible for certain system malfunctions. In other words, it’s probably pretty unscientific how much heat the cook decides to ladle in.
Spices aside, one constant is my choice of ramen. I almost always order the shio, a surprisingly flavorful bowl of noodles that is ultimately what keeps me coming back, bountiful in an array of tastes ranging from savory to sweet to several points in between. There’s minced garlic in there, of that I’m sure. Black pepper? Maybe. Whatever the recipe is, they’re wise to keep it on the hush.
Orochon’s noodles are their weak point - too limp and floury by far and decidedly ungenerous portion-wise (although kaedama is an option). Like with 6” sandwiches from Subway, I often find that my “perfect amount” is exactly one and a half. Frustrating.
The restaurant’s toppings are likewise insubstantial - bits of bell pepper and scraps of pork and kikurage. Actual chashu, which is surprisingly tender and fatty, costs a dollar extra, as does everything else - eggs and additional green onion are perennial favorites. If you’re fancying a bowl of ramen in the Sapporo style, order miso and add butter and corn. It’s uncommonly good if you keep the heat level to a minimum.
In my mind, Orochon ramen will forever be associated with the kid. “The kid” was a small, skinny teenager at the far end of the stage positively killing a bowl of Special 2 during last summer’s Weller Court Natsu Matsuri festival. Within minutes, he was done, while the other competitors - grown adults twice his size, were slurping along in obvious pain. The kid kicked back and sat motionless in his chair waiting for his gastronomically inferior rivals to finish. The timer expired and the fetching MC in the yukata announced him as the winner of the round. (They had rounds of this; like I said, something is seriously wrong with Orochon ramen). The kid stood up and he was barely out of his chair when he decided to give the audience a full-pressure reprisal of his Special 2 ramen a la Lardass during the pie contest in Stand By Me. I swear, it was a beautiful red rain that fell on that mid-summer afternoon.
|orochon's shio ramen is a surprising miasma of flavor. the miso and shoyu are likewise above average compared to local assari-kei ramen shops. keep the spice level to a minimum (osae range) and you're in the sweet spot.||7|
|limp and floury and a bit small portion-wise, but at least they're proprietary. you can order kaedama (extra noodles) if you must.||4|
|that all depends. willing to pay extra? if so, the toppings are actually pretty good. the chashu is soft and fatty and quite large. you get both halves of the indelicately cooked hard boiled egg. if you're on a budget, it's only bell peppers and scraplings of pork for you!||4.5|
|absolutely awful, shiumai-shaped gyoza with a papery skin. stay away. orochon's spicy scallop fares much better and is quite enjoyable, if you like the raw stuff. order the sausage and you'll likely get jimmy dean. pass on those.||4|
|it's on the third floor of weller court, so you're eating in a (mostly empty) corner of downtown L.A. once inside, things liven up a bit but there's no real ambiance to speak of.||3|
|two words: the kid.||4|
123 Onizuka Street #303(3rd. floor of Weller Court)
open 7 days