I dip, you dip, we dip: noodles at Ikemen
"Dip ramen," as the few-weeks-old Hollywood ramen spot Ikemen calls it, is its own breed of ramen -- in Japanese, tsukemen. A couple of things about tsukemen: The noodles and toppings are served separately from the broth, and the broth is concentrated and dense, the better to adhere to the noodles when you dip them into the bowl.
It's the specialty at Ikemen, located at Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, where the staff wear fedoras and ties, it's all jazz all the time, and a framed hunk of katsuobushi (dried, fermented and smoked bonito) hangs on the wall. The vibe is sort of Hollywood strip mall meets scene from a Haruki Murakami novel.
And that framed katsuobushi -- it's a telltale decoration. General manager Takashi Adachi, who wields a refractometer to gauge the density of the broth, imports the dried bonito for the restaurant from his father's katsuobushi company in Japan. Powdered katsuobushi flavors the broth for the signature Ikemen dip ramen, and it is heady stuff. Talk about flavor. It's served with thick, springy noodles and your choice of roasted pork or grilled chicken. When you're finished with all of your noodles and if there's any broth left over, your server will ask if you want to "break" the broth. They'll add a little hot water so that you can sip the rest of it, mellowed but still as tasty.
1655 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood, (323) 800-7669, www.ikemenhollywood.com.
-- Betty Hallock
Photo: Ikemen tsukemen. Credit: Betty Hallock