In the world of soups, ramen is king. The luscious, umami-rich broth is fatty, salty and commonly topped with thick slices of glistening pork belly. It is not meant to be a light meal, unless you're at the newly opened Ozu East Kitchen in Atwater Village, where you'll find what may be the most characteristically L.A. ramen in Los Angeles.
"It doesn't have as much fat or salt as regular ramen," said owner Paul Yi, pacing back and forth at the restaurant during its first day of lunch service Friday. "It's lighter."
Yi says the pork ramen is made by steeping pork bones, then removing the fat from the broth while it cooks. This creates a soup base that slurps cleaner and thinner than your typical tonkotsu ramen, but with all that meaty pork flavor you'd get in a creamier broth.
The pork ramen is topped with a couple slices of kurobuta pork, shards of seaweed, slivers of radish pickles and half an ajitama egg (soy sauce egg) and mizuna (Japanese mustard greens).
Yi says the noodles are made by the same producer as Tsujita on Sawtelle Boulevard and Momofuku Noodle in New York City, but that he "chose ones that were a little thicker, a little more substantial."
You can currently order pork, miso or chicken ramen. But there's a lot more than ramen on the menu. There's also a kimchi udon shrimp soup made with kimchi cream, Spam, rock shrimp and watercress.
In keeping with Yi's "lighter" philosophy, the "avocado toast" is actually a crispy rice cake topped with yuzu guacamole and smoked gochujang (Korean fermented hot chile paste). The Little Gem salad is more of an Asian-skewed Caesar, served with an anchovy green goddess dressing and broken bits of shrimp chips in place of croutons.
Wines outnumber the beers on the menu, along with a small selection of sake.
While you sit on one of the sliding wooden blocks that serve as seats in the dining room, you may notice the restaurant's diverse soundtrack includes Spanish guitar, classical music and a Prince cover.
And after lunch, Proof is just a short minute walk down the block.
I slurp with pride. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Jenn_Harris_