Name of restaurant: Chibiscus Asian Cafe & Restaurant
Concept: Chibiscus lies somewhere between a ramen house and a Taiwanese cafe, with boba tea on the menu and a Pinkberry/kawaii aesthetic. It's a bit of a rarity -- a restaurant with pan-Asian leanings that does everything well. The space is small and humble, located in a strip mall on the western edge of central Hollywood. It must be the best place for ramen in this part of town.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? The menu is ramen-heavy, so I'd go with the Chibiscus tonkotsu ramen. The pork broth is full of crushed sesame seeds and spices. It tastes marvelous, milky and collagen-rich, with plenty of garlic and a pleasant nutty flavor layered with the pork fat. The noodles are thin and chewy, and they come topped with tender discs of chashu pork. A single perfect half of a soft-boiled egg is one of the best bites of the bowl -- both yolk and white are creamy.
Runner ups: The Chibiscus spicy miso ramen is another stellar option, with a numbing spice reminiscent of Sichuan peppercorn. To start, try the Chibiscus musubi or the Chibiscus pork bun. (For the record, not everything on the menu gets the titular treatment -- maybe just the best things.) To finish, share the Chibiscus brick toast, a tall block of "crispy baked milky bread toast" loaded with fruit, vanilla ice cream and Nutella. There's a whole section of the menu devoted to these brick toasts, and they are worth seeking out if you just want dessert.
Who's at the next table? A young mother spoon-feeds iced tea with lychee jelly to her happy toddler. A few feet away a man with an epic beard chows down on a heap of omurice (fried rice omelette).
Appropriate for: Casual meals any time of day. The dining room and tables are small, so not a great place for big groups. There's a counter ideal for solo dining.
Uh-oh: If Asian music videos make you feel crazy, don't sit facing the wall-mounted TV. It's set up to play a manic sequence of Korean and Japanese pop videos that will generate 20% to 40% of your mealtime conversation.
Service: Great. Friendly, timely, attentive.
What are you drinking? Diet Coke, but I'm eyeing the mason jars of milk tea floating around.
Info: Chibiscus Asian Cafe & Restaurant, 7361 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 977-9877, chibiscus.weebly.com.