Name of restaurant: Modan Artisanal Ramen
Concept: A brand new, affordable, contemporary ramen restaurant tucked away in a tiny space in a South Pasadena strip mall.
What dish represents the restaurant and why? The self-named "Modan Ramen" with meltingly-tender chunks of chashu pork, green onion, wood ear mushroom, nori, half a soft-boiled egg and black garlic truffle oil. The porky broth is of the thick, impenetrable-by-light milky tonkotsu variety and has an almost gamey flavor to it; it is not for the faint of heart. But despite these factors, it somehow maintains a subtle, balanced lightness that allows you to slurp up an entire bowl. Also, don't fear the truffle oil. In this case, it is very mild, nearly canceled out by the black garlic's similarly attractive, funky characteristics.
Runners-up? Their sweet and salty fried Brussels sprouts. The trendy cruciferous sprouts bloom up like flowers when fried and attain a potato-chip like crispness. With that umami-intensive sweet-soy glaze, they will provide a highly welcomed vegetal contrast to your porky bowl of heaven. Plus, they are served on a stick and are only $4.
Who's at the next table? On a Wednesday early afternoon, @carolineadobo and @dadthebaker, local Instagram food celebrity parents who make their own cheese, bake their own bread, cure their own meats, distill their own whiskey and home school their three boys. The family traveled from Claremont just to slurp a bowl here.
Appropriate for: Satiating an unrelenting ramen craving without having to brave the traffic and parking stress that for Eastsiders normally accompanies treks to other more popular Sawtelle or Little Tokyo ramen eateries, ever again.
Uh-Oh: The noodles can be a little too floppy for some. Skip the spicy tuna bowls and stick to just the side salad with fried kabocha crisps and mustard-ponzu dressing if you need a side dish, though the ramen bowl is already filling on its own. Karaage wings can also be a little over-fried (dry).