Modan Artisanal Ramen

Are you sick of the word ‘artisanal’ yet? Because I am. I should have known Modan Artisanal Ramen was going to be disappointing.

An average bowl of ramen at an above average price. But I did get to sit next to one of my fav chefs who was also eating there, so worth it! #modanartisinalramen

I was excited when I read about a ramen shop opening in South Pasadena, which is just a stone’s throw away from me. We already have Benten ramen, which works in a pinch if you don’t want to drive all the way to Sawtelle for Tsujita, but it’s always good to have other choices in the neighborhood. What really got me excited was that their menu said the veggie ramen was vegan!

Alas, it was not so.

When Will and I got to the restaurant a few nights later for dinner, the menu had the word ‘vegan’ crossed out. The noodles have egg in them, so the veggie ramen was just vegetarian, not vegan. For what it’s worth, the broth was decent and the agedashi tofu was a nice addition.

I was put off by the addition of truffle oil in Modan’s signature bowl of ramen, and I wasn’t in the mood for spicy, so I just went with the shoyu ramen. Apparently, I chose poorly. The broth was okay, but lacked a certain something that made it a good ramen broth. Whether it was richness or depth, the shoyu broth just didn’t taste like ramen broth. Maybe I should have just gone with the tonkatsu broth of the signature bowl, but if they’re not going to make a good shoyu ramen, why have it on the menu at all?

The noodles were nothing to write home about either, which just makes me angry. If noodles aren’t going to be vegan, then they’d better be good enough to warrant that!

The chashu also was a surprise to me. Instead of the slices of buttery soft pork I expected, I had two large slices of dry, slightly tough, grilled pork. It wasn’t tough enough that I didn’t give Robin some pieces, and I guess it was in her interest that the pork wasn’t more delicious because I would have eaten more of it myself.

Overall, Modan wasn’t good enough for me to go out of my way to return to, especially when Benten is slightly better tasting and a better value. I don’t mind paying more for ramen that’s exceptional, but in this case, it wasn’t.

Modan Artisanal Ramen
700 Fair Oaks Ave
Ste G
South Pasadena, CA 91030

Benten Ramen

It’s not easy being a noodle shop next to the always packed Golden Deli. When Ton Chan ramen closed its doors and Benten Ramen opened in the same spot, I didn’t pay much attention.  When I read that Benten served tsukemen and it was a hot day, I was more intrigued.

Benten is minimalist in its offerings: 4 types of ramens on the menu, 3 mocktails, and 2 types of complementary iced teas.  It’s a good menu for someone  with menu fatigue.  Sometimes, you just know what you want, and today, all I wanted was refreshing glass of iced tea and tsukemen.

Organic iced rooibos.

The organic rooibos hit the spot with its slightly herbal flavor.  It immediately made me think of the Chinese grass jelly drinks.

The tsukemen came with a pretty tray of add-ons: soy sauced seaweed, bonito flakes, and spicy miso.  Not sure if the add-on was for the noodle bowl or the dipping sauce bowl, I did a little of each. Spicy miso in the dipping broth, bonito flakes sprinkled on top of the noodles, and I ate a piece of the soy sauced seaweed straight.

Tsukemen for lunch.

The dipping broth for the tsukemen was rich and porky with a decent texture. I actually liked that it wasn’t a pork-bomb like the one that Tsujita serves. I always get a little grossed out when that broth cools and there’s a thin layer of congealed oil at the top.  The small slices of pork in the sauce could have been improved. They had decent flavor, but each piece was too dry.

The noodles were a nice chewy texture and picked up the broth wonderfully.  There was a decent amount of bamboo shoots, which I enjoyed. They cut down on the richness of the broth and noodle combo.  The egg was deceptive.  What I thought was a regular hard-boiled egg was actually a perfectly cooked soft boiled-boiled egg injected with some sort of soy sauce so that when I bit into it, savory, rich yolk leaked out.  I’d break this on top of the bowl of noodles or the extra bowl of rice they offer you as a way to enjoy the extra yolk that leaks out.

Benten Ramen is an improvement to the old restaurant in the exact spot.  The noodles may not be the same as Tsujita’s (Benten’s is a different style) but it’s nice to have a place for tsukemen in the neighborhood.  If their hot ramen offerings are as good as the tsukemen, I will be a repeat customer.

Benten Ramen
821 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Ramen Review: Sichuan Chili Eel Flavor Instant Noodle

Szechuan eel ramen

The first thing that caught my eye was the word “Sichuan” on this bowl-ramen’s package.  I like spicy ramens so a Sichuan one sounded right up my alley. When I continued reading and saw “Eel” flavor, my interested was piqued enough where I had to buy it to try it out.

The bowl contains a package of dry seasoning, a package of oily black stuff, and a large package of eel pieces in sauce.  I took the time to read the directions on the package, which says to save the large package until right before eating.

I cooked this in a ramen pot on the stove so I could put an egg on it, but the styrofoam bowl it comes in would work just as well.

Nice ‘q’ despite my cooking the noodles longer than the 3-minute suggested time in boiling water.  The springiness is different than the “underdone” texture of noodles. It was almost like a konyakku springiness and lasted almost as long as it took me to finish the entire bowl.

Salty and spicy.  I couldn’t taste any mala numbing. If I hadn’t known it was supposed to be “Sichuan” flavored, I would have just thought it was regular spicy flavored.  Initially, there was a savory fishy taste from the eel package, but once that got mixed in better, I forgot about it. There were slices of chili pepper in the seasoning package that plumped up to look almost-fresh. Spice level of soup was medium.

Generous portion of eel pieces.  They were firm and sweet and included the crunchy eel bones.  There were some pieces that still had skin on.  The pieces tasted on par with the canned eel in sauce you’d get at Chinese supermarkets.