Restaurant: Killer Noodle
Location: 2030 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Date: October 16, 23, 26 & 29, 2017
Cuisine: Japanese Dan Dan Noodles
Rating: Tasty but highly specific
Yesterday/today they just opened their newest venture in the old Bachi Burger space. Killer Noodle specializes in Tantanmen which is the sort of milder more approachable Japanese “adaption” of Chinese Dan Dan Mien. I love the original Chinese version and even make it myself.
The outside menu. Yesterday Killer Noodle was giving away free bowls but today is the first (normal?) day and it was mostly full at 12:30-1ish but not quite. People probably don’t totally know it’s open yet but no crushing mob.
Because of the threat of spice I ordered this Japanese Yogu drink. Went well with the tan tan actually. Very Japanese. They have Asahi draft and that’s about it too. Tsujita is VERY minimalist.
Side of Char sui pork. Same as at Tsujita LA, and just as good. They make a nice fatty pork. You stuff this in the noodles (below).
Poached egg. What the Japanese call an Onsen style egg (boiled at low temp) rather than a proper marinated ramen egg (with gooey center). This is a very soft half cooked egg. Still good though. You crack it in your dish.
Now for the main events:
With pork and egg added. The Tokyo also has some sesame in it, but as far as I can tell no Szechuan broad beans, five spice, or pickled mustard greens like a real Dan Dan. The broth base is a mix of chicken stock and tonkotsu stock. Presumably the same or similar as a regular Tsujita ramen. It’s mildly spicy with the chili oil, very garlicky, and has a mild sesame taste. It was very tasty, and again much closer to a “spicy ramen” than a real dan dan. But that’s what tan tan is.
Tokyo style dry. This is a 10/26/17 level 5 with extra egg and pork. Tokyo is a touch nuttier, a touch less mala by default, but certainly not very different. So far, this is my favorite variant (and I’ve tried all the dry versions).
Mixed up. This is what you actually eat.
Downtown Style Tantamen, dry. The dry variant they claim is closer to the Chinese original, although I’m not sure I agree. This downtown one has cayenne and Szechuan peppercorn. It wasn’t very hot or particularly numbing at level 3. It was very tasty though. Tons of garlic. Ground pork. Definitely a more Japanese blend than a real Chinese one. This version doesn’t have the sesame (or at least not nearly as much). At a level 5 this packs a very potent chili wallop.
The stirred up (but messy) dry style. Not totally dry obviously as the flavor is in the sauce. They use the same (as far as I can tell) thick Tsukemen noodles for the dry version.
And all mixed up. This is BY FAR the most different of the 3. It’s got a sort of green/black pepper flavor and while it has plenty of heat is much more subtle and much less flavorful. Nice texture with the bean sprouts and tofu too. They give you lemon to add acid. Tasty and interesting, and almost “cooling” between bites of my level 5 “downtown”. But I wouldn’t crave it nearly as much.
Pork over rice bowl. This is tiny. It’s not a meal but an “extra”. You mix it up, but it has sour cream in there too along with chili sauce and ground pork. Makes for a weird mix.
Mapo ball. Why it’s called a ball, I have no idea. But the mapo is actually an excellent take on the Chinese classic. Not exactly totally Chinese, but super delicious with some real mala heat.
Overall, I’ll be back (many times) as this was a very tasty spicy ramen. I had the wet version the first time (Tokyo) and the dry version (Downtown) the second and a dry (Tokyo) the third and a dry (Downtown) and dry (Original) the fourth. To break down the styles: Tokyo is my favorite and has far more sesame nut flavor. Downtown is more straight chili, mala, and vinegar. Original has it’s unique bright green/black pepper flavors but is much more subdued flavor-wise and feels far less rich.
The thicker noodles are better and because of that I like the “dry.” But I found out you can order the thick noodles in a wet so I have to try that too.
I think Killer Noodle does an excellent job with Tantanmen — being the derived milder Japanese version of Dan Dan. That’s pretty much all they offer, even if there are a couple versions. It would be a weird place to bring a group because not EVERYONE wants a spicy ramen variant. But when you do, totally worth coming.
The first time I got a 3 heat level and that was relatively mild. The second a 4 and that was a big step up heat wise and had me sweating although it wasn’t tough to eat. I tried a 5 (on two different days) also and that was very hot. Certainly I could eat it, but I was really sweating. 4 is probably the sweet spot going forward although I’ll try a 6 to see, but likely that will be “manageable but not worth it.” Definitely on my regular rotation for now!