Earlier this week on Digest, we took a moment to say farewell to the many restaurants that folded this summer. Just about a month ago, it was looking like Ramen Champ was a contender for that list, too—the tiny Chinatown soup spot from Eggslut co-owner Alvin Cailan was lights out and locked doors for a few weeks with little more explanation than a closed sign that read “vacay.” Suspicious.
When asked about the closure back in August, Cailan told Eater that he was just giving his staff a well-deserved break and using the downtime to prep for LA Food & Wine festival. Again, suspicious, but since Ramen Champ still seemed to be attracting a steady stream of customers (despite some lackluster Yelp reviews), Cailan’s explanation didn’t seem entirely implausible. Then weeks went by and still no noodles.
And as it turns out, there was indeed something simmering. The restaurant announced yesterday in a press release that Ramen Champ has a new owner: Yoshimasa Kasai. A former producer of Ramen Yokocho, which is touted as the largest ramen festival in the United States, Kasai has also been behind the openings of various concepts, from food courts to French bakeries, throughout Asia. Kasai and Cailan met at Ramen Yokocho last March, and when Cailan was considering closing Ramen Champ, Kasai stepped in.
With Cailan still acting as a consultant, Ramen Champ will re-open its doors on October 2. The revamped menu will be simple at first, featuring tonkotsu, tan-tan tonkotsu (this one will be made with pork broth instead of chicken and will include a meat sauce that Kasai says was inspired in part by Iron Chef Chen Kenichi), and vegan ramen with spinach noodles. Appetizers and more ramen options will surface in November.
“Incorporating what I learn from wonderful chefs in America and traditional Japanese techniques, I want to create a brand new landscape in ramen and [the] culinary industry in America,” says Kasai, who promises rich tonkotsu broth and a “delightful” version of Cailan’s delicious hard-boiled eggs.
Ramen Champ is located at 727 N Broadway, 2nd Floor. It will be open for lunch and dinner, starting Friday, October 2.