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Among the extensive pantheon of ramen varieties is tsukemen, in which the noodles are served on a dish with a bowl of dipping sauce on the side. My first experience with the dish was in college, when a buddy took me to a tsukemen place that had opened up near our campus in Tokyo that was famous for their sauce made with fish stock. At the time it seemed like a wildly exotic concoction, but little did I know that years later my hometown of Los Angeles would produce an even more outlandish version of the dish: marshmallow ramen.

L.A. never met a variety of ethnic food it didn’t like, and that goes double for Japanese restaurants in the Golden State’s biggest metropolis. The restaurant Ikemen is known for having unique sauces for its tsukemen, and they’ve been around for long enough now that they must have the flavor to keep customers coming back. When we heard they now offer marshmallow ramen, we simply had to check it out.

We stepped inside, and the stylish interior is more like a cool neighborhood bar than a ramen joint. The word “ikemen” means “good-looking guy” in Japanese, and in keeping with that the staff are all stylish cats with laid-back demeanors.

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We flagged down a waiter and asked if the marshmallow ramen rumors were true. “Sure. We call it the Ghost Buster Ramen,” he told us as he took our order.

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A few minutes later, our order arrived with its thick yellow noodles and milky white dipping sauce accompanied by a small salad. The delicious sliced pork placed atop the noodles is cooked so that it’s crispy on the outside, yet tender, juicy, and flavorful on the inside.

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But despite the ramen’s beautiful presentation, the show wasn’t over yet. While we were still admiring our food, our waiter returned with a blowtorch, and with a brief roar of gas, roasted the promised marshmallow before our very eyes. With the marshmallow properly prepared, we dropped it into the dipping sauce, bringing out even more of its aroma.
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We weren’t sure what to expect in terms of flavor, considering the Ghost Buster Ramen’s dipping sauce also contains the unusual (for ramen) ingredient of truffle oil. In fact, the marshmallow smoothes out and refines the flavor of the sauce though, while at the same time amplifying its richness. A complicated process, perhaps, but the result is just plain tasty.

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Ikemen has one branch in L.A.’s Little Tokyo neighborhood, and another on Hollywood Boulevard. Unfortunately it closes too early for an after-clubbing snack, but the next time we’ve got a dinner date with a Hollywood starlet who’s hungry from a long day of filming, we know just where we’re taking her.

Restaurant information:
Address: 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St. Ste 108, Los Angeles, California
Hours of operation: Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. / Saturday-Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Related: Ikemen website

Photos: RocketNews24
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