The Cortado @ Dinosaur Coffee

#dailycortado @dinosaur_coffee and a new book!
I was sipping a cortado at newly opened Dinosaur Coffee on Sunset a few days ago when I noticed something different in the popular drink served in a gibraltar glass.  It was slightly sweet.  Not as sweet as a drink from Starbucks — it was more like a sweet aftertaste.

At first, I thought they had sweetened the milk because the foam tasted sweet.  When I asked the woman behind the counter what was different, it turned out that the regular cortado at Dinosaur Coffee is more like cortadito.  They add a pinch of turbinado sugar to the ground espresso beans so that when they’re brewed, the coffee that’s extracted also has some of the sugar.

I was not expecting the sweetness, but it was a pleasant surprise. It’s also possible to get just a regular cortado without the sugar, as long as you remember to ask for it.

On the other side of the spectrum, Dinosaur also offers a bitter cortado, doctored up with their house-made coffee bitters.  The only difference from a regular (non-sweetened) cortado I could taste was the more fragrant aroma.

 

Dinosaur Coffee
4334 Sunset Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90029

Ramen Champ — Long Live The Champ

ramen_champ 2

Disclaimer: I was invited by a friend to Ramen Champ and did not pay for my meal.

When I first walked into the small ramen restaurant, what caught my eye was the bold black on white drawings on the wall.  If you look carefully, you’ll see a narrative created by noodles.  While plenty of places are nice to look at, I’m glad to say that Ramen Champ has both style and substance. It’s a rare thing to have a place offer vegan ramen. It’s a rarer thing for this place to not only be a normal restaurant offering non-vegan options, but also have one of the best bowls of ramen in LA.

ramen_champ 5

The tonkotsu ramen here is not for the faint of heart. Literally.  The amount of pork packed into this bowl of ramen should come with a warning label like the ones on roller coasters. The rich soup is less of a broth and more of a porky gravy that coats each strand of chewy noodle to make a perfect mouthful.  The toppings include curling slivers of green onion, crunchy slices of radish, a soft boiled egg, sliced pork belly, and a drizzle of garlic oil.  As much attention should be paid to the flavorful, slightly sweet, soft slices of pork as to the broth.

ramen_champ 7

Then there’s the soft boiled egg.  Oh, that egg! The soy-seasoned egg easily gives way to a molten yolk that barely manages to stay together.

ramen_champ 6

On the other end of the spectrum is the vegan ramen*.  I’ve had a lot of vegan ramen in my life and this is the best.  The mushroom broth is seasoned so that the sometimes overwhelming taste of mushroom is brightened and actually tastes like a ramen broth, including that oily mouthfeel.  The toppings — hen of the woods mushroom, seasoned slices of tofu, radish, and green onion, all work to create a cohesive bowl of ramen.  One of the shortcomings I always see in restaurants attempting a vegan ramen is trying to get too creative by throwing kale, broccoli, spinach, or even sesame paste in.  Ramen Champ doesn’t fall into those traps and instead stays focussed on giving vegetarians a taste of what everyone else is eating.

ramen_champ 1

I would have already been happy if this place offered good ramen, but the non-ramen dishes on the menu were notable as well.  The mushroom tempura has shimeji mushrooms in a delicate and crunchy batter accented with a few shiso leaves.  The vegetable curry (which also happens to be vegan) is made with a fragrant house-made curry powder which is worth trying if you’ve only had the stuff that’s come out of an S&B can.

ramen_champ 4

Then, if that wasn’t enough, there are also house-made condiments to jazz up the ramen.  For a little heat, try the sriracha infused chili oil, which made my mouth do a double-take.  I heard there will also be a house-made Japanese seven-spice (togarashi) in the future.

ramen_champ 8

With all these tasty options to order off the menu, and the attention and care put into even minor things like condiments, I won’t be surprised if Ramen Champ ends up having lines like its forerunner, Eggslut.  It does make me sad that this will probably be one of the few times I’ll be able to just stroll in and pull up a stool under the monochromatic mural and slurp a bowl of ramen without having to wait or battle crowds.

ramen_champ 3

Ramen Champ
727 North Broadway #203
Los Angeles, CA
Ramen Champ

* Normally, this option appears as vegetarian ramen on the menu, but if you’re vegan, make sure to let the server know so that the egg will be left out and the usual noodles will be swapped out for eggless noodles.

Where to Eat in Austin: Easy Tiger

Bread, pastries, and beer next to a creek. What could be better? While I unfortunately only had time and stomach space to eat a pastry from Easy Tiger, I liked what I ate.  So much so that I forgot to take a picture of it before taking a bite out of it.

Untitled

It’s called a Tiger Claw and it’s like a bear claw, but better. It’s not as sticky sweet, and it’s filled with a spicy, sweet, and savory mix of crushed pecans and some sort of warming spice. If you’re like me in that you don’t like pastries to be too sweet, it is the perfect thing. And yes, it has a nice kick.

Easy Tiger
709 East 6th St.
Austin, TX 78701