Ramen Hood presents vegan alternative

Grand Central Market has always been known for featuring innovative places to eat, but with its new ramen place, Ramen Hood, it puts a cool spin on traditional dishes.

Ramen Hood is a new vegan ramen restaurant created by Ilan Hall, the winner of the second season of Bravo’s Top Chef.  Since winning the show, Hall opened a Spanish inspired restaurant, The Gorbals. Though it was well reviewed, The Gorbals has since closed. According to Eater LA, Hall said he was unhappy with the space and planned to transform the menu, making it almost 80 percent vegan. From this idea, Ramen Hood was established.

Though bar seating is limited, much like its popular neighbor Eggslut, it is interesting to watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen and see the various elements of the ramen come together. Customers who  miss out on the limited bar seating or are in a rush can still take their food in a to-go box rather than enjoying the traditional ramen bowls and spoon.

Unfortunately, though the décor was trendy and the restaurant much anticipated, the standard ramen itself was strangely disappointing. The sunflower seed broth, which was not the typical meat-based broth, lacked flavor. And while the king oyster mushrooms were delicious and hearty enough to almost believe they were meat, there were only two small slices. Perhaps more mushrooms or an addition of tofu could have made the dish feel more substantial. Topped with nori, green onions and bean sprouts, it certainly looked the part, but it missed out on flavor.

The noodles, which are so important to a successful ramen, were considerably thicker than the traditional style and were a little doughy, adding to the blandness of the whole dish. They did not soak up the broth’s flavor as thinner noodles do.

On the other hand, the vegan egg deserves a shout out. The white uses a substitute base and the yolk is a soy base with sulfur added to create an eggy flavor. It was, however, a little off-putting to watch the chef fish the “egg”  whites out of a jar of clear liquid and assemble the egg. That being said, it was interesting to see something so alien looking turn into what looked like a normal egg.

The menu itself is not extensive, with only two options, spicy or regular, and a handful of side dishes. The spicy ramen had a little more flavor than the regular, but not enough to make up for the missing ingredient — meat.

There are a few sides to choose from too. The broccoli with a soy chili glaze was an appealing ensemble, as was the Tofu al Pastor served with onion, radish, cilantro and lime.

Both ramen options are priced at $9 and the addition of vegan egg is $2. This might not seem too pricey, but when considering there were only two slices of meaty mushroom (with an extra two pieces priced at $2), it might not be worth its price tag.

Unless you’re a vegan, stick to the real stuff, such as the traditional, old-school ramen at Daikokuya in Little Tokyo. Those committed to veganism, however, seemed to be pleased with Ramen Hood on Yelp.

Grand Central Market is located at 317 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, about 10 minutes away by car from the USC campus. Otherwise, it’s only a short walking from the Pershing Square metro station.

Ramen Hood is open 11 a.m. to 3.30 p.m., seven days a week.