Once upon a time, I do have an iron gut and a metabolism that an unlimited buffet would not be able to defeat my stomach. I don't need any exercise tips from Michael Phelps to help burn whatever amount of calories I was able to consume in the good old days. However, I never was able to factor in one element: time.
That was the whole interesting challenge that I needed to overcome in this infamous ramen-ya in Little Tokyo. Orachon Ramen, the little noodle house on the top floor of Tozi place behind the Omni Hotel, is famous for one reason: The #2 Challenge.
What is the #2 Challenge? It's supposed to be one of the most spiciest and most chili filled inducement bowl of ramen that was ever introduced. The whole idea of this concept was that you will pluck down a fair amount of money (as in 50 cents extra on top of your bill) and finished off an extremely chili spiced ramen bowl in 30 minutes or less. What is the prize in this? You'll see it in the end of this review.
The broth for the soup contains 13 different spices (stated in their website). You will be able to choose from three different soup base (Miso, Soy Sauce, and Salt), where then next you will have to choose the spicy level of your soup, with the #2 special being the most extremely tummy wrecker out of the whole menu.
The waitress gave us an important tip about finishing the bowl in 30 minutes. She suggested to us to get the soy sauce broth because it's easier to digest. Miso is suppose to be thicker and more likely to slow you down with its heavier texture. Some people don't respond to salt base as well as the soy sauce because it can add a whole new element of salt during the contest. Salt being the thirst inducer, meaning you will slow down and drink water. Drinking water will then add more volume to your stomach contents.
So obviously, our friends and comrades who wanted to participate in this macho ritual of downing the entire bowl of ramen with soup in 30 minutes, have all chosen Soy Sauce as their soup base.
As in for me, I chickened out and ordered the #4 Orochon ramen (medium spicy). You get to see a big different soup as the Orochon #2 have chili marks all over the bowl (visible ring marks can be seen on the bowl above the soup.
While I watched my friends sweat, slurp, and even thinking of strategy on how to finish the bowl, I was enjoying my plate of gyoza and leisurely finishing my soy sauce based #4 ramen. One of my friend even employed the straw technique of sucking the soup first before attempting the noodle.
It was not pretty watching them laboring hard towards the finish line as I can tell the bowl of chili in the soup is killing them. I looked around the place and saw a loner's corner, where a single seat was facing the wall. Then I realized the prize that was given to the victor... the honor of having your polaraid picture taken and placed it on the bulletin board.
Yes, that's the prize. Bragging rights to be on that board. With so many people competing for that prize, they kept a scrapbook of all the past contestants who were able to finish within the 30 minutes time limit.
The review about the noodle and soup, it's not that remarkable. The noodle was fine, but very ordinary. Not much to speak off either about the soup. I think without the attention getting, spicy #2, this place probably would need to come up with a hook for coming here. The noodle tasted like it belongs to any noodle soup, but it was soup that didn't quite sit well with me. If you are asking me to name the 13 spices, it's not very noticeable enough for an educated guess. In that regards, it was not really special for all the hype it made out to be.
I probably think the #2 challenge was the whole attraction for coming here as it proves to be very popular among the thrill seekers.
Note: Three of my eight friends and colleagues who competed in this contest did not finish. The other five barely made it under 30 minutes.
123 South Onizuka street Unit 303
Los Angeles, CA 90012