I love San Francisco, but when it comes to ramen, my city’s got nothing on LA.
Maybe I’m biased because I lived there for 3 years and ate a shit-ton of ramen in my spare time. And maybe if I put LA head to head with San Mateo instead (15 miles south of SF), we’d have a fairer match. But there’s also something about the way SoCal articulates and consumes its ramen that I’m just more down with than up here in the Bay. It’s hard to explain. Up here, people are like, snobby about ramen. Not that I’m NOT… I think it’s safe to say I have a LOT of opinions about ramen! But I’d like to think I have a decent idea of what I’m talking about. Not only do a lot of people who claim to like ramen in SF not know shit about it, but they also treat it like it’s this novel thing that was created yesterday (as if Top Ramen actually preceded the ramen-ya). In LA, ramen isn’t just the hip new thing you wait 2 hours in line for just because that’s what foodies do. In LA, ramen is a way of life. There’s no bullshit about ramen. It just is. And it’s good. Real good.
For the record, my favorite ramen in SoCal is Shinsengumi (I like the Gardena location best). I’m also a big fan of Yamadaya, which recently opened up shop in San Francisco Japantown (so maybe there’s hope yet :P). Here you won’t see pics from those places, since I already covered them in my 2012 ramen round-up. What you will see is a re-occurrence of bowls from a handful of restaurants in West LA mostly (Sawtelle Boulevard to be exact). I guess that’s where my bias comes out. But trust me… the ramen in LA just has more soul. Which is why I’m concluding my current ramen series (which began up north in the Bay Area and then moved outside the state) with a fresh batch of droolworthy bowls in Los Angeles, California <3.
Red Ramen, Tatsu (Sawtelle, West LA): Tatsu’s tagline is “ramen with a soul.” They may not have the best ramen in the world, but I can vouch for the fact that EVERY bowl I’ve eaten here has lifted my spirits. Plus, you place your order on iPads. If that’s not fun to you… you must not have a soul :P
Tsukemen, Tsujita Artisan Noodle (Sawtelle, West LA): hands down, THE best tsukemen I’ve had outside Japan. The bite to those noodles. That dense, flawless broth. OMG. Worth the super long wait.
Tsukemen, Tsujita Annex (Sawtelle, West LA): the first Tsujita was so popular they opened an overflow restaurant up the block. The tsukemen here is plentiful, but nowhere near as solid. I wonder why they’re even different?
The Original Ramen Burger, Keizo Shimamoto (Mitsuwa Marketplace, Torrance, CA): after so many months of reading the hype about Keizo’s ramen burger in Brooklyn, I was stoked to try it in SoCal! It. Is. AMAZING. Don’t try any of the imposters, you’ll only be disappointed. Now with its own shop in LA’s K-town!
Bold Ramen, Tatsu (Sawtelle, West LA): My go-to at Tatsu. Best flavors on the menu.
Tonkotsu ramen, SilverLake Ramen (Silverlake, East LA): the first few spoonfuls of this were tasty as hell. That’s when I realized: the broth here is 99% BUTTER. Hipsters…
Soul Ramen, Tatsu (Sawtelle, West LA): Tatsu’s signature bowl. A little too much going on for me
Daikokuya ramen, Daikokuya (Sawtelle, West LA): I posted a bowl from the original Little Tokyo location before, which to me was lackluster, but the West LA outpost? Looks and tastes different, and BETTER! Or did I just like it because it was way closer to my house? The interior of this location, made to look like a vintage alley in Tokyo’s redlight district, is worth a gander in and of itself
Naked Ramen, Tatsu (Sawtelle, West LA): was hoping this brothless bowl would fill my void for the ra-yu ramen I yearn for from Kouryu in Okinawa. It was pretty good, but just not as good, ya know?
Fried saimin, King’s Hawaiian (Torrance, CA): again again I know not ramen but OMG. Why did I not try King’s Hawaiian sooner? It was JUST like home, away from home
I hope you enjoyed that spiritual experience :). That’s all the ramen I have for now, but you better believe it’s not the last you’ll see up here. What should my next ramen-related post be on? Leave me a comment if you have any good ideas!