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ASA RAMEN - brand new hidden gem (review)

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rameniac Oct 30, 2007 06:17 PM

alright 'hounds, I haven't been this excited about a local ramen shop since... well, santouka? asa just opened in the place that was once bistro laramie. it's a tiny little ramen shop that totally feels like it's out of japan, not in the gardena ramen "old-guy-with-a-cauldron" way but with that rustic-modern aesthetic that is all the rage and really speaks to the attention to detail that shop owners over there put into things. most amazingly, the ramen is just as superbly well-crafted; they use a proprietary hakata-style noodle that is light years away from anything the other ramen shops have in town. the soup is not "quite" orgasmic yet, but it's only been open a month and the place doesn't even have a sign up. (i'm hoping it stays that way). by day the shop is boarded up and looks like absolutely nothing. they flip out a large wooden board at night (just like in japan!) and from 6pm - 2am, it's pretty much one of the top ramen shops in town. i'd say it's 2nd only to santouka (but santouka is a large chain, ultimately)... this place definitely pwns daikokuya and even hakata ssg. but that's just my opinion.

be forewarned, portions are on the small side (japan-sized lol) and it can be a little pricey. two bowls + a few toppings + takoyaki + a beer ended up a little over $30. actually, now that i think about it, that's pretty reasonable these days.

go go go now! and don't tell jonathan gold lol. the place has like, 3 tables and an eight-seat counter. if the daikokuya denizens get wind of the place there it'll be a 3-hour wait before anyone gets seated. aw, heck. chef kubo will be happy at least. crap, i just ruined it for myself, didn't i?

http://www.rameniac.com/resource/comm...

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  1. Chowpatty RE: rameniac Oct 30, 2007 06:32 PM

    Dang! It's in Gardena....but thanks for telling us about it anyway.
    18202 S Western Ave
    Gardena, CA
    6pm - 2am (daily)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chowpatty
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      rameniac RE: Chowpatty Oct 31, 2007 10:05 AM

      haha i always get confused where the borders are around there. "gardena ramen," which is right across the street on the other side of western, is apparently technically in torrance!

      1. re: Chowpatty
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        fdb RE: Chowpatty Nov 28, 2007 08:15 AM

        Is this in the same center as Sanuki no Sato?

      2. MeAndroo RE: rameniac Oct 31, 2007 09:14 AM

        As a downtown dwelling Daikokuya denizen, rest assured that we'll make sure Kubo-san is in business for a long time :)

        Honestly though, I'm in the South Bay rarely enough. Now the choice for ramen when I'm there gets tougher yet. Awesome pictures, btw.

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          exilekiss RE: rameniac Oct 31, 2007 05:06 PM

          Hey rameniac,

          Thanks for the 411! :) I've been extremely disappointed with the downfall of Ramen in LA recently (IMHO, Shin Sen Gumi's Hakata Ramen has deteriorated badly in the last year or so, and even Santouka (the Costa Mesa branch) seems to have sold their business and have new people working at it, and their Ramen has gotten worse from when they first opened last year).

          It's great news to hear of some real Ramen back in LA! I'll have to give it a try soon. :)

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            gachimai RE: rameniac Oct 31, 2007 05:35 PM

            I too ate at this restaurant, last week and I agree. I was just going to post about it, but you beat me to it. reminds me of my time living in Japan. I do agree that the portions are really small and the service was a little slow. My wife, who is a native Japanese, she thought the portions were too small even by Japanese standards and pricey.

            We figured out that the place next door is part of the same group, next door is a hostess club (snack bar as its called) where pretty girls will pour drinks for drunk businessmen and laugh at their jokes. The wife's theory is that they'll drink there, then stumble next door for the food, thus the smaller portions.

            I do like the ramen a lot and might like it more than Santouka, I definetly think the noodles are better. And the takoyaki is great, better than most of the crap served around in the area.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gachimai
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              rameniac RE: gachimai Oct 31, 2007 10:07 PM

              lol about the drunken stumbling, that's what i was thinking. tho if that were the case, they should stay open another few hours, til like 5am or something. one can only dream!

            2. SauceSupreme RE: rameniac Nov 28, 2007 12:50 AM

              I think the best thing about the rich, kotteri ramen are the thin noodles. I've often felt that the noodles at Santouka had a little too much "chew", if only by a small amount.

              One plain bowl, no toppings, lists on the menu as $6something. Reasonable, and with its porky broth, it'll fill you up regardless. Also, the late hours are great, since Santouka closes so early at their West LA location.

              3 Replies
              1. re: SauceSupreme
                TonyC RE: SauceSupreme Nov 28, 2007 09:09 AM

                Ugh. makes me wish I stayed last nite...

                1. re: TonyC
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                  rameniac RE: TonyC Nov 28, 2007 10:18 PM

                  hehe we can always go back!

                  1. re: rameniac
                    TonyC RE: rameniac Nov 29, 2007 08:53 AM

                    going tonite. d'frent Korean Tung-Dalk place preceeding the ramen. gonna have some of the takoyaki pirikara raved about.

                    i parked in front of the store that nite, read the kanji (ya-sa? guess it's pronounced differently in Japanese?) but... couldn't get myself to have another bowl of anything at 11pm.

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                pirikara RE: rameniac Nov 28, 2007 09:00 AM

                Mmm, personally, I thought Asa was a bit salty, but their takoyaki was EXCELLENT!!

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                  sue veed RE: rameniac Dec 1, 2007 12:06 PM

                  OK, what's the deal with this place? I tried to go last night (Friday, 11/30, 7pm) after reading the great reviews.

                  We went into the restaurant and the only person there was a man sitting at the counter smoking a cigarette and reading a newspaper. He said they were closed.

                  Closed on Friday night?

                  Please fill me in...I want the Takoyaki!

                  1. s
                    sue veed RE: rameniac Dec 1, 2007 12:18 PM

                    OK, what's the deal with this place? I tried to go last night (Friday, 11/30, 7pm) after reading the great reviews.

                    We went into the restaurant and the only person there was a man sitting at the counter smoking a cigarette and reading a newspaper. He said they were closed.

                    Closed on Friday night?

                    Please fill me in...I want the Takoyaki!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: sue veed
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                      rameniac RE: sue veed Dec 1, 2007 02:11 PM

                      really? weird. i hope nothing's wrong. let me try and find out what gives...

                      1. re: rameniac
                        Dommy RE: rameniac Dec 1, 2007 09:03 PM

                        Please report back! We tried to go one Sunday right after you posted and also found it closed. I didn't mention it because lots of Japanese places are closed on Sundays... But now I'm worried that they keep odd hours...

                        --Dommy!

                        1. re: Dommy
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                          rameniac RE: Dommy Dec 2, 2007 12:17 AM

                          ok apparently, the chef is involved with japan expo this weekend and might even be serving ramen there, which might explain their closure last night. hopefully it's just due to this event. i haven't made it back down yet to ask them, but i will soon, rest assured.

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                      younblo RE: rameniac Dec 27, 2008 12:59 PM

                      Me and my wife went to asa ramen last night.
                      Got there too early, so we had to wait outside for 20minutes.
                      The waitress opens the door and changes the 'closed' sign to 'open', and closes the door as she walks away.
                      People waiting outside were confused if she was letting us in or not.
                      She comes back out, and with a blank face,
                      "It's opened." and walk back in without holding door for the customers.

                      As the first team gets seated we were waiting for our turn to be seated.
                      She looks at us from far away and points at the bar, meaning go seat yourselves at the bar.
                      I asked if we could sit at the table. she says..
                      "No. that's for four people."
                      Okay, I understand it's a pretty small place and you want us to sit at the bar. Fine.. But at least you could be a little polite?

                      Me and my wife seat ourselves at the bar.
                      This was my second time at Asa Ramen.
                      I tried to shoyu kotteri last time and thought it was too Salty and plain at the same time. (people who like Hakata style tonkotsu ramen would understand what I'm talking about.)
                      I decided to give Assari shoyu a try with a couple of toppings that I haven't tried.
                      'Pork bak fat?' (not even spelled right, maybe that's why i was confused?)
                      I like fatty chashu, so I was wondering it was something like a slab of meat that was a bit fattier.
                      I asked her what the pork back fat was.
                      With a sour look,
                      "Uhh......what do you mean? pork back fat is pork back fat.."
                      I wanted to punch her in the face.
                      At this point i wanted to leave, but my wife and I were too hungry. We just ordered our food.

                      Our food comes out, and we start eating, (and being really disappointed by the food), the waitress comes over and asks us to scoot over to the very end of the bar to squeeze more people in.

                      Great!!!!

                      This kind of a thing would be very unpleasant even if the waitress was apologizing and moving our stuff for us. she just told us to move and walked away!!! I couldn't believe what was happening.
                      I had to move my ramen, my wife's bowl of fried rice and our beer, myself.

                      Best ramen place in L.A.?
                      Hah!!!!!
                      I consider myself a real ramen geek.
                      Tried a lot of places in Japan(I mean a LOT!!!), since my wife lived in japan for a while.
                      Big fan of Santouka, Shinsengumi in L.A., Ippudo in NY.
                      I think Daikokuya is overrated, and the wait is ridiculous,
                      But i would rather have daikokuya over this piece of crap place.
                      Worst service ever!!!! Plain Shoyu ramen with no taste!!!
                      Good takoyaki???
                      Buy yourself a bag of frozen takoyaki from the japanese market,
                      and just deep fry it. I promise you it'll taste the same.

                      I left no tip with a note on the table.
                      'Thanks for the worst service ever!'

                      Just go to Mitsuwa in Santa monica, or torrance.
                      They have Santouka in their foodcourts.
                      That is the best ramen place in L.A. I would even say Best Place in the U.S. It's only a few blocks away from this hellhole.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: younblo
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                        mrhooks RE: younblo Dec 28, 2008 12:22 PM

                        I agree about the assari shoyu ramen - not much flavor there. As for the waitress's behavior...yeah, the thing about not holding the door open is kinda weird. The pork back fat thing though, I get the impression she wasn't sure how to explain it, made worse by the fact that her English isn't that great (and asking "what is it?" as opposed to "how is it served?" might have added to her confusion). I also get the impression that the waitresses there weren't necessarily hired for their job skills. ;-) However, I figured anyone who is as experienced with ramen as you say you are should know that "pork back fat" is seabura, diced bits of fat added to the soup.

                        I completely disagree about the merits of Asa's kotteri shoyu ramen versus Shin-Sen-Gumi's Hakata ramen. The noodles and chashu at Asa are much better. The soup at Asa is inconsistent, and tends to be thinner than SSG's, but flavor-wise, at it's best it is also better. SSG's soup isn't as porky as it should be, and the base just makes it saltier. But Asa is inconsistent, and it sounds like you were the victim of their inconsistency. OTOH, SSG is pretty consistent, but nothing about their ramen is ever truly great (except maybe how katamen they cook their noodles).

                        Also, I think Ippudo is better than Santouka, but I have a peference for Hakata-style noodles. As for Ippudo versus Asa, Ippudo's chashu is only marginally better than SSG's IMHO, so Asa wins there. But Ippudo's buta no kakuni is much better than the chashu, and their soup is definitely better as well. I would give Ippudo the edge, and rank them as Best Place in the U.S. (that I've been to, of course), over anything we have here. Too bad they're only in NY (and expensive).

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