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molecular gastronomy ramen?! wth?! oh yes, RAMEN CALIFORNIA is here. (review w/ pics)

alright, so i've been away for a while. but i had to come back just to post about Ramen California. seriously, I'm going to sound like a corporate shill in about two sentences except i'd like to think some of you old chowhounders still remember me.

anyway, shigetoshi nakamura, one of japan's most highly regarded ramen chefs has opened an experimental new restaurant, in Torrance, based on the principles of molecular cooking (the guy is buddies with ferran adria and ippudo's shigemi kawahara). he's blatantly trying to "invent" a "california ramen" style using local produce. at first i was pretty skeptical and though it would turn out to be some fusion-type wankery (well ok, it kind of is haha) but it's actually pretty freakin' great.

to really appreciate it though, longtime ramen fans might have to turn their expectations of super-saturated taste and notions of "authenticity" on the side. i sure did. (exilekiss, pho minh fans, you guys are gonna love the clean, earthy flavors). instead of deep, rich steaming ramen complexity, the chef has gone in the totally opposite direction, using seasonal california vegetables and a simple chicken soup. it sounds retarded and it took me a few visits, but i totally "get it." it's ramen with wine pairings and a slew of italian/euro influenced appetizers.

alright, i'll stop gushing. here's a quick breakdown:

the ramen:

"the californian" - ramen in chicken soup with 20 different seasonal vegetables.

"reggiano cheese tofu ramen" - the cheese tofu literally melts into the chicken soup and creates this umami bomb that is like tonkotsu, but cheesy in flavor. far out and damn good. the one that really woke me up to what he's trying to do.

"marsala ramen" - with indian curry powder, it actually has a strong punchy flavor and works well.

"heirloom tomato ramen" - simple and light with fresh tomatoes in chicken soup ramen. surprisingly good. actually not that surprising, all things considered.

the sides:

there's a reggiano cheese tofu appetizer that is basically the same cheese tofu served mediterranean style over tomatoes. it's fantastic.

a fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomato dish that is about as fresh and quality as anything similar i've had.

a whitefish (snapper/flounder) carpaccio served with 5 different salts ranging from volcanic hawaiian ash salt to burmese pink salt, i believe it was. spartan, surprisingly devoid of excess moisture, but not dry.

some very flavorful smoked oysters that the chef smoked himself, in the shop.

if you guys go, the restaurant is still in a pre-opening phase (official opening is towards the end of june) but i get this feeling that the chef will be experimenting/tinkering with the menu for a long time to come. he asked me if i knew of a place in LA to get liquid nitrogen, so i did some research and found him a source. frankly, i can't wait to see what he does with it.

pics, and more effusive raving than you can shake a chopstick at: http://www.rameniac.com/resource/comm...

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  1. Wow. Thank you for the in depth review. Now I know what to have for lunch today. :)

    1. That looks great. I'm excited to check it out.

      1. Wow, thanks for an interesting review! I am intrigued. (And of course we remember you!)

        1. oh heck yes... this might qualify for a weekend trip out of the beach!

          1. Beautiful!!! I've been craving ramen for WEEKS and have not pulled the trigger because I just can't tolerate the salt anymore (SOB!!!!!!!). This sounds right up my alley!

            --Dommy!

            1. I was wondering where you'd gone, good to see you're back. Thanks for the writeup!

              1. i was wondering what the heck that place was. i think it replaced chabuya?

                but anything that uses local stuff is good enough for me. will check it out later.

                1. my head exploded reading your review, but I'm a pho minh guy, so you got me intrigued.

                  however, after reading the review on your site, I'm not seeing where the MG comes into play?

                  kainzero - says on rameniac's site that it's at the old chabuya location.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ns1

                    re: "molecular gastronomy" - that term appears to be so controversial, whether it implies turning breakfast into a lollipop or using very precise, scientifically-researched cooking techniques and temperatures. i'll stick with the assessment for the time being; dude breaks bread with ferran adria, he fused some elements of pasta into his ramen in order to substitute for kansui, and i'd say the cheese blending into the chicken stock to create a reggiano quasi-tonkotsu is pretty far out there. plus, he asked for liquid nitrogen, so i guess we'll have to wait and see what he does with it!

                    1. re: rameniac

                      Great write up and the pics give you a great sense what your in-store for,
                      I'm very interested in trying this place now.

                      With the attention to detail and ingredients should I be expecting to pay a little more or a lot more for this style of Ramen?

                      Thanks

                      1. re: burntwater

                        The price is comparable to the other good South Bay ramen places (except Gardena Ramen of course, which is dirt cheap). I had a medium reggiano cheese tofu ramen with chicken (also comes with a small salad) and an iced tea, and my bill before tip was a little over $13.

                  2. god, i was a little bummed when chabuya left.
                    knowing stuff like this can happen in torrance (i actually grew up here) is absolutely mindblowing.
                    thanks for the heads up!

                    1. What a timely review, I just went there yesterday. Let me start off by saying that i've been following your blog for a few years on and off. Great stuff on there.

                      I went yesterday for the first-time with a co-worker. We both disliked it. We had the california ramen. The vegetables were fresh but the whole bowl was very underwhelming. The broth just seemed like a simple chicken broth. I couldn't even tell if it was made from scratch. The other bowls didn't seem interesting... tomatoes in ramen?? Blech!

                      Different strokes and all that, BUT, the south bay isn't known for 'forward thinking' food. It's possible that this type of restaurant would work up in L.A. where tastes are more adventurous (or at least more tolerant), but in the old-fashioned south bay, I think the restaurant is crusing towards an early closure.

                      If the chef took a traditional ramen and enhanced it or really tricked it out, I think the business would do well. I guess we'll see once it has it's true grand opening.

                      And they didn't even have gyoza! MAN! :)

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: Low Blood Sugar

                        location is indeed their biggest handicap, something the owners themselves recognized. i think they're initially trying to keep expenses low and maintain a relatively low profile; the chabuya torrance space was a readymade ramen shop for them to occupy. here's really hoping they do well enough to stay afloat, and maybe even expand into a trendy part of town in the future!

                        1. re: Low Blood Sugar

                          So, I want to put a disclaimer that I really enjoy soup. I went to Chabuya (the occupant prior to Ramen California) and found it underwhelming.

                          After reading the OP's reviews on Ramen California (and, yes, I agree, that LA Times writer totally ripped his idea off from CH), I decided to go back. I found the review compelling enough to drop a 10 on some noodle soup.

                          I ordered the medium Heirloom Tomato Ramen and added chicken.

                          I found it underwhelming. Really, getting this excited over a bowl of 8-12 dollar ramen noodles (which is like 14 when you include tax and tip)? Give me a break. Why spend this amount of money and leave on the hungry side?

                          While they seemed to fix the oversaltiness of Chabuya's bowl o' noodles and, while the small salad preceeding the bowl, was a nice touch, this isn't worth the money.

                          The servers, while nice, did not refill my water once. They were even folding silverware in napkins right next to me. However, they certainly brought the bill over mighty quick when I was finished. They looked bored. I can tell lunch service was not busy.

                          And, I didn't get the menu. "Preview menu" is written on the front. If this is a preview, I'm not sure I want to see the main feature.

                          To make a long story short, I think spending this much money for a bowl of soup of this ilk to be ridiculous. I'm not sure the average joe could tell the difference between what they serve there and if I bought a bowl of ramen from one of the asian supermarkets in the area... dilute out the seasoning packet with 20-30% more water so it's not a salt bomb, drop in some tear drop tomatoes purchased at the same farmer's market in Torrance (or any supermarket), and add some bland poached chicken. Oh, and then I'll add one edible flower to give you a wow factor.

                          I would not call this molecular gastronomy ramen. I would call this Overpriced Cup O' Noodle Ramen. Save your money for a filling meal elsewhere.

                          This place is going to go out of business just like Chabuya did... and the Japanese place that occupied the space before them... if the parking doesn't kill this place, the prices certainly will.

                          I'm sorry, I just don't get this one.

                          1. re: DrBruin

                            ramen california is like a great experimental rock album. if you get it, you get it. if you don't, you don't. those that do, do get what they pay for. the end.

                            1. re: rameniac

                              Wow. That is a pretty darn good analogy. I'm going to borrow it. Or maybe like experimental Jazz? The "Sun Ra" Men? Those who get that bad pun probably will like Ramen California.

                              They really are doing something different and I really enjoyed the Heirloom Tomato and Tofu Reggiano Ramen. For a couple of dollars extra, you really do get a very unique and delicious bowl of noodles. To call it "overpriced cup of noodles" is a totally ridiculous comment. Whether you like it or not, this is a very unique restaurant. Personally, I loved the farmer's market vegetables which is something I've never had in my Ramen. But I also love a bowl of Salty Pork noodles that tastes like bones that have been cooking overnight.

                              Maybe the average Joe couldn't tell the difference, but let's face it, more people eat at McDonald's too. Most people like to rock out to Britney Spears, but I would rather listen to Sun Ra (while eating some Sun Ramen).

                              1. re: bsquared2

                                No, no it's not a totally ridiculous comment. This was an overpriced cup o' noodles IMHO.

                                1. Poor service. 2. Small portions. 3. Ingredients weren't mindblowing (with what I ordered).

                                However, maybe I need to try other noodle houses to see why this one is a cut above the rest (and put it in perspective). At least, the soup wasn't as salty as Chabuya. Or, maybe it was because I went during lunch and couldn't sample the hamachi carpaccio with 5 types of salt. However, this is a ramen house, first and foremost.

                                Like I said, I did not mean to take anything away from RAMENIAC's (who is obviously a huge ramen fan) excitement over this place... and maybe other ramen afficionados would fall in love with this place too... but, I would like to qualify the average joe comment. I mean the average CH'er. I don't think the average CH'er is going to go bonkers over a cup of noodles with some veggies cut in there for 8-12 bucks. And, with the lackadaisical service, it makes it even less likely for someone to want to return.

                                I don't think you have to enjoy pickled pig retina or sous-vide flying squirrel pancreas to be a gastronome (sorry Zimmern). In general, I do agree with Rameniac that if there's a speciality food, only those that love it, will fully understand a good rendition of it when it comes along. Those noodles didn't do it for me. This is a public forum and I'm entitled to post my opinion. I'm not the only one who didn't get uber-excited over this place.

                                However, I also understand food in general. I don't understand where any molecular gastronomy was occurring in this strip mall establishment. Maybe RAMENIAC could clarify up that comment for my edification.

                                1. re: DrBruin

                                  Of course everybody is entitled to their opinion. In MY humble opinion, comparing Ramen California to Cup o' Noodles is still silly. You might not like it, but they are striving to do something different. Whether they succeed or not is subjective. But I can't agree with any comparison of their Heirloom Tomato Ramen with instant noodles.

                                  Small portions? They have 3 different sizes. The largest is the size of a bucket. I don't know how much you can eat, but that is too much for me. My wife and I sampled two of the mini sizes and felt the portions were right. I liked that small size so we could try two different kinds I also thought the small salad was a nice touch.

                                  Bad service? I thought the service was fine. Maybe I eat at too many ethnic restaurants where sometimes service can be indifferent at best. When I go eat a bowl of Pho, I don't expect the waiter to unfold the napkin and place it across my lap.

                                  I don't know about the 'molecular gastronomy' aspect. At this point , I'm a little tired of that term being bandied about.

                                  But, I LOVE noodles. All kinds of noodles. I've picked countries to visit based on their noodle dishes. I think Ramen California is a great addition to my list of noodle joints. I will always give a place a couple of extra points for doing something different.

                                  1. re: bsquared2

                                    Glad to see your enthusiasm over this restaurant. We'll have to agree to disagree on the greatness of this restaurant.

                                    Yes, the large was the size of bucket. I think I would've been overloaded with sodium at that point (just due to the volume). The medium was overpriced IMHO... the large bucket o' noodles was even more ridiculously priced. I thought the medium was going to be an adequate portion with adding chicken, but I left hungry.. Maybe I should've reloaded with ramen noodles for an extra surcharge (making it an even more expensive bowl o' noodles). Did you have the bland poached chicken added? It left something to be desired.

                                    I also believe in my first post, I did comment that the small salad was a nice touch. It was lightly dressed and the lettuce tasted fresh.

                                    Servicewise, I didn't have lunch with you. My service was blah. A great restaurant should have consistently good service, again IMHO. I'm not expecting to find a Maitre'd at a house of ramen to put a cloth napkin that matches my pants on my lap. Be real. However, I think it's not out of the realm to expect that when your server is sitting down at the bar next to you (3 feet away) making those utensil napkin rolls, to notice your water is empty and refill it. I've been to hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants from coast to coast and most seem to have mastered that standard of service. Basically, either you have lower standards for service (as you mentioned) than I do or the service at this restaurant is inconsistent at best. Either way, it is, what it is.

                                    I don't really understand why you're getting so defensive over my post. Are you a shill for the restaurant? KIDDING. I am reporting on my experience. It's almost like you're refuting my account of my experience. This is what Chowhound is all about... reporting on your thoughts and experiences... and it's not limited to positive comments only.

                                    I think for the money, I would've been happier going to a restaurant where they pull the noodles in front of you or use a cleaver to shave the noodles directly into the pot (get a bit of a show). If you know of a place that you personally enjoy that offers this, let me know.

                                    Otherwise, I'm done with this thread.

                                    1. re: DrBruin

                                      molecular gastronomy doesn't mean turning ham and eggs into a lollipop. it's not a genre of food, it's merely the application of scientific principles and techniques to cooking to yield precision results based on a knowledge of chemical processes. nakamura uses devices (medical equipment in fact) to regulate the ph and alkaline content of the water in his soup. he uses liquid nitrogen when regular freezing processes won't do. the chicken are selected based on age practically down to the day, and the farmer's market vegetables are cooked to a very exacting state based on temperatures and times - it's not just "bring this to a boil" or "blanche that."

                                      if you're looking for ferran adria-style fireworks however, i'd say creating a cheese tofu and having it delibrately melt into the soup to invoke a kotteri tonkotsu texture is pretty spectacular, thought out, and worthy of a heston blumenthal.

                                      i suspect that a lot of the people who DO love ramen california love it for the above reasons, the DETAILS. it's not "oh the soup isn't flavorful enough" or "this tiny bowl isn't worth XX dollars." it's different strokes for different folks, and like i said, you really either get it or you don't.

                                      i'll concede DrBruin one point - comparing ramen california to cup noodles is about as valid as comparing it to a bowl of pho or some hot water and flour, if simply because it's so different that you can't compare it to much at all.

                                      1. re: DrBruin

                                        First of all, I don't think my comments would be considered shilling. I ate there once and enjoyed it. The thing I was a bit defensive about is the comparison to "cup o' noodles". That just isn't fair but it often the hyperbole of some Chowhound or Yelp posts. Things like "Mozza is worse than Pizza Hut" or "Father's Office is worse than McDonalds..." . While you may have not liked Ramen California as much as I did (which is a valid opinion), I just thought the comparison wasn't fair.

                                        The service was OK. Nothing fantastic, but it was fine for me. Maybe they were having an off day when you ate there.

                                        I would be careful about even joking about "shilling" for a restaurant. That is even more unfair. I post at Chowhound to hopefully turn people on to undiscovered restaurants and to learn about them myself. I don't always agree with Rameniac, but I totally give him props for being a "noodle scholar".

                                        1. re: bsquared2

                                          Bsquared2... well, since I don't know you, I put in the "just kidding" remark when I joked about you being a shill. I have always considered my writings to be on the sarcastic side. Please don't be offended. I'm sorry if you were offended.

                                          I post what I feel to be undiscovered treasures too as well as when I feel the "treasure" should remain undiscovered.

                                          And, I still stand by my belief that one (wo)man's treasure is another (wo)man's....cup o' noodles.

                                          C'est la vie.

                                          1. re: DrBruin

                                            Went with friends last night. It was an "it was good but I'm not excited to go back experience". The kashi bread was nice. The appetizers were good. Had two "small" bowls of ramen, and while I enjoyed the freshness of the vegetables tremendously, I could not get over the "traditional" concept of ramen that was scrambling around my brain. I'll stick to the tonkotsu ramen at the "normal foodie hangouts"

                                            1. re: DrBruin

                                              Sounds like you're saying the Emperor needs to notice he has no clothes on. Thanks for giving the board an alternate take on this place.

                                              You can check out California Ramen anytime you like, but you can never please the believers...(Mixing the Monkees with the Eagles, Oh man!) ;-D>

                                              1. re: DrBruin

                                                No problem. I actually have a pretty thick skin but sarcasm doesn't always translate on internet posts. I do think calling somebody a 'shill' on a board like Chowhound is a pretty big deal, even in sarcasm. But no offense taken.

                                                I do think that OCAnn's comment is valid up to the point that some people on this thread clearly like traditional Ramen and don't really like RC's version. I'm sure there were people who had the same reaction when Wolfgang Puck put Smoked Salmon on a pizza or Kogi put Korean Short Ribs on a taco. BTW, my wife thought RC was OK, but she prefers Shin Sem Gumi.

                                                I will agree to disagree, but I still give RC points for being unique even if some people don't like it. Maybe it isn't worth going back to some , but I think you are missing out if you don't try it once.

                                            2. re: DrBruin

                                              While I found your cup o noodle comparison harsh, ITA that dissenting opinions here are necessary to get the whole picture.

                                              In hopes that it wasn't a one-off, you might try it again. While I had the reggiano cheese tofu appetizer, I didn't "get" it. However, I did like the reggiano cheese tofu ramen which you might try next time.

                                              I still think that our palates are developed by our experiences. One is not necessarily better than another; just different.

                                2. We tried California Ramen for lunch today. My partner had the California ramen and I had the curry ramen (I was hoping to try the Reggiano cheese tofu ramen, but they were out). The noodles were excellent, and the broth was great in both dishes, even though it was non-traditional. However I thought the vegetables worked against the dishes -- I enjoyed the ramen in spite of them rather than because of them. Next time I would just ask for them to leave them out. Ramaniac was right: my partner and I are big Pho Minh fans and we were very happy with the style of broth at California Ramen. Oh, also I should add that the side salads (included) were excellent., and the staff was very friendly.

                                  After lunch we had to run an errand at Mitsuwa, and in spite of the excellent meal we'd had, I found myself wishing we'd gone to Santouka for lunch instead of California Ramen. I'll definitely be back to try the Regianno cheese tofu ramen, and I look forward to seeing how it develops over time.

                                  A big thanks to Ramaniac for reviewing this place!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Peripatetic

                                    Great minds think alike, I went to Santouka the day after Ramen California. 2 questions: why doesn't Santouka have a stand-alone restaurant? ,they would do pretty good I think. and also, what happened with the Chabuya that California Ramen replaced? at both Chabuya locations i've been to(sawtelle & the closed one on crenshaw), the food was great but the servers on the younger, inexperienced side. did they just turn off too many customers? the quality of the food should have kept that business afloat.

                                  2. i went yesterday and the food was really good. i had the grilled chicken ramen, the broth was light, i was expecting a lil more flavor but oh well, the ramen noodles were really good and the chicken was very tender and you could taste the slight grilled flavor that was just right for the soup. the veggies were ok, some bitter ones in there kinda threw the taste off all in all it was still very good, the soup did leave a slight stickyness on your lips. the service was very friendly only thing they took their time to collect their money which i thought was funny, but the place was also picking up in business when were were about to leave. would go again if it wasnt so far from where i live, 40+ miles.

                                    1. Great post, Rameniac.... I'll be sure to check it out (if I can manage to avoid the pull of Shinsengumi yakitori or Izakaya Bincho... that's the problem with living so far away from the South Bay... it's so rare that I get down there that I just want a fix of the stuff I've been craving for months.

                                      Oh, and by the way... unless it's a bit of self-reflexive Engrish, it's "masala", not "marsala" (which is a fortified wine :)

                                      Mr Taster

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        haha it was on the menu as 'marsala' ramen. a quick googling showed the alternate spelling turn up in a bunch of random places, so who knows if it was deliberate or whatever... knowing him, he might have worked the marsala wine into the recipe somehow lol

                                        1. re: rameniac

                                          I've got a first generation Indian-American friend whose parents once opened up the only Indian restaurant in an extremely rural area of northern Pennsylvania. They were forced to put things like spaghetti and meatballs on the menu in order to satisfy the more skittish locals. One of the banes of their existence were the numerous returned orders from diners who ordered "chicken masala" thinking it was going to be served in a wine sauce.

                                          Their restaurant folded after two years.

                                          Mr Taster

                                      2. Thanks for the review! I know where I'm going for dinner tonight.

                                        1. I went again for dinner last night with some friends, and tried four more kinds of ramen. Some varieties of ramen (heirloom tomato, grilled chicken) don't have the huge variety of vegetables. Instead, there are probably fewer than 10 kinds, and the rest are replaced by the same greens used for the salad.

                                          The heirloom tomato ramen is really good, although I'm not sure the peeled mini-tomatoes work with the rest of the dish (they were delicious on their own, however). I was a little worried the broth might seem too light, but I thought it was great - the chicken flavor really shone. I don't know if adding grilled chicken improved the flavor. I might like it even more than the reggiano cheese tofu ramen, despite the smaller variety of vegetables.

                                          The marsala [sic] curry ramen was also good, although I'm not a big curry person. The broth was actually thinner and lighter than I had anticipated, and it took the curry a bit of time in my mouth to reach full potency. The broth also seemed...oilier? than the regular broth.

                                          The other two sampled last night were the Californian and the grilled chicken, neither of which I sampled. My friends wanted to try the reggiano cheese tofu ramen, but they were out. We weren't served salads with our ramen, but we were given some focaccia, which were a kind of baked Chinese mantou with rosemary and gilded with coarse salt. They were very good, but then again I've been a mantou addict since I was 2, so maybe I'm the wrong person to judge.

                                          Ramen California is a completely different animal, so I would never feel a need to choose between it and a traditional ramen-ya. When I want pork fat, I'll go to Asa, Santouka, etc. When I want something lighter and healthier, I'll go to Ramen California. Even Gardena Ramen seems a little heavy compared to RC.

                                          Oh, and Nakamura-san was sitting at the counter, sipping wine and working on his laptop, and occasionally going into the kitchen. He returns to Japan next week.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: mrhooks

                                            just to clarify, nakamura willl be back in early july, and intends to be present in LA as much as possible (in case anyone was worried he was going back to japan for good).

                                            1. re: rameniac

                                              Nakamura san is gone as is the marsala ramen....to clarify, we went tonight and noticed that it was no longer on the menu; we were told that it was removed temporarily from the menu due limited quantities and w/the chef gone wouldn't be able to replenish it until he returns. If you ask for it, they'll serve it (until it's gone).

                                              We've now had all varieties of the ramen (2 small bowls today) and of the sides, we had oysters on the 1/2 shell (topped with those yummy tomatoes), sausage gnocchis and cheese tofu. $30 for 2 (food only) + tip.

                                          2. Thank thank thank thank you. I had a fantastic meal tonight. It was--enlightening to say the least.

                                            http://mstinawu.xanga.com/705123731/r...

                                            1. Thank you for the heads-up; we went this weekend & had the Californian, Heirloom Tomato & Masala ramens.

                                              1. Do you know if they use MSG? I'm hoping they don't because it seems a little high end. I am super sensitive, but it looks soooo good!

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: jlisa1

                                                  I'm 99% sure they don't.

                                                  1. re: jlisa1

                                                    full disclosure: i actually got a job here cooking this week, so i'm no longer a partial judge, however i know for a fact there is no msg.

                                                    p.s. thanks everyone for the positive reviews!
                                                    all of your kind words are going a long way, so please keep them coming!
                                                    just like any new restaurant, the first few months are crucial to survival, so keep coming in and telling your friends!

                                                  2. I'm surprised nobody mentioned the incredibly overcooked chicken. I went again a few days ago (I was very satisfied w/ everything I had the 1st time) to try the heirloom tomato w/ grilled chicken on the side. The chicken reminded me of chicken pieces left in a soup I for too long (it almost bordered on "sandy")--but w/ grill marks. Maybe it was just an off night or something? But I finished the bowl of noodles and left my grilled chicken on the side, sadly. =T

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: mstinawu

                                                      Chicken was perfect both times I went.

                                                    2. Went there today. Had the Reggiano Tofu Ramen and the Heirloom Tomato Ramen. Really liked the Heirloom Tomato Ramen. Very simple and very fresh. The noodles were great. Just the right amount of bite. The Reggiano Tofu Ramen was a pleasant surprise. I was skeptical after reading the reviews because I didn't think the flavors would be a good fit. This is a very original dish and really works.

                                                      Pros:
                                                      This is totally different than most noodle shops. The funny thing is that the vegetables really make it stand out. I can't remember ever having Ramen like this. Not heavy, just a very fresh taste.

                                                      You get a tiny little salad before the Ramen. That was really nice touch.

                                                      Small bowls mean you can try 2 kinds and get out for around $10. Even my wife, who usually doesn't eat that much, ordered 2 bowls because she couldn't decide.

                                                      Cons
                                                      Next time I"m bringing them a "Mix CD". They were playing some really bad Techno music. Hey, it's not 1993 anymore.

                                                      I want all those tasty looking items on the menu at lunch. There was a whole page of "dinner only" items that looked really good.

                                                      Other than some bad Techno, this is now one of my favorite noodle shops.

                                                      1. Went for an early Friday dinner and was greeted incredibly warmly by all the staff. The waitress explained the menu and concept. A few minutes later we were greeted with some rosemary kasha bread on the house. We LOVED it. It totally took me back to sleep overs at my taiwanese friends house, waking up and having breakfast of puffy bread. But these had a great crisp outside and the sea salt and TOUCH of rosemary really helped with the flavor of this complete comfort food for me...

                                                        We started with a small plate of the Alpine sausage and gnocchi. A valiant attempt, but while the sausage was wonderful, the gnocchi was nothing special.

                                                        Finally, to the ramen.... first I must say that I LOVE the options this place gives, most specifically the extra noodles and the sizes. As I mentioned before, I no longer tolerate most ramen and I was still a skittish about this place, so I ordered a small. I'm so glad I did because although the broth was lighter than most ramen places, it definably had body and depth like a ramen. I admit, I was expecting something akin to Pho Minh's broth (my absolute favorite noodle soup currently) but I knew that was totally unfair. So with the help of extra noodles, this morning I woke up with only the slightest burnt tongue sensation...

                                                        Overall, we think this is a MUCH better replacement for Chabuya and I wish them well, which by any indication that when we left there was not an empty seat in the house, the'll do just fine!!

                                                        --Dommy!

                                                        1. I went for lunch last Saturday and was pretty displeased. For lunch they don't have appetizers which was kind of a downer, but I came for the ramen anyway.

                                                          The salad was good, had a great freshness to it and the dressing was great. Whenever I finish a salad I think it's great.

                                                          Had the Parm-Reg Tofu ramen. Broth was excellent, noodles were decent but still distant to Asa. The chicken was okay, it wasn't really cooked exceptional (or horrid) and I felt that the chicken didn't absorb any of the broth's flavor. And I thought the vegetables did not fit the dish at all. They seemed to be raw and just thrown in the broth and didn't seem to mix at all, like they were completely separate instead of being unified.

                                                          I'd only go back to check out the appetizers.

                                                          1. http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...
                                                            ramen california in the la times tomorrow?!?!
                                                            thank you all for your support these last few months!
                                                            ps. nakamura-san is back from japan, so come say hi!

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: alkylyou

                                                              Yeah, this guy Miles Clements is a total Chowhound sniper. This is not the first time he has published a review just a short while after it was posted about on Chowhound, all the while "forgetting" to credit his sources like me, exilekiss and rameniac.

                                                              For example, I discovered the Koreatown Beijing style mutton kebab place in Dec 2008....
                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/577814

                                                              ...which exilekiss helped to popularize through her blog in Jan 2009...
                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/587409

                                                              And lo and behold, in Feb 2009 he writes an article in his column, which is ironically called "The Find"
                                                              http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                              It would be nice if Mr. Clements gave some credit to his sources, since we're doing all the heavy lifting for him.

                                                              Mr Taster

                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                "which exilekiss helped to popularize through her blog "

                                                                I may be entirely wrong, but I believe EK is a he....

                                                            2. (Waving hi to rameniac...maybe we'll meet again at RC...)

                                                              The leetfamily is THRILLED to find a pork-free ramen in our backyard since thats a no-no for us :-( . We appreciated the freshness of the ingredients in the California. We walked in on a weeknight at 6:30 - half an hour after they opened - and got the last table. Place was empty an hour later, so we'll shoot for that time frame next time as service was a bit slow, understandably. Growing pains. We give it a thumbs up!

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: leetmom7

                                                                not much actually moves me to post on the boards, but i ate at ramen california tonight and had to chip in.

                                                                i thought it was weird. maybe even f---ing weird.

                                                                i got the masala ramen. The soup was tasty, no complaints with the noodles, but it was like getting served a an incredible plate of crudites with ramen soup as the dipping sauce.

                                                                i normally like my root and winter veggies cooked a little more thoroughly, these were still crunchy, almost raw. potatoes, beets, carrots, radishes ,califlower, broccoli of every variety. i can't really say that if they were cooked longer that it would have been a more sucessful dish in my mind though...

                                                                this is for sure conceptual food. it's kind of like carbon credit dining, like you could use it to offset a week of hot dogs and double cheeseburgers.

                                                                service was on point though. if others had problems, maybe they have worked them out.

                                                                1. re: csrbeach

                                                                  The fact that they served the veggies almost raw is what makes me LOVE this place. I just want to try it again in the evening so I can test out their tapas selection. I would disagree with Rameniac's description of it being molecular gastronomy ramen, but still super yummy and I'm looking forward to my next visit. We went with a large party last time and tried pretty much every ramen flavor... and I have to agree with Nicole, tofu cheese and heirloom were definitely my favorite. The heirloom tomato ramen was like having brushetta flavored noodles (amazing!) Curry was good too, since they used real masala spices with a nice subtle flavor.

                                                                  Jeannette
                                                                  http://talk.2itch.com -- www.2itch.com
                                                                  Everything Open 24 Hours

                                                              2. We finally made it to Ramen California this past weekend. Everything we ate was great. We enjoyed the mozzarella with 5 salts appetizer, heirloom tomato ramen (our favorite ramen), cheese tofu ramen (second favorite ramen), and california ramen (least favorite, although still enjoyable). We didn't try the curry ramen but I think a lot of people ordered it because a wonderful curry smell was wafting through the air! I liked that the ramen had a lot of fresh vegetables and that they were a bit firm, except for the inclusion of potato which I didn't like (too hard, pretty flavorless). Service was good. We had a very nice meal and we plan to return in the future. Next time we will probably get the curry ramen, the heirloom tomato ramen again, and try a couple more appetizers.