Need help with Ramen Marathon - State of Ramen in Gardena/Torrance currently?
- J.L. Jan 24, 2010 10:45 PM
I've been invited to join a Roving Ramen Ring in the next few weeks. Our crew wants to hit significant (Chow-worthy) ramen joints, mainly focusing in the South Bay - We'd like to hit the current Top 5 or 6 (or when our bellies explode, whatever happens first).
What are the current "must-try" places? Any "must-order" styles at these places?
I am well aware of the myriad of threads on the various ramen joints all over our fine city, but can someone "sum it up" for me?
Rameniac & exile, I am making a personal appeal for you guys to help me out on this one...
As always, "Yoroshiku onegashimasu!" (in advance)!!!
Let's see, off the top of my head:
1 - Santouka Ramen in Torrance Mitsuwa (Shio Ramen/Shio Toroniku Ramen)
Ultra fatty and oily ramen. My favorite and the only one I'd go to regularly. I highly recommend Shio or Shio Toroniku. Unfortunately, the broth is inconsistent. Sometime it's absolutely divine and the chashu melts in your mouth, sometimes it's decent and lacking in punch and the chashu is chewy.
2 - Asa Ramen (Shoyu Kotteri Ramen)
A lot of people like this place and is often considered top of the heap with Santouka. Kotteri is really strong and you can taste it. It's also customizable so you can add in more chashu and butter and stuff. The takoyaki is crispy and not doughy like other places, so it's worth trying.
3 - Shisen Ramen (Original Ramen)
A decent bowl. If you like spicy food you'll love it, and the fried rice is pretty good.
4 - Shin Mama Ramen (Tokyo Shinasoba)
I like this place. It's got a nice home-y feel to it. Also, I really like the egg that they put in it, whatever they do to cook their eggs is incredible.
5 - Ramen California (Reggiano Cheese Tofu Ramen)
I haven't been here since it opened but I heard it's a lot better than it once was. That's a good thing since I was unimpressed with it. The Reggiano and Tofu, mixed with the broth (which just seems like chicken broth) made for a real interesting flavor, but the I didn't really like the vegetables. Still, I should probably go back.
6 - Shinsengumi Hakata Ramen (Shoyu Ramen)
It's famous, but it's also particularly polarizing: People either love it or they don't. I'm on the "don't" side, so when my friends go here I usually just get side orders. Either way, you should try it, because you might be on the love it side.
Asa for the kotteri shoyu - I get it with extra chashu, egg, mentaiko, and seabura (pork back fat), and the noodles katamen (al dente). I tried adding butter, but it didn't do anything for me. IMHO probably the best when they're on, but they can be inconsistent (soup too thin or too salty, chashu too tough).
Santouka for the shio or toroniku shio - I'm actually not a huge fan of the toroniku because I think the flavor of the marinade is a little too strong compared to the pork itself, but it is fattier and more tender than the regular chashu. I disagree with the consensus that they're the best, but they are very good.
Gardena Ramen for the classic Tokyo-style shoyu ramen.
Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi - similar to Asa, but with more options, but not as good overall IMHO.
Ramen California for something different, and maybe to meet one of Japan's Four Devas of Ramen.
And the newest place, Horon, which ExileKiss reviewed not too long ago - it's a kushiage restaurant, so the bowl of ramen is small. But it's also cheap ($4.80). There are no options (aside from asking for katamen noodles), and there isn't much in the bowl - noodles, soup, scallions, and one piece of chashu. As EK mentioned, the noodles are overcooked; ask for katamen, and you get what would be "normal" at places like Asa and SSG. The chashu, though only one piece, is cut thick, and it was very good when I was there, like a thick slice from a chunk of pork belly, wiith the alternating layers of fat and meat. And the soup...it's pretty amazing. Other than the big pile of cracked black pepper at the bottom of the bowl, I would say it's the best around here. Yeah, I like it better than Santouka's shio, but admittedly I am biased to the pork-only tonkotsu broths. It's better than SSG, and probably better than Asa on their best nights. If they offered a larger/more customizable bowl, and if they would stop overcooking their noodles, they would be my new go-to place.