Need help with Ramen Marathon - State of Ramen in Gardena/Torrance currently?
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)!!!
Omatase! Sorry for the delay... I saw your post and since it's been ~4+ months since I last went to these Ramen shops, I wanted to make sure of their quality before giving you any recommendations; I can't give my 'dachi J.L. some bad info. :) So, I gathered a few Ramen Hounds and we just finished up hitting all of these South Bay Ramen shops tonight (^_~):
I have to preface this by clarifying one thing - Are you looking for only truly ichiban Ramen? If the answer is "yes," then I have no recommendations for you. Gomen. :(
Having just hit up all the following Ramen-ya tonight, it's reaffirmed how much improvement is needed for So Cal Ramen to get close to the Ramen you (and I) have enjoyed in Tokyo and other parts of Japan (I apologize, I've been utterly ruined to Ramen after all the Ramen I've had in Japan). But here are some places to try in the South Bay (Torrance, Gardena) if you want to get some type of Ramen to satiate the craving :) -
* Ramen California - Nakamura-san is still (thankfully) there, but not as often (about once per week according to our server). The Californian (Ramen) is the wild / new style of Ramen that Nakamura-san kicked off his shop with. Be warned, though, that it's nothing like what you'd expect for Ramen (see Rameniac's review, Go Ramen's, or all the Hounds' thoughts in various threads for more details). It's a very light Torigara (Chicken Bone) broth, and the vegetables this evening were still fine. The broth was a touch more oily than when Nakamura-san made it, but still reasonable.
They've added 3 new flavors, including a Niboshi Ramen which really stood out for us, with some nice strong Niboshi (dried baby sardines) / oceanic flavors. Unfortunately, their new style "Chashu" was disappointing. Very much like Ham. :(
You should try their Reggiano Tofu Ramen. Love that (very unique). :)
* Shin Mama Ramen: I used to love their Tokyo Shinasoba. It was the highlight of their menu, but tonight was extremely disappointing. The amazing, melt-in-your-mouth Chashu (Roast Pork Belly) created by Komuro-san was replaced by a ~2 day old version of Chashu (clearly refrigerated and reheated, not fully warmed through). It was a pale shadow of the amazing version I had last year. :( Their Shinasoba Broth was still excellent, though, with solid noodles (but a bit too thick for my tastes to match the broth). I can only guess that maybe the economy / slow business has resulted in Komuro-san and his staff to not be able to cook new batches of Chashu as often as ideally possible (fresh every day).
* Santouka (Torrance): It's still as inconsistently solid as usual. Even when they're off, it's still a decent bowl of Ramen. Go for their Tokusen Toroniku Shio Ramen (Special Pork Salt-base Ramen Noodle Soup), which I've found is more successful than their Soy Sauce and Miso flavor offerings.
* Asa Ramen: Their Kotteri Shoyu Ramen is a Pork-lover's dream. :) A very rich, complex broth, with a velvety finish, I started getting a slight reaction to the amount of MSG they use, but if you don't mind that, it's probably the best broth of the group of restaurants we tried tonight. Their Chashu was terrible as well (tasting about ~2-3 days old).
* Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen (Gardena): The classic Hakata style Ramen-ya. Ah, I have so many memories hanging out here. :) It's about the same as my last visit (and 30+ visits :). A funky, pungent Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) broth with their great, thin, straight Hakata noodles. A dash of their Shirogoma (White Sesame), Negi (Green Onions) and Benishoga (Pickled Red Ginger) finish things off. Like all the restaurants (and as usual here), the Chashu was mediocre at best, tasting about 1-2 days old and slightly chunky / dry.
And while we didn't get to try it tonight (we were overloaded with too much Ramen at this point (^_~)), Horon has a surprisingly decent version of Tonkotsu Ramen (which I prefer to the venerable Shin Sen Gumi's broth)). Be sure to ask for Katamen as mrhooks mentions as well.
Overall, J.L., you're not going to find anything that's going to topple Kurume Taiho, Menya Kissou, Rokurinsha, or even chains like Ippudo in Japan, but the above are some of the best the South Bay has to offer at this time. I hope this helps. Enjoy~ :)
21515 S Western Ave, Torrance, CA 90501
Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen
2015 W Redondo Beach Blvd Ste D, Gardena, CA 90247
18202 S Western Ave, Gardena, CA 90248
24631 Crenshaw Blvd Ste K, Torrance, CA 90505
24231 Crenshaw Blvd, Torrance, CA 90505
2143 W. 182nd Street, Torrance, CA 90504
Exilekiss, as usual I'm impressed...more so because you did five ramen-yas in one go! Otsukaresamadeshita!
JL, BTW, your thread got me hungry for ramen! So this past weekend, I went to the Costa Mesa Santouka where I had the Tokusen Toroniku Shio Ramen ($11) exilekiss mentioned above. It appears that the CM Santouka location may be more consistently solid than their South Bay counterpart. (I also shared a tonkatsu curry w/Mr OCAnn which we got from Miyabetei. It was <$6 and good for the price point.) And, while on the ramen-kick, I stopped by the dvd kiosk adjacent to the Mitsuwa food court and purchased Tampopo (subtitled, of course). =)
Thanks everyone!! Such great feedback - You guys are all awesome.
We should all Thank exile for going out and doing recon...
On the same night as the State of the Union address, you ACTUALLY giving all us 'Hounds the current "State of the Ramen" in the South Bay. Fear not, for your recommendations will not go unheeded.
I, too, miss the ramen-yas of Japan: Ichi-Ryu in Fukuoka, Ramen Jiro in Minato-ku (Tokyo), just to name a few.
Domo arigato to all of you!
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.
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.