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A question for the ramen experts...

  • c

When I was in Japan, I had a ramen that was so porky, it had a piece of pork belly that was more than half and inch thick and a broth with big chunks of pork fat floating in it. Does anyone know what it's called? Is it just and extreme tonkotsu style? Does anyone know if it's available in LA? I've had Daikokuya and it's more porky than that.

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Daikokuya
327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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  1. Disclaimer: I am by no means a ramen expert, but I have been lucky enough to have had some really good ramen in various parts of Japan (hakata ramen in Fukuoka at Ichiryu, and made the pilgrimage to pork heaven at Ramen Jiro in Minato-ku, Tokyo).

    In L.A., I'd suggest you try the Premium Tonkotsu Ramen #7 at Santouka. Ask for extra Chashu.

    On a somewhat different note, I'm looking forward to the Nidaime Tsujita opening (soon?)...

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    Santouka
    3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

    1 Reply
    1. re: J.L.

      Thanks for the advice. I'm a big fan of Santouka but never had their premium tonkotsu ramen. I said pork belly instead of chashu because it litereally was a piece of pork belly more than half an inch think.

      I just had hakata shin sen gumi and it made me realize how bad it is in comparison.

      Nidaime Tsujita will hopefully be good. I'm looking forward to it too.

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      Santouka
      3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

    2. probably just an extreme tonkotsu. where did you eat this bowl of porktacular ramen?

      5 Replies
      1. re: raizans

        There is also fat on other parts of the pig, not just the belly. For example, in Ramen Jiro in Tokyo, the secret is to use the meat & associated fat layer from near the spine (dorsal aspect) of the pig. That was one such porktacular bowl of ramen, for lack of a better phrase.

        1. re: raizans

          i'd be lying if i told you the name of the place. i do remember it was in the shinbashi area right by a train stop. i was probably a lot of highballs and birus in to remember exactly what it's called. the odd thing is that the very next morning, i was in takadanobaba and saw a place with a poster in their window of the exact same ramen. it was indeed porktacular.

          just hoping to find something similar here.

          1. re: cdub

            there are branches of ramen jiro in both shinbashi and takadanobaba (relocated in 1/10). is this it?

            http://www.google.com/images?um=1&amp...

            if it looks different, maybe it's one of these (searching for "pork back fat"):

            http://www.google.com/images?um=1&amp...

            1. re: raizans

              thanks for the help. all those photos just made me hungry. it probably looked closest to this: http://yamabusi.ti-da.net/e690104.html

              it wasn't ramen jiro. i think i had that on a previous trip and it definitely didn't look like that.

              i think the pork back fat is it. thanks. any idea where to get it in la? i've been to jinya and i don't think it's there. same with the kotteri style of daikokuya. same with santouka or hakata shin sen gumi. wondering if i'm missing any other place.

              1. re: cdub

                you can order a blob of pork back fat and garlic the size of a ping pong ball at mottainai ramen. i think they were supposed to start making their noodles in house by now.

        2. When you went to Daikokuya did you order the ramen "kotteri" style?
          That's their extra rich pork broth.

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          Daikokuya
          327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

          6 Replies
          1. re: monku

            That Daikokuya broth has slid downhill considerably over the past year or so. I am no longer going there.

            1. re: J.L.

              I went there a few weeks ago and am sad to concur. Chashu wasn't as godly as previous either.

              Only truly good thing was egg.

              1. re: ns1

                And Yukino Ya (City of Industry) does a much better hanjuku egg...

                1. re: J.L.

                  Of the 3 ramen joints I go to (Jinya, Santouka, Daiko) , for the past 12 months or so Daiko has had the best and most consistent egg.

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                  Santouka
                  3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                  1. re: ns1

                    Went to Yamadaya today. It is indeed a superior bowl of tonkotsu ramen. The broth is clearly superior to Daikokuya. It's more flavorful, has a secondary complexity that Daikokuya doesn't, and afterwards your lips stick together ever so slightly which lets you know the broth was made from the long simmering of bones. The noodles are firmer than Daikokuya, the chasu and the stewed pork belly also superior to the chasu at Daikokuya, and even the egg is a bit more soft boiled at Yamadaya than at Daikokuya.

            2. Another question, I had about quality ramen places. Is there such thing as ramen with no MSG?

              6 Replies
                1. re: ns1

                  Thanks ns1. What about places like Santouka, Jinya, and Daikokuya? Would you say the majority do use MSG? Whether in the broth or noodles.

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                  Daikokuya
                  327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                  Santouka
                  3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                  1. re: puppychao

                    Daiko almost certainly, Jinya doesn't feel like it but probably a little, Santouka I don't know if they use MSG but they might as well cuz the shio is so goddamn salty.

                    Paging ramaniac/exilekiss.

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                    Santouka
                    3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                2. re: puppychao

                  No. The process of making any stock (boiling meaty bones for hours) causes glutamate to be released into the stock. That's one of the reason why a properly made stock is so good!

                  So if you're looking for MSG-free ramen, I wouldn't expect to find much. If you're looking for no *added* MSG then I think most of the good places mentioned don't add any. I don't have any inside knowledge of their kitchen practices, though, so I may be wrong. I just don't see the need. If they are truly simmering bones for many hours then there will be plenty of MSG in that stock.

                  1. re: puppychao

                    Chabuya on Sawtelle claims to use no MSG.

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                    Chabuya
                    2002 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

                    1. re: J.L.

                      Yeah, and the lack of flavor is astounding. I went there a couple weeks ago and it was gross. Seems like they're under new management. A few years ago when it first opened, it was so good--fresh pork, great noodles, and a rich, flavorful broth. Now I wish I'd just gone to Asahi or Ramen-ya.

                  2. Closest thing in LA would be the kakuni (aka "super chashu") tonkotsu ramen at Yamada-ya. Instead of chashu, you get a ~9" long slab of pork belly. No seabura (pork back fat) in the soup though; the only places I've been to that do that are Asa and Mottainai, neither of which can hold a candle to Yamada-ya's soup or pork belly IMHO. Next time I go to Yamada-ya, I'm gonna have to suggest fried seabura bits as an extra option.

                    Or, go to Horon and order their tonkotsu ramen, and order their grilled chashu dish on the side, which is also quite fatty, and I think is even better than Yamada-ya's pork belly. After a long hiatus, I went back to Horon a couple of weeks ago, and was happy to discover they no longer overcook their noodles. Their soup is really good as well, though really oily and still heavily loaded with cracked black pepper. Main downside is the lack of toppings in their ramen - no egg, bamboo, wood ear mushroom, et al. But if all you're after is the pork, it shouldn't be a big deal.

                    I prefer both over Santouka and Yukino-ya.

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                    Horon
                    2143 W. 182nd Street, Torrance, CA 90504

                    31 Replies
                    1. re: mrhooks

                      tried the kakuni at yamadaya today. it was a little dry and rubbery, a far cry from izakaya bincho's.

                      i found that the thin tonkotsu soup benefits greatly from a clove or two of garlic.

                      1. re: raizans

                        No place's buta no kakuni is perfect every time, including Izakaya Bincho. So far, the worst I've had at Yamada-ya hasn't been as bad as the worst I've had at IB, and I've had both many times.

                        The soup could be more kotteri, but it's still better than most around these parts. It's pretty much Yamada-ya, Horon, and Santouka (though it's a different style of soup). Horon's is richer and more intense, but there are other things about it that I like less. Mottainai's wasn't nearly as good until I added the White Bomb.

                        It's too bad we don't have an Ippudo here.

                          1. re: mrhooks

                            I haven't sampled much here yet, but down here in Costa Mesa, I find Santouka every bit as good as Ippudo for 1/3 the price (assuming you are referring to the Ippudo in NYC). I like the atmosphere of Ippudo and all, but for straight ramen, I liked Santouka no less (and it gets extra points for being 5 minutes from my office!).

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                            Santouka
                            3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                        1. re: mrhooks

                          thanks for the rec on yamadaya. that was really good ramen. the shoyu tonkotsu was deep and rich. very strong pork flavor. not exactly what i was looking for but the closest i found. that kakuni was excellent. soft, unctuous porky. it's already my favorite in the city passing santouka and daikokuya. i'll still need to try mottainai and horon.

                          1. re: cdub

                            A little late to this thread. I tried Yamadaya, and wasn't that impressed. Soup wasn't as thick in mouthfeel to me, or as pork-tasting as Sanouka. Myself, I'm a fan of the thin noodles of Shin Sen Gumi, so the fattish noodles at Yamadaya weren't my style. I know they have a choice of noodles and other dishes besides the ramens, so I'm not writing if off. Just based on my limited experience there, I wasn't that impressed.

                            Shin Sen Gumi dorodoro kotteri is still my go-to bowl of slurp. Mottainai is a very close second with their koge-miso plus white bomb. I tend to be lazy and hit Santouka more because it's closer to work than SSG or Mottaiai.

                            Daikokuya is hit or miss at the Costa Mesa store. It's staffed by people who miss important details, and I don't trust any other store except the Little Tokyo honten. Changes may have been made since my last visit months ago, but after two off nights, I see no reason to go back to CM Daikoku.

                            I haven't factored in the chashu into my rankings. It's another important variable, but not as important as the quality of the soup first and foremost.

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                            Daikokuya
                            327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                            1. re: Professor Salt

                              LT Daiko has been on a major downhill as of late. And I used to be a huge fan/regular. The last time I went was the last straw though, I don't see any reason to go back.

                              1. re: Professor Salt

                                it must be preference because i was way underwhelmed by both shin sen gumi and santouka the last time i went there. i had that entire think in the mouth feel at yamadaya. i kept smacking my lips as i left. i'll have to try mottainai next.

                                1. re: Professor Salt

                                  I would recommend a repeat of Yamadaya. The soup is more substantial than the broth at Santouka because the lips stick together ever so slightly afterwards so you know its from the long simmering of pork bones. I don't get that slight stickiness anywhere. Not even Santouka. I do appreciate and greatly enjoy the slight sweetness of the shio tonkotsu at Santouka though. In terms of quality of toppings and chasu, its Yamadaya by a mile.

                                  As for the noodles at Yamadaya, you get to choose thick or thin. Ask for thin if you don't like the thick noodles.

                                  Again, I'm no ramen expert but having been to Santouka Costa Mesa and Torrance at least half a dozen to a dozen times each and having tried Asa and Mottainai a couple of times each and unfortunately, having tried LT Daikokuya a couple of times, it's Yamadaya easy in my book.

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                                  Daikokuya
                                  327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                  Santouka
                                  3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    Porthos-

                                    Hakata ramen @ Jinya. Limited to certain number of bowls per day. It's easily the porkiest out of all the ramens I've had.

                                    1. re: ns1

                                      Jinya is a bit of a drive for me coming from HB but I'll give it a try if you give Yamadaya a go.

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        is the hakata on the menu at jinya? i've been once a while back and had their tonkotsu and thought it was easily the best in the area but not best in the city. probably worth a repeat try though. will need to add that to the list again.

                                        1. re: cdub

                                          @Porthos - Yamadaya is on my list, I'm just not in the south bay as often as I'd like.

                                          @cdub - the menu says limited to 20 bowls per day. I've called in during lunch time and have been denied. One time we were there during dinner and they said they would have some in an hour or so. So who the hell knows how often they actually have it. I've managed to order it once and IMO that was enough - it was actually too porky/fatty for me. Moreso than Daiko's Kotteri broth circa-2005

                                        2. re: ns1

                                          I tried that bowl at Jinya and found it to be very weak. Maybe an off day but seriously, it was profoundly thin and not remotely "porky".

                                          In regards to OP's query - the closest thing that comes to mind is the stewed pork tonkotsu ramen at Santa Ramen in San Mateo. Sounds very much like what you're describing. But that's Nor Cal so doesn't really help you here.

                                          I'm a santouka guy but have tried all the rest and I feel like there's a pretty common baseline between most of them. In particular, I didn't see a huge difference between Arthur (aka Asa), Mottainai, Yamadaya, etc.

                                          Forget Daiko - not rich enough, not by half.

                                          1. re: odub

                                            we're talking about the same bowl here right? hakata ramen aka tonkatsu premium broth "limited to 20 bowls a day"?

                                            when I got it it had all the trademark characteristics of an uber tonkotsu broth - fat sticking to the sides of the bowl when swirled around, super mouth feel, fat coating the lips causing loud smacking, etc.

                                            I'd say you got an off bowl. It was definitely porkier than any other tonkotsu I've had in SoCal. I'm normally a Santouka shio special pork guy and this was WAY porkier and less salty than Santouka.

                                            1. re: ns1

                                              Yeah: same bowl. I got there right when they opened - 1st customer and that's what I ordered. And what I got was absolutely underwhelming. I wanted to chalk it up to "too early in the day" but my friends pointed out that a proper restaurant would have had that broth stewing for hours already. I'll give it another shot at a future point but Studio City isn't exactly next door.

                                          2. re: ns1

                                            finally got to eat the shio tonkotsu at robata jinya. pretty good! i'd recommend it.

                                        3. re: Professor Salt

                                          Ok, I take back what I said about the soup at Yamada Ya.

                                          Just today, Yamada Ya introduced a brand new soup = kotteri tonkotsu. "Kotteri" means extra fatty, and boy is this one ever. It comes with a layer of golden liquid pork fat on top, AND is heavily strewn with small globs of tender, white pork fat. It's even more kotteri than anything Shin Sen Gumi makes. The kotteri also comes with raw garlic cloves and a garlic press, so you can freshly crush as much garlic as your reeking heart desires. Besides, your heart can use all the help in can get in processing all that liquid lard.

                                          Yamada Ya is escalating the pork fat wars. Anyone who likes the tonkotsu should give it a try, at least once.

                                          1. re: Professor Salt

                                            sounds to heavy for my blood, i'll think about splitting it with a table lol

                                            1. re: Professor Salt

                                              hmm, i wonder if they read chowhound. kotteri soup with pork back fat are just what we wanted!

                                              1. re: raizans

                                                pretty much exactly what i was thinking...

                                              2. re: Professor Salt

                                                Awesome. I suggested this to them a few weeks back, but I think there was some confusion and the server didn't understand what I was suggesting. (Actually I suggested they pan-fry the pork fat so there's some char on it. I'm guessing they didn't go that far.) I must try it this week, although I'll probably have to start going there less frequently, since I'm already downing one bowl of kakuni ramen every week, if not more often. With the way the kotteri soup sounds, I'll probably have a heart attack within a year at that pace.

                                                1. re: mrhooks

                                                  I'm right there with you in the cardiac ward, Brother Hooks.

                                                  I had already ordered the kakuni ramen when I noticed a white board tucked into a corner, advertising this new soup. I'm all, "uh, can I change my order to the kakuni with the kotteri tonkotsu soup?" The waitress had to go check with the kitchen, because today was the first day they rolled out this new soup. She comes back. "I'm sorry, but we'll have to charge you an extra 50 cents, would that be ok?"

                                                  Fitty cent? Sheeeetsyeaah. Bring it!

                                                    1. re: Professor Salt

                                                      blargh! yamadaya FAIL tonight. =(

                                                      that new soup must have been a daily special or something, because i just ordered the new soup on the whiteboard and it didn't have pork back fat! it was not as kotteri as ippudo or santouka, either. i'd put it on par with hakata or mottainai. still not digging the amount of bonito in there, but maybe it'll grow on me.

                                                      i asked to get it with kakuni, which was a once again a little dry and chewy. the fatty bits weren't rubbery, though, and the braising liquid was much more flavorful. so that was somewhat improved.

                                                      anyhow, good, but not great.

                                                      1. re: raizans

                                                        Really? Drag about the soup not being available yesterday. I REALLY hope it's a regular item, and I'll ask about it next time.

                                                        The dried fish (i'm tasting more niboshi, whole dried fishlets, a little less of dried bonito) is distinct and noticeable. I personally would prefer less of both in the broth, but that's the way the man makes his soup, so I'll suck it up.

                                                        I'm pretty much writing off the kakuni, until I hear otherwise.

                                                        1. re: Professor Salt

                                                          now i'm confused. i called and asked whether they put bonito or niboshi in it, and they said they don't put any fish in their soup, just pork bones and sauce (black garlic oil).

                                                          1. re: raizans

                                                            Again -- really?

                                                            Now I'm really intrigued. Will visit as soon as I'm able to ask about it

                                                            1. re: Professor Salt

                                                              The thing with the kakuni is, they make a huge batch and keep serving it until it's almost gone, which can take several days. You have to get it the day it was made, otherwise it can be a little dry.

                                                              They re-did their menus, and the kotteri soup is listed on it now. I tried it, and while it's damn good, it kinda scares me. I don't think it's something I can order every time I visit.

                                                              As for the regular tonkotsu, I've been there nearly every week for the past 5-6 months, and it's always been far better than Shin-Sen-Gumi and Mottainai. It must've been a really bad day if they slipped that far.

                                                  1. re: Professor Salt

                                                    I just went back to Santouko and confirmed that Yamadaya takes top billing in my soul.

                                                    1. re: Thi N.

                                                      Did you get the kotteri, or their regular tonkotsu soup?

                                            2. I'm not really a ramen expert, but it sounds like Jangara ramen. The most famous Jangara place in Japan is probably Kyushu Jangara, with multiple locations. Kyushu Jangara uses blocks of pork belly in their ramen.

                                              http://www.kyusyujangara.co.jp/menu/

                                              I personally haven't seen anything like this in LA, but mrhooks mentioned a kakuni ramen at Yamada-ya which should be similar, as kakuni pork belly is always cut into thick blocks.

                                              Where did you eat the ramen at?

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: la2tokyo

                                                Yeah I was also thinking of the same place when I read OP's description of the thick pork belly. Check the attached photo. When I was in Japan last month to try many ramen places, Kyushu Jangara really stood out to me with their blocks of pork belly that were very flavorful. I have never had anything like that here in LA though. I really need to go back to Japan.
                                                If you like your ramen rich and porky, give Horon in Torrance a try. They are actually a kushiage place but during lunch time, they serve ramen for like $6 including tax and tip. There is also a new ramen place in San Gabriel called TonChan that was also really good. They give you a lot of toppings to choose from. I thought they were just as good as Santouka and Daikokuya(still think their broth with kotteri was pretty good).

                                                -----
                                                Santouka
                                                3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                Horon
                                                2143 W. 182nd Street, Torrance, CA 90504

                                                 
                                                1. re: XI ShinE XI

                                                  I need to try Ton Chan again but based on my 1st experience, there, definitely nowhere in the same league as Santouka in terms of overall experience. Might be on the same level of Daikokuya (but that's not a compliment). Like I said, I need to give them a second shot and see if it's better this time around.

                                                  -----
                                                  Daikokuya
                                                  327 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                                  Santouka
                                                  3760 S Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                                                2. re: la2tokyo

                                                  In case you haven't been to Yamada-ya yet, their kakuni is served as a single giant slab that's so long it barely fits in the bowl. It's like 3x the amount you get at Kyusyu Jangara. Even I must admit it's a tad overboard...yet I can't resist.

                                                  1. re: mrhooks

                                                    man that sounds really good. I better go there next time I'm in Torrance. I'll also try their new special broth too.

                                                  1. It's not ramen, but you might really like the pork belly noodle entree at Blossom (Original downtown, new roomier loc in Silverlake). Huge amazing cuts of pork belly. It's served with what they call a sauce, but what is basically just a small amount of super condensed broth.