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Mottainai Ramen: has it gone down hill?

I've heard great things about Mottainai Ramen in Gardena and I have been planning to give it a try.

But just recently I have been hearing that the menu has changed and that the quality has gone way down. I also see that their website (www.mottainairamen.com) is down.

Has anybody been there in the last month or so who can confirm (or deny) a severe drop in quality at Mottainai?


just for the record:

my favorite Ramen joints are Tsujita (for both tsukemen AND tonkotsu) and Santouka

I have recently tried Yamadaya (Westwood) and Ramen Jinya (Sawtelle).....both were solid, but neither were quite up to the standard of Tsujita or Santouka

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  1. oh man this will be awful news. that miso ramen with butter corn was amazing.

    1. I ate at Mottainai about 5 weeks ago. I always get the kogashi ramen, which seems the same as always - excellent. The disturbing thing about our visit was it was on a friday night at around 7:30 and the place was less than half full. I partially rationalized that ramen is either lunch or late night food, but that's the case in Japan - what gives here?

      Ramen in LA is crazy good compared to just 5 years ago - it is a food segment that is in hyperdrive. Not the best comparison, but maybe like froyo, the market might be reaching critical mass?

      15 Replies
      1. re: bulavinaka

        One thing I've noticed about Mottainai is that I've never seen it crowded, much unlike Yamadaya, JIdaya, Santouka and Tsujita. Also Shinsengumi and Daikokuya Little Tokyo. These places are crazy crowded. Anyone wish to comment one way or the other? I do love Mottainai, though. Are they making their own noodles?

        1. re: Ogawak

          Mottainai is not purely a ramen shop-- rather it is a front for a Japanese noodle company to use their product. The fact that the roasted miso ramen with butter corn is as spectacular as it is seems a fluke, rather than success by design.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            ? Do you have more detail?! Almost all the current ramen shops use the same noodle company. Although they can make noodles to spec.

            1. re: AAQjr

              No. Was told this by the manager after our first visit.

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                So everyone else is a front for Sun noodles? I wouldn't say so..I don't think this really much to make a big deal over.

                1. re: AAQjr

                  Your reaction to my post is awfully confusing.

                  My answer was in response to Ogawak's question: "Are they making their own noodles?"

                  The business model of Takaraya providing their own ramen shop with noodles has not (nor has it ever been) a secret, or controversial in any way.

                  And even if I had intended to manufacture some grand controversy, your analogy makes no sense. You seem to be implying that "everyone else" is owned by Sun noodles, which obviously is not true.

                  I am left fully baffled by your post.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: AAQjr

                    An apt analogy would be if Ronzoni opened an Italian restaurant in San Pedro which featured some really well executed Italian pasta dishes. Not controversial, not a problem, just rather odd and unlikely.

                    Mr Taster

                2. re: AAQjr

                  As always, rameniac has the details...

                  "...a shop in Gardena opening in cahoots with Takaraya, a prominent Kyoto noodle maker."


                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    That same article mentioned they were trying to install their own noodle making machine. That's what my question was based on.

                3. re: Mr Taster

                  >>The fact that the roasted miso ramen with butter corn is as spectacular as it is seems a fluke, rather than success by design.<<

                  You mean Mottainai told you that they did not deliberately pull this together by design? Hard to believe. Kogashi and corn are common to Hokkaido/Sapporo ramen.

                  >>Mottainai is not purely a ramen shop-- rather it is a front for a Japanese noodle company to use their product.<<

                  Is this a matter of semantics? Not to sound rude, but I couldn't care less as long as they're dishing out good food...

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Bulavinaka, no Mottainai told me nothing of the sort. I meant nothing more than what I wrote. I love Mottainai so any negativity or judgment you're reading into this isn't coming from me.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      >>The fact that the roasted miso ramen with butter corn is as spectacular as it is seems a fluke, rather than success by design.<<

                      As the famous baseball executive (who broke the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson), Branch Rickey once said: "Luck is the residue of opportunity and design."

                4. re: bulavinaka

                  Critical mass? Hard to say, ramen places keep opening up and it is a blessing for ramen fans like myself. I just think that with the recent openings of high quality ramen places like Yamadaya or Jidaiya competition has greatly increased.

                  1. re: Johnny L

                    Ramen is a "religion" in Japan, and I think the number of "converts" are growing here. IMHO it's not a passing fad; It will likely take hold here as sushi has.

                    1. re: Ogawak

                      Passing fad? No. Maybe enough very good to great ramen joints relative to current demand? That's what I'm wondering.

                5. Had a friend who went 2-3 weeks ago and said it was the same as he remembered (they did forget his fire wok'd corn though)

                  1. I enjoyed this place. A bit salty for me, but overall pretty enjoyable. They even let me sample all their soup bases before I had to order one. It's also fun to sit that the counter and watch the cook use his wok.

                    1. I went this past weekend. I haven't been since a couple of months after they opened, and I got the tonkotsu ramen with half a white bomb (shared it with my fiancee) and extra garlic, and to be honest I thought it was still really good, maybe in my top 3 in LA.

                      1. Thanks all.....

                        .....sounds like I may have come across some bum info....

                        .....looks like I need to make a trek down to Gardena

                        1. I ate there about a month ago too, and it was still good. I hadn't eaten there for several months before that.

                          The menu changed but I think it was just cosmetic. I actually like ordering, say, "Tonkotsu Shoyu" now instead of "Yokohama Freaker" or whatever it was before.

                          Also I thought the gyoza improved.

                          However, after having eaten at Santouka so many times, I've come to realize that sometimes ramen places just have off days. Sometimes you need to go to a ramen spot multiple times to really get a feel for how it is.

                          1. A friend of mine who lives near Gardena visited this weekend and says old Mottainai is a think of the past. There was a problem and the manager left, and the chefs and recipes went with him.

                            No more "flavor bombs"! No more roasted miso corn butter ramen!

                            I want to cry.

                            Mr Taster

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              What! No more flavor bombs! Nooooo.....Please pass the tissues.

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                "No more "flavor bombs"! No more roasted miso corn butter ramen!"

                                Mottainai's dead to me now :(

                                1. re: ns1

                                  Mottainai made it onto the Chowhound "best of LA ramen" list.


                                  Is it back to its old tricks? I haven't been since before I heard this report.

                                  EDIT: that list was from a year ago. Whoops.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    I went 6-12 months ago and it was so terrible I basically wiped Mottanai from the chow memory bank.

                                    1. re: ns1

                                      They're getting bombarded on yelp.. and if even yelpers think its bad.. then it must be horrible now.

                                      1. re: blimpbinge

                                        The people working there are different than when they first opened and got great reviews. Been back twice recently and it was nothing like when they first opened. I don't plan to go back!

                                        1. re: KTLA

                                          Had not been there in a while...only perk of eating there was shopping at Marukai next door...but there's a food court right inside...so....no loss.

                                2. re: Mr Taster

                                  the masses have long fled to Hayatemaru and Jidaiya.

                                  1. re: TonyC

                                    Back in LA for Thanksgiving, long-dormant cravings re-surfaced, and bade me re-visit some of the old haunts. Sadly, I hadn't seen this thread. Almost immediately it was clear to me that something had changed -- and yet hadn't my beloved Mottainai still been making all the "best of" lists? Hope sprang eternal.

                                    Alas -- Mottainai is no more. The toasted miso glory is a thing of the past. Neither the broth nor the ramen are what they once were. Gone, too, are the flavor bombs. This is Mottainai in name only. I haven't been to Hayatemaru yet -- how does it stack up, for any old-school Mottainai lovers among us?

                                    1. re: uberslop

                                      >> hadn't my beloved Mottainai still been making all the "best of" lists?

                                      What "best of" lists exactly are you referring to?

                                      That'll learn ya to believe things that unvetted strangers post on the internets.

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        eater la as well as gold's (I realized this wasn't up-to-date, but it had come out subsequent to my last visit) as for eater, as recently as last month they included it....

                                          1. re: uberslop

                                            Ramen is going thru a cupcake/froyo faze of sorts right now. Things are in flux.

                                            1. re: uberslop

                                              Oy, eaterla.

                                              This kind of amateur journalism drives me nuts.

                                              I always wonder who these people are who don't do their homework before publishing a piece. And what are their credentials to be a published food writer in the first place?

                                              More importantly, who are the editors publishing this stuff? It's embarrassing.

                                              If you read the comments, you'll even see at one time this list included Asahi Ramen on Sawtelle (it appears the author has since removed it, but there remain several comments referencing it). Asahi wasn't good even in the early days before the ramen explosion. Its a part of Sawtelle history because its been around long before Santouka entered the scene (I became ramen conscious when Daikokuya was the only real player, early 2000s). Even then, I'd go around the corner to Ramen-Ya before eating Asahi's old tasting chashu. Asahi struck me as the kind of old style Japanese American stuff, belonging in the closet with the teriyaki.

                                              So if anything, this dude's inclusion of Asahi on a "best of LA Ramen" list should have immediately disqualified his opinion from any serious Chowhound's consideration.

                                              You've got to read internet opinions with a healthy dose of skepticism and a very critical eye. Everyone has a right to express their opinion, but not all opinions are of equal quality. It is up to you to figure out for yourself whose opinions are worth internalizing.

                                              Mr Taster

                                          2. re: uberslop

                                            The moral of the story: Check Chowhound for the latest - not just in finding great new places to chow, but also for old favorites now in decline...

                                      2. I am surprised that nobody has mentioned (or asked) what the name means in Japanese. For that matter, "Ikemen" has a rather interesting name as well.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                          I think that's because if you are interested in information like that it is easy to Google https://www.google.com/#q=meaning+of+... for the answer and if you just want to eat the food you can do that too.

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            Great point, there! You're absolutely right. I do know what they mean, and I can only supposed that a few posters have found out as well.