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Jul 3, 2012 12:15 AM

Menya Iroha - Famous Ramen from Japan in Gardena Marukai

This is located in the big two story Marukia on Artesia.

Supposedly it has won several best awards and hasn't even been open a month but the lines are starting to form.

Famous for it's soy based broth it is most likely chicken based and supposedly black bean as well.

It was quite good and a nice change of scenery from the typical fat bomb tonkotsu broths while having a little bit of complexity to it. Although I do think the broth could have been slightly less saltier and the cha-shu slices I had were basically one half fat and one half meat, no even layers so a bit guilty inducing.

The cha-shu bun is nice but a bit simplistic with lettuce, a sour sauce, and a salty sauce. Worth trying once but I probably wouldn't get it again. Definitely want to go back to try their pure chicken broth.

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  1. so the entire broth is just chicken, so you can get it without any pork in there ?

    is it a stand within the market ???


    1. Just came back from Marukai. Apparently Iroha has won the Tokyo Ramen Show's People's Choice award for best ramen for 2009-2011. They come in three styles, spicy red, white and shoyu black. I guess all three are chicken stock based, which is lighter and IMO less substantial if you're used to the pork base most ramen shops use. I chose the white which came with delicious chashu slices and egg. Based on first impressions, I still like Yamadaya, Santouka and Jidaya better. I will go back to try their spicy red and give the place a second try, since they won't be here long, leaving Sept 16th.

      Marukai food court is inside and to the right, just before you enter the main store. Just curious if anyone here has tried the food af the various stands there?

      4 Replies
      1. re: Ogawak

        How late are they open?

        So you can get teh broth with noodles without any pork in it ????

        Thanks. Also, do you happen to know when they are open until, I presume that the ramen stand is only in the gardena location and not the one in westla ? , right

        1. re: kevin

          It's the Marukai on Artesia, not the one in the old Pacific Square on Redondo Beach Blvd. Yes you can have any of the chicken stock ramens without the chashu pork. I don't know the hours, presumably whatever the store hours are. Iroha is testing the waters to see about opening up a shop here. It didn't wow me, but there is evidently a market for them here.

          1. re: Ogawak

            Sweet, thanks. I didn't even realize that there were two of them in the South Bay.

        2. re: Ogawak

          I think a better impression would be to try their black ramen since that is what they are known for.

        3. I went today to the Menya Iroha at the huge Kyoto train station. It is among many other ramen counters (I think 10 in total) on one floor. I got the negitama ramen with the black soy broth and aji tame (marinated soft-boiled egg). Aside from the broth, nothing stood out as unusual. The first thing I noticed in the flavor profile was a somewhat light shoyu flavor and (of course) a soothing wash of umami over my tongue. What's weird for me about this broth is the back note - a slight bitterness followed - not overpowering but it stuck around long enough for me to ponder it for a while. I'm guessing it's from the infusion of the black soy beans, but they also use a heavy dose of black pepper as well - a fair amount of this was found in the bottom of my bowl. What the eye sees and what the tongue tastes are two different things. The darkness of the broth tells the mind that something potentially heavy and strong is will be hitting the tongue, but the actual taste is much lighter than what one would expect. It's the best I can describe this and I hope it's somewhat of a baseline for others to work with.

          27 Replies
          1. re: bulavinaka

            felt the same way, visual trickery.

            1. re: Johnny L

              I don't know how these ramen competitions are run, but I can see how this ramen's uniqueness can be a standout among the more super rich heavily pork-laden broths in a competition. It's much lighter in flavor, giving ramen tasters a break - almost like a palate cleanser. And again - the "mezurashii" aspect is hard to discount when tasting something whose taste defies what what the eyes perceive.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                After I left I didn't feel like I need a bypass from all the pork fat. I noticed the broth seemed very simple. Chicken, shitake, garlic, some sort of cabbage and who knows what else.

                Anyone try the white chicken broth want to share how it was?

            2. re: bulavinaka

              No, you described it pretty well. I also got the black ramen (since that was considered the most popular of the three in Japan) and had a fair amount of pepper grit in my teeth after consuming all of the broth. This was my actually my first experience with a chicken-based broth being a fan primarily of tonkotsu broth. I enjoyed both the lightness yet complexity of it. It made my first experience with the chicken ramen at Ramen Jinya a few days later all the more disappointing because it seemed so bland in comparison. I also await to hear opinions of the white and red options, which I am unfortunately unable to try.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                "The darkness of the broth tells the mind that something potentially heavy and strong is will be hitting the tongue, but the actual taste is much lighter than what one would expect. It's the best I can describe this and I hope it's somewhat of a baseline for others to work with".

                I find this very interesting how the ramen geek world and the beer geek world have very similar profiles as far as taste is concerned.

                Most people faced with a dark or black beer are anticipating a strong or bitter tasting stout like beer.
                Taste a black mild and what you see and what you taste are quiet different.

                The flavor bomb Tonkotsu pork ramen is equal to a strong bourbon barreled aged imperial stout or double / triple IPA for the hop heads. Most of the top rated beers in the world are very strong in either ABV, hop profile or barrel aging. Reading ramen reviews it's usually about how fatty and porky a ramen is and the more the better.

                I wonder if there will come a time when you see the pork bomb popularity come back to a more balanced approach among ramen fans?

                1. re: burntwater

                  imo, the pork bubble popped early last year.

                  1. re: raizans

                    Ha ha, love it pork bombs are so last year (smile)

                    In your opinion what is the hot trend for a true ramen aficionado right now?

                    1. re: burntwater

                      who knows, but it's not all about tonkotsu anymore.

                      if there were to be a new hot trend in LA ramen, chicken is fairly obvious, but i think creativity and fusion are inevitable. ramen california was a little too early and unusual, not to mention unsatisfying. however, there is now beef ramen at gottsui and fujin, and miyata menji makes italian influenced ramen. we'll see if they catch on. seafood is another option. i think the camaron y pulpo soup at coni'seafood would be great with thick ramen noodles in it, as would bouillabaisse.

                      1. re: raizans

                        So what your telling me old is new?
                        The ramen experts are now in limbo?

                        1. re: raizans

                          I think Tsujita basically has won my heart in the tonkotsu battle, best balance of fat, seafood flavor, and pork. I'm hoping we see interesting stuff like more variations of chicken ramen broth.

                          1. re: raizans

                            It'd be nice if we could just get good shio or good shoyu ramen first before we get the crazy stuff. I don't mean the shio/tonkotsu or shoyu/tonkotsu versions at Santouka.

                            Interestingly enough, Yamadaya Costa Mesa now has a pretty decent shio broth made from chicken and dried fish. I get it if I've already had the tonkotsu within a 2 week time span.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              Speaking of shoyu...just polished off a nice shoyu ramen at Yamadaya Costa Mesa. The broth is clear, flavorful, and has a nice fishiness to it. Rich without being heavy. Excellent.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                i like the shoyu at jidaiya. chicken-y, no outward signs of fish. i got it with bean sprouts added.

                                the guys at jidaiya and torihei know how to make flavorful, balanced liquids.

                                1. re: raizans

                                  I like a little fishiness to my shio and shoyu broth.

                                  That chicken broth at Torihei is ridiculous. I order an extra one always to go with my chicken rice/soup combo. One is simply not enough. Is the soft boiled egg at Jidaiya as good as the one at Torihei?

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    yes, the egg is the same. the menu includes a salmon and cod roe rice bowl, so they could even put a scoop of salmon roe on top of the egg.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      Is this the yakitori Torihei, Porthos? I don't recall having ramen there but it has been a while.

                                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                                        I'm just talking the broth at Torihei. The Torihei people also opened up Jidaiya which is how that broth became part of the conversation. I have not had the chicken broth ramen at Jidaiya yet though to know whether or not it's the same chicken broth with ramen or if it has been altered a bit to make it a ramen broth.

                          2. re: burntwater

                            "I wonder if there will come a time when you see the pork bomb popularity come back to a more balanced approach among ramen fans?"

                            Well, an analogous phenomenon hasn't happened in the beer world, so if that's any indication, doesn't seem likely to happen in the ramen world either.

                            In the beer world, most drinkers start with the high gravity flavor bomb beers and then grow to appreciate a well brewed "session" ale, and even a well made lager. But most of us still never stop loving the IIPAs and BA Imperial Stouts etc. So I'd suspect that the ramen veteran might tire of pork bombs, much like the hophead eventually fatigues from IIPAs, they take a break with something lighter, but it's only temporary.

                            At the end of the day, the pork bomb isn't for everyone just like the IIPA/BA Stout isn't, and most people don't want nothing but flavor bombs all the time, but it's still likely to remain at the top of the heap. I don't see chicken ramen ever overtaking pork ramen on a mass scale. That'd be like a saison being the top rated beer. God knows I'd probably agree with it, but it'll always be some high gravity monster.

                            1. re: BrewNChow

                              I disagree. Maybe it's wishful thinking. I'm getting Yamadaya's shio and shoyu broths 5:1 over their pork bomb tonkotsu these days. At Jinya, I'm really digging the chicken broth one much more than their tonkotosu. I think LA is ready to move beyond the pork bomb judging by recent ramen discussions. Will shio and shoyu joints outnumber tonkotsu joints? Probably not. But some of us are ready to move on and have.

                              Using a wine analogy to counter your beer analogy...many people start with cab blends for the stronger flavors, but then eventually move on to pinot for something more pure, clean, and not as heavy.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                Agreed I've been on the lookout for great chicken based ramen since I can't help but feel guilty from a tonkotsu bowl of heaviness these days.

                              2. re: BrewNChow

                                IMHO seasoned ramen eaters are ready to move on. n00b ramen eaters are more likely to still be in the tonkotsu phase

                                1. re: ns1

                                  so has anyone else tried the gardena joint yet ? i hope it will still be around for a few weeks more, since i couldn't get over there yet.

                                  1. re: kevin

                                    If anybody is wondering how long Iroha is staying at Marukai (on Artesia), I just got the September Marukai flyer and it says that their, "...originally intended temporary stay has been extended."

                            2. re: bulavinaka

                              bulavinaka, "Kyoto train station"...I'm so envious!

                              1. re: liu

                                Hi liu,

                                It's not all that, especially when one is a tourist (me) trying to keep a schedule. I spent maybe three hours cruising through this huge complex, and really didn't have a chance to take much in. But as I mentioned above, having a bunch of ramen places on one floor (I counted again, and it's eight counters) all competing for your business is not a bad thing, I guess. :)

                                I know you lean more toward delicate flavors in general. You might want to try Menya Iroha. I don't know if they will offer you samples of their broths, but as mentioned several times, even the black broth is on the lighter more delicate side.

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  Hi, bulavinaka!

                                  Your chiming in from Kyoto is Hounding at its best!
                                  Thanks for the tip about Menya Iroha...we will try it.

                                  Happy ramen-ing...and I do hope you can slow down and enjoy Kyoto.

                              2. Checked this place over the weekend, had the black ramen as well.

                                Noodles were EXCELLENT, great texture. Broth was pretty good, definitely lighter than I expected, much lighter than tonkatsu, heavier than Jinya's chicken broth. Egg was excellent, everything else including the chashu was okay (meaning better than most).

                                My take-away from this bowl is that the after taste reminded me of black pepper sauce. Like something from a 626 cafe covered in black pepper sauce.

                                Glad I tried it but it wasn't an OMFG BEST RAMEN EVER type experience. It made me very grateful to have so many good ramen options in LA.

                                Closing Thoughts:
                                - Santouka really needs to step up their egg game - it's definitely not on par with the competitors anymore.
                                - I still love Jinya's chicken ramen. It' s not as salty as this one (I can see how others would describe it the opposite way, i.e. Jinya being "bland") and comes with those fantastic chicken wontons.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ns1

                                  Just found out that the Jinya down here in OC has been open for a few months. Will be going tomorrow to see how it compares to Yamadaya. I will be sure to try both the chicken and classic tonkotsu.

                                  Although, my preference these days is for the shoyu and shio at Yamadaya so this may all be a moot point.

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    the only ramen I get at Jinya is the chicken ramen w/ chicken wontons. Everything else they do, I think somebody else does better...

                                    I wonder how the OC location compares to the studio city location...

                                2. i ate the black ramen for lunch just now. i don't get the comments about lightness, as the soup is strongly flavored and unctuous. it tastes a lot like chicken adobo, especially with the black pepper. chashu is fine. the egg is intense, a little sweet and nearly too salty. the yolk is firm but still orange and not completely cooked through. the menma is unflavored and acts as a palate cleanser, which was a nice thought. i liked how the thick noodles soaked up the juices, just like the rice with chicken adobo. very good, i thought.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: aizan

                                    "i ate the black ramen for lunch just now. i don't get the comments about lightness, as the soup is strongly flavored and unctuous. "

                                    It's not nearly as unctuous as a kotteri tonkotsu broth. Actually, I'd dare describe it as...light, when compared to tonkotsu.

                                    1. re: aizan

                                      Yeah I wouldn't say its light in general but in relation to the tonkotsu craze that has LA right now. It's very flavorful without feeling like it will clog your arteries.

                                      1. re: aizan

                                        See poster burntwater's reply comparing beer geek profile description vs. ramen geek profile descriptions, and add that to replies by ns1 and and Johnny L. I drink a fair amount of stout. Seeing and trying the dark broth is like unknowingly sipping an Asahi Kuronama after having a couple of Rogue Double Chocolate Stouts.

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          The dark beer comparison is brilliant. I was amused to read that.

                                          1. re: Tripeler

                                            Thanks, but I owe it to burntwater for his keen observation.