Mr. Ramen – Los Angeles, CA

341 1/2 E. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-4252

The movie 300 is in stores today. Kevin Garnett becomes a Celtic in a blockbuster deal. The Dow is down 1.5% for July. Mortgage companies continue to implode. Robin Roberts has breast cancer. A USB flash drive can now perform aromatherapy. This is just a taste of today’s headlines. And why am I mentioning them in a ramen review, you ask? Because it’s probably a better way to spend your time rather than continue on with me having nothing good to say about Mr. Ramen!

This was the 2nd part of my ramen run today and as I write this from home, I’m regretting every bit of it. Not because my stomach is about to explode. Not because my MSG headache is becoming unbearable. And not because I have a basketball game tonight. But because I can’t believe I’ve subjected my body to such ramen-retardation! Wait, before I seriously persuade you not to go here, the actual Mr. Ramen and Mrs. Ramen are very kind people with a very inviting little restaurant. If I ever do go back, it will be because of them. There’s always other stuff on the menu for me to try.

Shoyu-ramen: Simple, strong, and very fishy. That is how I describe the soup. Overcooked and slimy were the noodles. The toppings (chashu, egg, seaweed, menma, and negi) floated like trash in a botulinal river. I really struggled to keep this down. Partly because I just ate over at Daikokuya 30 minutes prior, but mostly due to its indigestible nature.

Gyoza: Now why didn’t I just order the gyoza at Daikokuya? Like Mathew Perry in The Whole Nine Yards, I banged my head on the steering wheel several times for this one. All in all, these were better than the ramen and far more digestible. I managed to keep these down without any trouble.

Daikokuya – Los Angeles, CA

327 E. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-1680

Two months into my ramen journey and I finally get a chance to try Daikokuya. I constantly hear nothing but great reviews about this place, so today I decided to finally witness it for myself. This is actually the first of two ramen-ya’s I visited today. You’ll see the next one a little later on. Okay, so back to Daikokuya. I decided to save some room in my stomach and order only the ramen. I’ll have to go back again for the gyoza someday.

Daikoku-ramen: Wow! Amazing! Why did I wait so long to try this? Sorry edjusted, but I’d have to say that this was better than Shinsengumi. The soup was to die for! The noodles weren’t very spectacular, but thankfully they were masked by the delicious tonkotsu soup. And the chashu? Mmmmm! The kurobuta just melted on my tongue like an ice cube on asphalt. I think I might have to go back there sooner than I thought. Maybe even tomorrow!

Gyoza: (Updated December 31, 2007) I finally got a chance to try the gyoza and…they were really good, but I think I might have been expecting too much. I guess that’s what happens when you listen to all the hype. They could have been a little juicier. Nonetheless, they are definitely top notch.

Koraku Restaurant – Los Angeles, CA

314 E. 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 687-4972

Koraku, Kouraku, or Ko-raku. Is there a purpose for the inconsistent translation of their name throughout the restaurant? All I ask is that it doesn’t translate over to their ramen! Today I decided to take a trip downtown since I’ve pretty much conquered OC (at least for the time being). After finding a place to park and overcoming the initial nostalgia of playing in Little Tokyo as a child, I walked on over to the ramen-ya closest to the parking lot–Ko.u.ra.ku. I’m sure that I’ve been here before but for what it’s worth, I couldn’t remember.

Shoyu-ramen: I’ve had better and I’ve had worse. The soup base was a bit on the strong side and even left the yellowish noodle stained brown. Could this be an inconsistency? I guess I’ll have to go back again to know for sure. Anyway, the noodle texture was good and the toppings (egg, chashu, moyashi, menma, and negi) were simply average. Nothing to cry nor scream about. I think I’ll try a different ramen the next time. Perhaps the mabo or the tonkotsu.

Gyoza: I’ve never found it odd for an order of gyoza to arrive 15 minutes after my ramen (this is usually the case), but to arrive 15 minutes before?…now that is odd! Especially since these arrived just seconds after I ordered. Were they declined by another customer? Do they mass cook gyoza anticipating their orders? Or do they cook them in the morning and just nuke ’em during lunch? I’m not exactly sure how it works and quite frankly, I don’t care. Their existence was quick and short lived. I’ll have to order the chahan next time!

Katana Sushi and Ramen – Hacienda Heights, CA

3107 Colima Rd.
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
(626) 333-7222

It’s Q? No it’s Katana Sushi and Ramen! After browsing a forum thread on rameniac’s site which mentioned It’s Q Ramen (Ikkyu), I decided to go check it out. But after calling to see what time they open, I was greeted by a soft “Hello, Katana Sushi and Ramen.” Did I call the wrong place? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I still heard them say ramen so I asked for their hours and headed out my door. Anything to kill that Noodle Pluto taste that’s still lingering from yesterday.

Tamayu-ramen: After reading some prior reviews about It’s Q, it looks like their ramen still lives at Katana. Perhaps the owner of It’s Q simply changed their name and added sushi. Or perhaps the new owners also bought the ramen recipe. Or perhaps they just enslaved the old ramen chef. Or perhaps I know nothing at all. What I do know is that I actually really enjoyed this hakata-style tamayu-ramen. It also eerily reminded me of Shimadaya’s nama tonkotsu ramen in the package. Could this just be a pure coincidence? Hmmm…it makes me wonder. Well the soup base was oily and excellent. The noodles were slightly undercooked but I didn’t mind since it beats being overcooked. The toppings were simple (thinly sliced moist chashu, negi, goma, and konbu), giving the ramen some individuality. And with Utada Hikaru singing First Love in the background (natsukashii), I virtually fell in love with Tamayu!

Gyoza: For just $7 total, my Tamayu-ramen came with three pieces of gyoza. Not bad! Although these were deep-fried and reminded me more of fried wontons than gyoza. They even came with their own sweet ponzu-like sauce. Good but not great. There are plenty of other items to choose from for this ramen-combo so you might be better off skipping the gyoza here.

Noodle World – Pasadena, CA

24 W. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 585-5885

If you’re stuck in Old Town Pasadena desperately craving some ramen, then you’re better off walking across the street to Famima!! and checking out their instant noodle collection. Noodle World (formerly Boba World) is not known for their ramen and quite frankly I don’t understand why they even bother to have it on the menu. If this were the only noodle shop in the world that served ramen, I would probably be heading the next NASA expedition in search of ramen on Mars!

Ramen: Not much to rave about here so I’ll try to make it brief. The soup smelled and tasted like shiitake. It reminded me of udon broth. I think this might be a new species of ramenudon–something that probably should be extinct if you ask me. The noodles were on par with the worst of them and the toppings were even worse. I particularly detest cilantro in my ramen and the chashu (or what looked like chashu) tasted more like processed chicken or some other four-legged furry animal. Normally a HUGE fan of menma, I couldn’t bare to eat these. At least they had some decent smoothies to wash most of the rancid taste out of my mouth.

Extra Famima!! pics (NOT NOODLE WORLD!):

Oki Doki Asian Cuisine – Costa Mesa, CA

At first glance you may not think Oki Doki serves ramen, but a closer look at the menu reveals an obscure shoyu-ramen surrounded by various Asian dishes from Japan, Vietnam, China, and Korea. Located near what I call Costa Mesa’s “ramen whirlpool” and owned by the same owner of San Shi Go Japanese Restaurant in Laguna Beach, it’s not surprising that ramen made it onto the menu here, albeit just one type–shoyu. An added benefit of this restaurant is that it will also accommodate your not-so-crazy-about-ramen-like-you-are friends, since ramen is not their main dish.

Shoyu-ramen: Not the prettiest looking ramen, but also not their main focus. After all, looks aren’t everything. The soup base was very oily and loaded with garlic that pleased my soul. You can distinctly taste some other Asian influences involved which makes this ramen very unique. The toppings (chashu, egg, naruto, moyashi, menma, and glazed scallions) were average and almost went unnoticed. The noodles definitely need some more work too. But I’ll let it slide since this isn’t their specialty. Overall, this ramen was enjoyable and worth it. I’ll have to head back someday, not only for the ramen but for all the other oishii-looking dishes.

Foo Foo Tei – Hacienda Heights, CA

15018 Clark Ave.
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
(626) 937-6585

After a nice morning ride on my motorcycle that worked up an appetite, I thought I’d head on over to Foo Foo Tei to see what all the rave was about. Upon arrival, I wondered in amazement how a ramen-ya could be located in this unusual industrial neighborhood and still remain successful. If it weren’t for some fellow ramen lovers, I may have never known that this place existed. (Thanks Shin!) Crazy as it seems, groups of Asian people began to arrive by the car loads. The line was already 25 people long 20 minutes before opening. Could the ramen really be this good?!

As the door opened I managed to survive the mad dash and make my way to front of the line–after all I was the first person to arrive. To my surprise (maybe because of the name), the waitresses all spoke Japanese and greeted us with the usual “Irrashaimase.” The menu had plenty of variety, but I knew right away what I wanted. The good ‘ole shoyu-ramen and gyoza.

Shoyu-ramen: Okay. Let me take a deep breath. This ramen was…outstanding! The light, crisp, flavorful taste of the soup base was perfect satisfaction, even on a hot day. The noodles, slightly thinner than the norm, had a nice chewy texture that tangoed with my tongue. And for the toppings (egg, naruto, scallions, menma, moyashi, a piece of nori, and two pieces of tender fatty chashu)…they were outstanding as well. Altogether a great blend and well worth the wait. If you’re corny enough, this ramen might even have you screaming foo foo for Foo Foo Tei!

Gyoza: Contrary to what the picture below might show, this is not your boss’ hair piece. So what is it? I’m not sure. Of all my years eating gyoza, I’ve never seen it cooked like this before. If you out there have any ideas, please enlighten me. Nevertheless, it tasted amazing! This strange crust may have hinted a slightly burnt taste, but the actual gyoza was full of juicy, garlicky minced pork. An unusual sight, but a definite recommendation.

Kiraku Ramen – Gardena, CA

15472 S Western Ave
Gardena, CA 90249
(310) 515-0966

There’s nothing like being stranded in the Gardena/Torrance area when in the mood for ramen. The only headache involves trying to choose which ramen-ya to go to. Today I chose Kiraku Ramen House. Mostly because I passed up Umemura and wound up in the Kiraku parking lot debating whether I should go back or not. Since I knew that if I left I would be back, I decided to just park and go in and save Umemura for some other time. Upon my entrance, I was greeted and seated immediately by the waitress. A quick glance at the menu and I was ready to order the usual shoyu-ramen and gyoza.

Shoyu-ramen: The shoyu-ramen was definitely unoriginal and unexciting but overall, mildly satisfying. The soup base had a light flavor that soothed and tickled the back of my throat as it went down. If they sold just the soup in a vending machine I would probably buy it. The noodles, on the other hand, were slimy, clumpy, and slightly overcooked–a huge pet peeve of mine. The toppings were average and minimal (egg, kamaboko, menma, scallions, and two pieces of dry chashu). If I had a rating system, this ramen would not receive the highest but I would still recommend going here any chance you get.

Gyoza: So far one of the best gyoza’s that I have tasted! A crispy, eye-opening flavor that leaves your mouth drooling…mmmm. Need I say more?!!

San Sui Tei – Temple City, CA

5953 Temple City Blvd
Temple City, CA 91780
(626) 285-3650

If you’re looking for a cozy little ramen house to spend the day slurping and relaxing, then San Sui Tei is for you. Like many “old school” japanese restaurants, there is a nice (albeit slightly outdated) selection of manga to take advantage of while you wait for your food and ponder how current advancements in nanotechnology will improve the lives of countless ramen enthusiasts throughout the universe. Okay, maybe not that last part but you’ll definitely find it peaceful.

Shoyu-ramen: Encircled by a deep, menacing bowl, this ramen appeared to be sitting at the bottom of a well. And with each chopstick lunge, I felt as if I was trying to rescue baby Jessica. Anyway, the shoyu-ramen was pleasant but not as impressive as I thought it would be. The soup was light and flavorful (without any oddities) and there were plenty of toppings (chashu, flavored egg, seaweed, plenty of cabbage, menma, scallions, and corn) to satisfy your hunger. The noodle texture, on the other hand, was very odd and strangely reminded me of “cup noodles.” If I were blindfolded I may not have been able to tell the difference. Overall the shoyu-ramen was plentiful and well presented but nothing to get too excited about.

Gyoza: Instant excitement from the first bite to the last! I couldn’t tell if they were homemade, but to be honest, I didn’t care! They even got me to thinking if I should start a new blog solely devoted to gyoza. Go Gyoza!?? Lol! Don’t be trying to steal my ideas now.

Chuuka Soba GOMEN – Stanton, CA

7147 Katella Ave.
Stanton, CA 90680

Hmm…I wonder why they’re apologizing ahead of time? (Gomen also means “sorry” in japanese.) Could this be a bad sign??

And the answer is…YES!!!! Literally and figuratively! Let’s get straight to it folks.

Tonkotsu-Shoyu-ramen: Submerged in this murky bowl of shoyu flavored tonkotsu ramen, lives a slithering noodle creature that can only be described as…odd. What is this flavor I’m tasting? The soup is extremely unusual, confusing my taste buds with that crinkling forehead sensation. The noodles were even worse! Claimed to be homemade and fresh, I couldn’t grasp why I kept tasting charcoal with every slurp. I wouldn’t go as far as saying “don’t go” to this place, after all we are called GO RAMEN!, but I’m not sure if I can accept their apology. If there’s anyone out there that can change my mind about this, please let me know what I need to try!

Gyoza: Lightly burnt to a crisp (the way I like it), the gyoza was a bit more familiar to my taste buds. But it still couldn’t fix the damage done by the ramen oddity. And what’s with that plate?!