Mitsuru Cafe – Los Angeles, CA

117 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-1028

Best known for their Imagawayaki’s, Mitsuru Cafe does manage to include a single ramen on their menu, simply listed as…Ramen. I doubt that it’s a best seller with all the other choices in the area, but perhaps it could be a quiet sleeper in what used to be a booming plaza.

Ramen: A simple ramen for a simple ramen addict. This shoyu-based ramen was not nearly the best, but I still enjoyed it’s light flavor and boring appearance. The toppings (chashu, menma, moyashi, and negi) sat lazily in the broth like they’ve been doing this for years. All in all, this was a below average ramen, but once you set foot in Mitsuru Cafe, you really can’t ask for anything more.

On a side note, I stopped by Daikokuya to take some gyoza to go, but I was told that they can’t do to go today. That sounded strange to me. I never heard of anything like that…have you?

Cafe Asa – Gardena, CA

18202 S. Western Ave.
Gardena, CA
(310) 769-1010

Rameniac wasn’t kidding!…not that he ever does. Cafe Asa is definitely “one of the top ramen shops in town.” Located in the same center as my favorite udon-ya, Sanuki No Sato, Asa explodes into the LA ramen scene with some of the best stuff on this side of the Pacific. Let’s just straight out say it now–this ramen-ya is a must GO! I’ve waited hours to eat ramen that’s far more inferior than this. I know some of you may be weary of letting the secret of Asa out, but I say we start rounding up everyone we know and start lining up at the joint! I would hate to see them disappear so soon. The only reason I say this is because the place was empty when I was there. Tell your friend’s and have them tell more friend’s and so on. Let’s keep them in business!

Kotteri-shoyu: Kotteri or Assari…that is the question. A great way to keep it simple! Kotteri is the thicker more rich (and probably more fattening) soup base. With plenty of flavor, one sip will send you drifting away into a heavenly dream. The noodles are thin and add a delightful crispness to the whole experience. The toppings (chashu, negi, and menma) are perfect and you even get an option to add others. Need I say more…

Assari-shoyu: After tasting the Kotteri, the Assari was extremely refreshing. But I would still prefer the more intense Kotteri any day. That’s not to say the Assari was bad. It still rocks and would bury most other ramen out there.

Kurobuta Wiener: If it weren’t for ramen, I might have a blog entitled “GO WIENER!” Thank god for ramen…hahaha. Japanese sausages are the best. I practically grew up on these too and remember having to smuggle these into the country whenever I visited Japan. Okay enough wiener talk, let’s move on.

Mochi-Cheese Takoyaki: The other Cafe Asa specialty is their takoyaki and this mochi-cheese takoyaki was surely something special. Give it a try!

Sushi Pia – Fullerton, CA

3165 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92831
(714) 986-9888

Sushi Pia, a ramen house? I remember passing by this place earlier in the year while searching for Wakai Sushi & Ramen House and I can recollect seeing a space under construction with a sign that read “Sushi Coming Soon”. I guess this new sushi place also serves ramen. Hopefully it’s better than Wakai’s because I’ve heard some bad things about how their ramen was.

Pork-ramen: One word…eck! Okay that’s not really a word, but I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s a shoyu-based chashu ramen that tasted downright funky. I don’t even want to touch what I thought it tasted like. Let’s just say it was one tiny step above Mountain. The toppings (chashu, moyashi, egg, cabbage, kamaboko, seaweed, and negi) only funkdafied it more. The noodles were like ramyun noodles.

Chicken-ramen: Two words…eck+chicken!

Gyoza: If I would have known they were fried I wouldn’t have ordered them. But I’m glad that I did because they were the only things that tasted decent.

Chabuya – Los Angeles, CA

2002 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 473-1013

After a strong feeling of disappointment was literally trapped in the pit of my stomach, I decided to walk across the street to see if Chabuya had a cure. Okay, I didn’t really go in the same day (I’ve learned my lesson since my Daikokuya-Mr. Ramen encounter), but maybe I should have. Chabuya is probably the nicest ramen-ya I’ve ever set foot in. I think I was more impressed with the decor than the actual food. Anyway, Chabuya’s ramen is famous in Japan (not sure if it still is but who’s keeping track). Friend’s that live in the area claim that it has the best ramen on the westside. Is that really true? With Chabuya being the last of the big four in the area that I’ve visited, perhaps I can assist in making a final judgement.

The Classic: A shoyu-tonkotsu ramen that is definitely one-of-a-kind. It’s look and presentation is elegant and cocky with what appears to have the endurance and stamina to last a 15-round prize fight, but unfortunately its lack of strength fails to deliver that knockout punch. The ramen wasn’t bad, but the flavor was not all there. The noodles were thin, straight and firm like a quick jab to the throat with every slurp. Sadly, they reminded me of an instant ramen I once had that was even more flavorful. The toppings (chashu, menma, egg, negi, and glazed scallions) were interesting at most. The chashu tasted surprisingly more like thinly-sliced roast beef than pork. I guess in the end, I would have to say that the ramen battle on the westside is a draw. I can’t decide. If I had to choose one though. I might just stick with the sleeper–Ramenya.

Gyoza: Despite a slightly pasty aftertaste, this gyoza was delicious and 100 times better than Asahi’s. The thin, light-tasting skin gave way to a succulent, moist pork filling. Chabuyaaaahhhh.

Asahi Ramen – Los Angeles, CA

2027 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 479-2231

Back when I was in college, Asahi Ramen was the only good ramen-ya in the Westwood area. I never considered it the best ramen, or even really good for that matter, but it was decent and always fulfilled my weekly ramen craving–especially during finals. I’ve often wondered why I haven’t been back since those days, but I guess I’ve just been too busy trying the rest. I even received an email the other day from a reader saying: “I can’t believe you’ve never blogged Asahi Ramen?! ” Well here it is. I hope you enjoy it better than I enjoyed the ramen.

Shoyu-ramen: I wish I could say a(aaaah)sahi…but it’s not even worth the oxygen it’ll take to do that. I think I may have been overly looking forward to this ramen because it was a serious disappointment. The soup was very bland. According to their website, “the broth is derived from meats and 10 different types of vegetables and steeped for over 24 hours.” What meats? I couldn’t taste a thing! Even the noodles were overcooked. The toppings (chashu, egg, menma, moyashi, and negi) were also sub par. The chashu weren’t as dry as they look in the picture, but they still couldn’t rescue this review. I think the trick here is to NOT get the shoyu-ramen. I remember the mabo-ramen being good in the past and I’ve also heard good things about the tan tan-ramen. Next time, I’ll definitely be trying one of those.

Gyoza: Do you really want to know how these tasted? They were like rubber erasers with thick skin and a hint of garlic. I was utterly disappointed. Enough said!

Shisen Ramen – Torrance, CA

1730 Sepulveda Blvd #6
Torrance, CA 90510
(310) 534-1698

With plenty of Sichuan-style restaurants located throughout Japan, it’s good to see a ramen-ya in Torrance trying to distance itself from the others with a Sichuan (Shisen) influence. Shisen Ramen does this by perfecting their signature Tan Tan style ramen, a spicy spectacle of sensation. Located on the corner of Western and Sepulveda, Shisen (sort of) reminds me of ramen-ya’s in Japan–more counter seats then table seats. The waitresses are all dressed in nice Chinese dresses and are very friendly.

Shisen-ramen: An unusually delicious spicy slurp. It’s not as spicy as it looks but it was still enough to give you a kick. It reminded me more like mabo-ramen without the tofu. The soup had a great flavor, probably due to the bottom-dwelling ground pork. The noodles were straight and thin with impeccable texture. The toppings (baby bok choy, cabbage, carrots, onion, and ground pork) were a welcome change from the norm. A return trip is a must!

Shisen Paiko-ramen: All of the above plus paiko (fried pork). I definitely recommend getting this one. The paiko was amazing and made the ramen twice as good.

Gyoza: These were so small that I couldn’t get a good grip on the taste. They weren’t bad, but they had this strange tangy-ness that sort of exploded in my mouth.

Chahan: A bit on the greasy side and missing some flavor, but still pretty decent and better then average.