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the 2007 king of the bowl: the top 10 ramen shops in los angeles

Time flies when tacos fry. This website has been running for a little over a year now (well, ok, a year and a half, really), but for all practical purposes, I'm just going to say it's our one year anniversary and leave it at that. And so with 2008 on the brain, it's high time we joined the "list" making fad (blah) and churn out our own Southern California Top 10 "King of the Bowl" ramen list! Sorry, rest of the world. Until I move to Japan (a definitely possibility in the coming months) I don't feel up to compiling any more "best of" lists for ramen shops elsewhere. So, lowered expectations for now. Meh. Here you go... and Happy New Year!

10. Orochon Ramen (in the bowl rating: 15.5)
Ahh, Orochon. Loved by some and loathed by others, usually for doing irreparable harm to the intestinal tract of diners brave enough to attempt their "Special 2 Challenge." Spices or not, the fact remains that Orochon's shio ramen soup is a delicate blend of flavors that is uncommonly good for the L.A. ramen scene. For that reason alone, I keep coming back here, and one of these days I just might actually take a gallon of milk along and try to get my face on that "wall of bravery"...
9. Chabuya (in the bowl rating: 16.5)
Yasuji Morizumi's upscale vanity project in Little Osaka is overhyped and overrated. But hey, it's got swank decor and a distinctive bowl of noodles that uses premium ingredients. It's a definite cut above the plethora of generic assari-kei ramen shops about town, although I'm more inclined to go to Ramen-Ya, which just missed the cutoff for this Top 10 list. Meh, maybe next year!
8. Daikokuya (in the bowl rating: 16.5)
Good ole' Daikokuya packs in hipsters like sardines in a Radiohead disk box. That's what happens when Jonathan Gold gets behind a decent ramen shop in Downtown L.A., admittedly, one that could be much, much better if only they'd stop using generic, eggy yellow noodles. Still, they have great gyoza, a nice greasy spoon vibe, and luscious arabiki sausages made of kurobuta black pork. A great place to go after that Disney Hall or Ahmanson show.
7. Shin-Mama Ramen (in the bowl rating: 16.5)
We are truly blessed to have an amazing variety of Asian foods here in L.A., and Shin-Mama Ramen's Hiroshima-style onomichi ramen is evidence of that. A light, sappari soup blended from chicken and fish stock and graced with sprinkles of pork lard, this is one kind of ramen that you definitely don't come across every day. And it's quite good, too. Need I say more?
6. Shisen Ramen (in the bowl rating: 17)
Shisen Ramen's fiery take on tan tan-tan men is actually a rich, hearty brew of spicy, Szechuan-influenced soup and, well, competent noodles. Make sure you try the paiko, "pork chop," one of this often overlooked ramen shop's signature toppings; Shisen is a good alternative to late night slurping in the South Bay, when you're looking for a bit of a change every now and then.
5. Hakata Shin-Sen-Gumi (in the bowl rating: 19)
All three branches of this Southern Calfornia institution are packed these days, and for good reason. Hakata SSG serves up a raucous atmosphere and the only attempt at an authentic Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen with thin, firm, noodles and a luscious pork bone soup. For many, Hakata is the best ramen in town. For me, I used to live in Southern Japan, so it only reminds me of what I'm missing.
4. Gardena Ramen (in the bowl rating: 20.5)
Isao Nakamura may well be the "Ramen Nazi" of Southern California; his limited menu consists of only shoyu and miso ramen and gyoza. Still, he's a purist and a devoted ramen scholar dedicated to perfecting his own signature soup, which he now boils for four days! His shoyu is excellent; Gardena would rate higher if only Nakamura-san didn't refuse to change with the times, to use premium noodles and toppings that would do his soup justice. But hey, such is his charm!
3. Kohryu Chinese Restaurant (in the bowl rating: 21)
It's obvious from the first slurp that Kohryu is one ramen shop which seriously cares about its product. From hanjuku half-boiled eggs to multiple noodle types (depending on your broth), this little spot in Fountain Valley is a treasure behind the Orange Curtain. Ok, fine, it's not really Los Angeles. But hey, it's good, and you can get there and back in one day, if you put your mind to it. And if the gods of the 405 freeway smile upon you.
2. Asa Ramen (in the bowl rating: 23.5)
Asa Ramen stole the scene from out of nowhere a scant three months ago, and since then, chef Muneyoshi Kubo's already delectable take on kotteri shoyu ramen has been steadily improving in both nuance and flavor, and could flat out top the rankings next year. With perfectly-sourced hosomen noodles and premium ingredients all around, this is the very essence of artisanal ramen. So much so that I often prefer it to Santouka's mass-marketed product!
1. Santouka Ramen (in the bowl rating: 24.5)
Yes, the 2007 King of the Bowl is fairly predictable. You all know Santouka by now, a chain from Asahikawa City in far northern Hokkaido. You could say it's the In-N-Out of ramen in Japan, but here in Los Angeles, Santouka's shio ramen rules the roost courtesy of the few Mitsuwa Marketplace food courts scattered about town. After all, its depth of flavor, rich, shio-tonkotsu soup, and hearty noodles are perfect for our frigid climes. I'm such a wimp.

Comments

Hey I was gonna do a ranking soon too. Just wanted to get a few more in this weekend though. I’ll be in Tokyo for a week next month. If you think I’m merciless now, wait until then…haha. What is it with you and Santouka? They must be paying you on the side. hahaha! Have a happy new year!

Posted by keizo on 12/29 at 03:10 PM

Congrats on a great year! I’m with Keizo on Santouka, hahaha, but I know we’re in the minority. Happy New Year!

Posted by edjusted on 12/31 at 12:25 PM

Congrats on the LA Times piece.

A great list!
I am still partial to Hakata Shin-Sen-Gumi (we go to the new restaurant in Rosemead on Valley Blvd).

After living in Japan for over 3 years, I need my ramen fix every once in a while and Shin-Sen_Gumi has never let me down.

Posted by Miguel of EastsideScene.com on 01/03 at 12:39 PM

Just tried Santouka (in Costa Mesa) and I don’t know if it’s just us, but it didn’t quite meet our expectations.  Or maybe our tastebuds are just biased towards familiar tastes…  If you’re ever willing for a trip to San Diego, you should try Tajima on Convoy Street. 

But great list indeed!  Now I know where to go for my ramen cravings.  Thanks!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/03 at 02:43 PM

I must agree that Daikokuya is a bit overrated. There’s always a line out there, when i got in ,I was like oh…okay. I do LOVE Orochon ramen!! (^.^) Soooo, karaiii, but the soup base is great!! And the side order of tender cha shu… yuuuumy! I can never brave the special 2, but have fun watching other take it on!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/03 at 03:49 PM

Dope site! I m a Ramen/Udon lover myself. Gotta visit Asa Ramen on my next visit to LA. Keep up the great work and have a good new year.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/04 at 01:23 PM

Checked out the LA Times piece while I was visiting the folks down in San Diego for the holidays.  Excellent write-up, man.  Way to go.

I was wondering if you could recommend any ramen/noodle shops in the Bay Area.  If not, I’ll have to start a blog of my own.  If I only had the time to eat, eat, and eat. (and review, of course)  Yum!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/04 at 10:56 PM

recently, i’ve been eating at ajisen ramen a lot.  gonna try santouka later in the week.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/05 at 09:23 PM

Koniichiwa! I went 2 Orochon with my friend and my lil boy! The creamy taste of their miso broth with pork is soooo yummy. I only tired a # 4, next time I’ll order a # 5! I was a lil dissapointed about the cha-shu plate, only 3 pcs this time, usually comes with 4 hunks of it! (-.-) All well! Next stop Koraku!! open till 1, 2 or 3 am. Tan Tan ramen here I come!! Jya - Ne! Bye bye!! (^_^)

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/07 at 05:56 PM

I just started reading this blog, so I apologize if this topic has been covered already - but does anybody know of any ramen shops that serve kogashi (charred) ramen?  There’s an amazing ramen shop in Tokyo’s Roppongi area that serves it, and I’ve been craving it since my last visit to Japan :(

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/08 at 09:58 AM

shun - i have a few ramen shops from the bay area listed on here… all from my last visit. i’m a big fan of kahoo in san jose, followed by maru ichi in mt. view and then maaaybe everybody’s favorite santa. just do a search on the resource page under “san jose” and you’ll see what comes up.

ragga polo - kogashi ramen! are you talking about gogyo? there’s nothing i can think of that serves that stateside. alas, that looks to be their unique specialty.

Posted by rameniac on 01/08 at 01:29 PM

I read about your blog in a Chinese Newspaper today. I love Santoku ramen. Their ramen is definately the best I’ve had. Just went to Chabuya last night. Just as you described, their ramen is a little overated. I really enjoy reading your blog! ^^

Posted by Eileen on 01/08 at 08:29 PM

I honestly can’t remember the name of the ramen shop, though I could easily find it.  It’s right across the street from the American military base and just down the street from Beach cafe, which serves the most AMAZING honey toast!!!  I make it a point to eat both whenever I’m in the area

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/09 at 01:11 PM

Asa is beyond overrated.  If you’re inspired by sexy interiors than I guess it’s for you.  Gardena Ramen is also overrated.  It really is a hole in the wall.

To put Hakata Ramen at 5 is a little ridiculous.  Yeah, I’ve lived in Japan too and it totally hits the spot.  But food is subjective isn’t it.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 05/01 at 02:13 PM

I think Santouka’s pretty good, but possibly a bit overrated. I definitely think it’s better than Tajima in SD, though.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/03 at 02:41 PM

Great recommendation!  I had it for lunch today with Ikura-don on the side… Time to make recommendation for 2008 Top 10!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/02 at 05:42 PM

Ah..I really like Ramen and really miss it! Hard to find any good Japanese restaurant here.

Posted by chinese food on 09/01 at 07:33 AM

Wow..you make me hungry now. i will keep this list for my next trip for sure. Hope I can find some of these around a place I will stay in japan before I get lost all the way through. i love ramen!!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/04 at 04:47 AM

looks so nice to eat ,how much it ? i live in canada now ,do here have it also?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 04:17 AM

i specal like the first that ,it looks so fresh,i should tell me wife ,let her to do it also

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 04:20 AM

I love Santoku ramen,so nice,hope can have it at once

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/10 at 04:22 AM

Ramen is so delicious I like is it so much….. smile
Zinc Plating

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/23 at 05:48 AM

Ramen is awesome!
You make me hungry now…:-)
I love Santoku ramen.
Thank you for this post.
Seo Company

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/24 at 11:05 PM

This is a really good list of the top ramen restaurants!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/09 at 10:49 AM
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