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.