ramen jinya: studio city blockbuster
Had Ramen Jinya opened a year or two earlier, I might have been one happy slurper. As a former employee of a major Hollywood studio (yes, I was in “the industry”), I spent a good number of lunch hours bemoaning the fact that there was simply no good ramen -actually, no ramen at all, to be had in the Studio City/North Hollywood area. Sure, there were plenty of sushi shops along Ventura Blvd’s “sushi row”, but when it came to noodles, even the nearest pho joint was miles away.
Ramen Jinya soft-opened within days of Mottainai. While it’s a totally different kind of ramen shop, if ever there was a year for a blockbuster Los Angeles noodle summer, that year is now.
As with any Hollywood hit film, the deceptively understated restaurant, tucked away in the corner of a strip mall dominated by a Marshall’s, is actually kicking off in style. Takahashi Tomonori is one serious mogul with seven high-end dining establishments under his thumb. Spread across Tokyo, his are specialty restaurants, places that use ingredients like organic vegetables, kuro wagyu beef from black cows, and most notably, fish from Japan’s Seto inland sea. Through his aptly-named La Brea Dining Group, Takahashi is now expanding his empire to Los Angeles. Ramen Jinya is his first venture here in the States, and in true Hollywood fashion, a sequel is already in the offing: Robataya Jinya, a Japanese robata grill restaurant, will open next month in Beverly Hills.
I was first tipped off to the restaurant by Sean Nakamura, the avant-garde maestro behind Ramen California. One look at Jinya’s menu and it’s easy to tell the two restaurants are kindred spirits. Both tout a full complement of organic, European-influenced side dishes. Jinya’s corn and tofu salad is remarkably sublime, all crisp textures tossed in a subtle, peppery vinaigrette. Like Ramen California, Jinya features a namesake chicken stock-in-trade shio ramen; “Jinya Ramen,” as its known, is topped with chicken meatballs instead of fatty pork chashu, which should go over well with the Studio City set. Like Ramen California, Jinya’s got an experimental streak: the menu lists a tomato seafood ramen, loaded with an assortment of shellfish and served with a side of garlic bread. As sure as these days are long and hot, I will try it next.
What I did order on my initial visit was simply the special of the day, a delightfully authentic and hitherto rare-outside-of-Japan take on Tokyo gyoukai ramen, with a dashi and gyofun fish powder-infused shoyu tonkotsu soup and a topping of marinated and grilled bonito and garlic flakes. The only other places in town that have something similar are again, Ramen California, and possibly Asa Ramen, if Kubo-san has the ingredients on hand.
Jinya, like Mottainai, uses two kinds of noodles for their ramen. There’s a thinner strand, but the thicker one that accompanies the shoyu tonkotsu is in itself, quite excellent, chewy, and fitting. The chashu is soft and buttery, and the gyoza are simply a gem: fried to a nice golden brown on the outside, and honestly plump and juicy within. For some reason, I elected to order a side of spicy crispy tuna nigiri. Hey, we’re on Ventura Boulevard after all.
As with Mottainai, I would normally hesitate on posting a review of a ramen shop quite so quickly, especially while it’s still in its soft-opening stages. But Ramen Jinya, frankly, is ready to go, and like a quality summer blockbuster film (is that necessarily an oxymoron?), it deserves to do some serious box office, straight out of the gate.
|the gyoukai shoyu tonkotsu soup is rather spectacular, authentically infused with the flavors of bonito and a touch of fish powder, this is the hotness in tokyo and a rarity outside of japan.||9|
|shapely strands from the sun noodle company bring the bite and chew. takahashi-san isn't skimping on his budgets.||7.5|
|the shoyu-marinated grilled garlic and bonito flakes sat well atop the day's special. the chashu was thick and buttery soft. the egg was a little on the hard-boiled side; think i'll try to convince them to do it hanjuku-style. perhaps that's an option already?||8|
|it's easy to underestimate gyoza. some places have great skins or delicate pan-frying, but a soft, mushy interior. jinya does a decent dumpling, both inside and out. the organic corn and tofu salad was excellent, though the rice could use a bit more crisping in the spicy crispy tuna.||9|
|located in a drab strip mall that my former coworker chris called "post-apocalyptic", jinya is nonetheless all pleasant interiors and sleek wooden surfaces once you step inside.||7.5|
|quality ramen in studio city? were i still at my old job, i'd be singing the praises of ramen jinya like a coked-out producer at a hollywood hills bender. les grossman ain't got nothing on takahashi-san.||8.5|
11239 ventura blvd.,
call for hours for now