タケシ takeshi ramen: the best of the bland
It could have been worse. A lot worse, judging by the menu. Oversized and laminated, like a Denny’s menu listing your choice of atrocity. 100% in English with no kana in sight. With - and I crap you not - the word “RAMENS” written atop the ramen section. Who eats at this place anyway? Downtown Glendale corporate types who rotate lunch at Takeshi Ramen with Chevy’s “Fresh-Mex” and California Pizza Kitchen across the street. It could have been worse, judging by the chalkboard at the entrance with “happy hour” written in a fortune cookie font and the oriental umbrellas dangling from the ceiling. What century do we live in again?
It could have been worse considering nobody at Takeshi Ramen seemed to speak Japanese. Don’t know about the two old guys in the back with hachimakis tied tight around their heads, but certainly not the waitresses, who spoke English with proper valley girl accents.
Luckily, it could have all been a lot worse, but it wasn’t. Takeshi ramen has a fairly decent bowl of shoyu ramen, and fairly excellent gyoza. Far from the best, but better than average and a fair surprise. The gyoza came out first; it was certainly good enough for me to devour before the ramen even arrived, with nice crispy bottoms and a flavorful if slightly small lump of stuffing in each piece. No mixing your own gyoza sauce here; certainly the “mainstream” crowd likely to frequent the place probably wouldn’t know what to do with separate bottles of shoyu, vinegar, and hot oil missing from Takeshi’s table.
The waitress collected my empty gyoza dish as she set down my ramen. The first thing I noticed was that the soup was excessively shiny - a good sign. The best ramen shops oil up their broth to trap heat and keep the soup from getting lukewarm. The chef at Takeshi, rumoured to be from Taiwan, apparently knows a thing or two about a thing or two. A little bit of oil goes a long way, and the broth definitely has that added dimension of texture to it.
But what about the flavor? I took a sip, and was… mildly disappointed. The first thing I noticed was how FLAVORLESS it seemed. Something in there reminded me of canned chicken stock, but the thought was too grizzly to even consider. Uh-oh, I thought. Another mediocre ramen joint; just what Los Angeles needs. I started slurping the noodles, and surprsingly, they were very well put together. Slightly chewy, slighty springy, they had an almost “handmade” texture to them. It’s a big deal around these parts, where most ramen-ya use the same prepackaged stuff courtesy of local importers. At the very least, Takeshi’s noodles are fairly distinctive. I’d be afraid to try to try the tonkotsu ramen, however. Hakata-men it’s not.
As I kept eating, the broth grew on me. True, it had a lighter - maybe you could even say “subtler” - flavor than most, but perhaps due to the added oil, it was fairly palatable. The toppings were pretty standard stuff. The chashu,resembling strips of bacon, were sliced too thin too thin to be substantial. One minor annoyance was the clump of shredded scrambled egg floating atop the moyashi. Where did that come from? Things like that I’ll eat quickly so I can pretend it never existed.
All things considered, Takeshi Ramen could have been a lot worse. I’m relieved to report that it wasn’t.
|shoyu is too bland, but with hints of multi-dimensionality and sweetness. methinks the chef knows what he's doing, there's even a proper layer of oil trap heat. kudos for that.||3.5|
|yellow and springy. can't do much better in north america, where there is no kansui.||6|
|who wants scrambled egg in their ramen? not me. the chashu is long, flat and thin, eerily reminiscent of bacon. dark crust is likewise creepy. but it's adequately fatty and tasty.||4|
|gyoza is lightly crisped and very delicious, but with copious carbon traces. someone tell them to scrub their wok harder.||6|
|upturned parasols, a happy hour sign, and asian american waitstaff make me feel like i'm at a bar in colorado state rather than a ramen shop near colorado blvd. hyperactive denny's-style menu has got to go.||3|
|hmm… well, my friend works there. a point for that!||1|
126 North Brand Blvd.
11:30am - 9:00pm (sun - thu)