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ramen yamadaya: the pork game's afoot

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It seems as though new ramen shops have been popping up in Southern California faster than Lindsay Lohan gets sprung from jail. Both Mottainai and Ramen Jinya opened within days of each other this past summer; Yamadaya quickly followed suit, though it has maintained a much lower public profile in the last two months. Located in a blink-and-miss-it, barely there strip mall at the intersection of 182nd and Crenshaw, the joint is pretty much a fast food counter with a couple of tables and a few stools. There is a teriyaki and katsu menu which by any right, should lure away patrons of the McDonald’s across the street.

That’s all beside the point however, for Yamadaya’s true specialty is a tonkotsu ramen that is deep and oily and rich all at once, a Hakata-style bowl that comes remarkably close to the real thing. It’s necessary competition for the likes of Shin Sen Gumi, which has reigned relatively unchallenged as the only Hakata ramen shop in town.

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To be fair, Yamadaya also features a fine kuromayu shoyu tonkotsu ramen drizzled with black sesame oil, but for today, we’ll be examining just the tonkotsu, or pure pork bone, with a broth that sips like ironically like a certain torigara paitan I once had in Tokyo’s Shitamachi old district amidst notes of a delicate, almost chickeny brine. Yamada-san insists that he uses no chicken bone in the soup; perhaps it’s chicken oil? Who cares. It’s good. Very good in fact,  gritty and funky in the way unpretentious Kyushu ramen ought to be.

Diners have choice between the proprietary thick or thin noodles; for Hakata-style ramen, I’d go with the skinny stuff every time. The toppings are a collage of green onion, crunchy wood-ear-mushroom and some sweet if slightly dry sheets of chashu. Don’t overlook the marinated shoyu egg, though a bit too well done to be considered hanjuku, its flavor is frankly, remarkable. You can even crush-your-own garlic as a condiment, just like at shops in the Fukuoka countryside.

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I’ll save my first impression for last. Dropping into Yamadaya, I was a bit surprised to see that it was little more than a fast food counter, sandwiched in with a skate shop and a State Farm insurance office. Consider the recent trends in North American noodle upscaling; Ramen Jinya and Chabuya are all halogen lights and fine-grained wooden trim, while Ippudo NYC is a $14 a bowl nightclub.  While I’m all for making ramen “fancy,” it’s important to remember the roots of the dish - humble in origin,  cheap meals from carts. Perhaps it’s fitting that McDonald’s sits right across the street from Yamadaya; those golden archers ought gaze upon the face of inexpensive and delicious, quality fast food, the future of things to come.

a remarkably textured pork bone soup with a hint of brininess. is it true "hakata" ramen? it's oily and nuanced and i drank the last drop, whatever it is, it's close enough, and stands among the cream of the crop in southern california.8
the sun noodle company's expertly hewn hakata ramen strands are an adequate facsimile of the thin, unrisen white noodles ubiquitous to fukuoka prefecture. that is all you need to know.8
the chashu is a bit dry, but powerfully flavored. the kikurage wood-ear mushroom are fresh and crunchy, a thoughtful inclusion true to the authentic hakata style. the shoyu-marinated egg, while a bit too cooked, is remarkably tasty.7
think i'll go back and try the karaage fried chicken sometime soon. or maybe even order a cutlet. there is no gyoza, but the ramen is what its all about.NA
yamadaya is a food stand that looks like it should be serving teriyaki burgers and tamales at best. instead, it's got one of the best bowls of ramen in town.1
like i said, yamadaya is a food stand that looks like it should be serving teriyaki burgers and tamales at best. instead, it's got one of the best bowls of ramen in town.8

3118 W 182nd Street.
Torrance, CA 90504

Get Directions!


So how would you rate them compared to Santouka? I noticed they’re pretty close score-wise.

Posted by edjusted on 10/03 at 06:21 PM

I know where I’m going to go eat next week.

Question: they open for lunch I assume?

Posted by OW on 10/07 at 02:12 PM

I work in Torrance, so I will plan to check this place out. Love your photos!

Posted by Sree on 10/30 at 02:11 PM

IMHO this place is easily the best in LA, taking the title from my previous favorite, Asa, and rivalling Ippudo NYC.  The noodles are slightly below Asa’s, and they overcook their egg a bit, but the soup is far better.  And just this past week, they introduced their “super chashu” ramen, which isn’t on the menu yet.  Instead of the regular chashu (which seems to change with every visit - one night, it’s almost like pulled pork; another night, it’s pale, round slices), you get a roughly 9” long slab of marinated pork belly, reminiscent of what you would get at Park’s BBQ in Koreatown.  It’s not quite as good as Horon’s grilled chashu dish, which I consider the best I’ve ever had, but it’s really, really good.  Now if only they’d do the fried lard bits thing…

They also have gyoza now.  They’re good, but not as good as Asa’s, which are superb.

BTW, have you had Asa’s black garlic ramen?  I thought it was really good, but not something I can order all the time.  And I love garlic - I press about 4 cloves into my ramen at Yamadaya.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/06 at 08:09 PM

haha! I know exactly where that is.. I grew up in that area.. I’ll definitely have to check it out the next time I’m back in LA.

Posted by joanh on 01/05 at 03:28 AM

I always pass by this area and never knew that there was a ramen place. If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t there a Shorin-Ryu (Okinawan Karate) dojo in this plaza?

Posted by Boxy Bear on 01/27 at 10:54 PM

wow! three 23+ score reviews in LA in a row

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/01 at 05:32 PM
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