There’s so much good food in LA, and more specifically…good ramen! I discovered ramen when I was living in LA for school. I was shocked when I found out what real ramen was. Up until then, I had no idea ramen existed outside of instant cup noodles. After trying MANY places, I’ve narrowed down my list of favorites to just 4. Each of these ramen shops have their own distinct style of ramen, so I think there’s something here for everyone. Enjoy!
Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen
There are a few of these scattered around LA. I’ve been to the one on Sawtelle and the one in Little Tokyo–both are pretty similar in terms of quality. For those of you who like thin, firm noodles, this is the place to go! Compared to most other ramen joints, Shinsengumi has the best price. Like other ramen shops, the menu here is super simple. I always get their regular Hakata ramen, but I think they now also have spicy miso? The ramen comes with 4 included toppings: ginger, green onions, sesame, and pork. Due to personal preferences, I always do without the ginger and sesame. You can also choose the level of flavor in the soup (stronger = more oily), as well as the hardness of the noodles (I usually opt for medium). The soup is not as flavorful as the one from Daikokuya, but it is still very tasty! The ONLY complaint I have about Shinsengumi’s ramen is that they don’t include an egg 🙁 How can you not include an egg?! And the egg that you can order separately is just a regular hardboiled egg, not the molten soft-boiled ones that you find at Daikokuya or Tsujita.
Service here is really fast. This place also has one of the most welcoming staff. They’re loud and proud when it comes to greeting and bidding farewell to their customers. It gives the restaurant a very authentic Japanese touch. For the price, I still think Shinsengumi is the best value. Even though their extra noodles are not as cheap anymore, unless you eat like 4 or 5 extra noodles, you’ll still be getting your money’s worth.
There’s a couple of these scattered around LA as well. The Little Tokyo branch is my favorite. I don’t know what they do differently, but the soup there is just…richer? The other one I’ve tried is on Sawtelle. That one isn’t bad either. And it’s also right next to a Honeymee now. And ya’ll know how much I love Honeymee! The interior decor of the Sawtelle Daikokuya is pretty cool too–makes you feel like you’re eating on the streets of Japan. I always opt for their regular Daikoku Ramen. The broth is very very rich in flavor (sometimes a little bit salty, but you can tell them to add water). The noodles are on the thicker side, especially compared to the noodles from Shinsengumi, but I find the chewy consistency to be just right. The meat is good, and the bamboo shoots and the bean sprouts add a nice touch. Their egg is heavenly. Not quite as good as the one from Tsujita, but it’s probably the second-best soft boiled egg I’ve had. The bowls here are also huge and definitely worth the price.
The one downside (applies mostly to the Little Tokyo location) is that there’s always a line! So if you go during peak hours, definitely be prepared to wait! Ramen shops are always so tiny…so the wait is often much longer than what you would expect.
Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle
This is a totally different kind of ramen. It’s called tsukemen, and it’s meant for dipping. Tsujita is hands down the best place to go for tsukemen. The line can get pretty crazy here so I would recommend showing up early….or if you’re like me you can go really late at night since they’re open until 2am. This place is amazing, I can’t rave about it enough! Before trying tsukemen, I was a little skeptical about the whole dipping noodles idea. I mean, my favorite part of ramen was always the soup. So why would I want to merely dip the noodles into a salty bowl of thick broth AND not be able to drink it all at the end? (At Tsujita, you can ask them to dilute the broth at the end so it’s drinkable, but I still find it to be really salty). BUT, after having enough faith in a friend’s recommendation, I gave tsukemen a shot.
Best decision I’ve made in my life! (food-wise) The noodles are thicker than what I’m used to in ramen, but they’re so delicious and chewy. Make sure you use the lime slice that they give you to drizzle the juice over the noodles. It adds a subtle kick of flavor that goes really well with the broth! The broth is incredibly flavorful. Yes, it is quite salty, but hey you’re supposed to dipping the noodles, not slurping the soup. The broth offers just the right amount of flavor/salt to complement the noodles. By itself, though, that’s a different story. I have some friends that just drink all the soup by itself after they finish the noodles, and all I can say is that you’re going to be REALLY thirsty after.
I always order the Ajitama Tsukemen. Their egg is the best egg I’ve ever had. It’s perfectly cooked so that the egg yolk inside is molten with a slightly viscous texture, not runny or completely solid. Perfect in-between balance. The egg is probably my favorite part, but it still wouldn’t be the same without the whole dipping noodle experience. If you’re thinking about trying this place, DO IT. This is as good as it gets.
Foo Foo Tei
The ramen here isn’t really traditional, but you do get PLENTY of choices. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a ramen places with as many menu items as Foo Foo Tei. I’ve tried several ramen dishes on their menu but I’ll just give my thoughts on those that I remember most clearly.
Mabo ramen: This is my boyfriend’s absolute favorite ramen in the world. I will admit that it packs a whole lot of flavor, but it’s a heavy dish….and my stomach always ends up feeling a little icky. It’s a little bit spicy, but hey, it is Mabo…I also wasn’t a fan of the tofu texture in my noodles. But, it is probably one of the tastiest ramen dishes that I’ve ever had.
Shoyu ramen: I’ve been going back to Shoyu a lot more recently. This is one of their most basic and simple ramen dishes. Flavor-wise, it’s not that impressive. But I realized that my favorite part about Foo Foo Tei is their NOODLES. The simplicity of this broth really lets you enjoy the noodles (perfect thickness and chewy texture). And your stomach and arteries won’t feel clogged after the meal (like the Mabo ramen…). The chashu pork is fantastic, and so is their soft boiled egg. This dish is simple and clean, and it’s my go-to ramen here.
The creamy ramen: Can’t remember the exact name of this dish, but apparently it’s one of their most popular menu items. I just still can’t get over the pairing in this dish: cream with ramen. Wtf. This is probably the most “westernized” ramen that they have. I tried it once and was not impressed. It’s like eating ramen drenched in alfredo sauce. I’ve had thick ramen broths before, but cream in this soup is kind of overkill. It’s a super heavy dish….and my stomach was not happy after (I do have a VERY sensitive stomach). I guess it’s worth trying if you’re curious, but I feel like people either love it or hate it. There’s no in between. And for me..dude, never again.
Overall, I really really like this ramen place. Even though my go-to ramen is the plain and boring Shoyu, I feel that the highlight of the restaurant is their noodles. And since the noodles are the same in every dish, I feel comfortable recommending this place to just about everyone. You’re bound to find a ramen that you’ll fall in love with on their menu. (Photo above from Yelp)
Hope you guys enjoyed the post! If you guys have any ramen recommendations–I’d love to hear!