Men Oh Tokushima Ramen: From Little Tokyo to Torrance
Men Oh Tokushima's Tokushima ramen
In Los Angeles, the geographical trajectory of ramen shops usually is from south to north: A ramen-ya opens in the Japanese-intensive neighborhood of Torrance or Gardena and then, after the noodle gods deem it worthy, it expands into Little Tokyo, or Sawtelle or even farther afield. In the case of Men Oh Tokushima, a superior ramen shop that first opened in downtown L.A.'s Honda Plaza in September 2012, this movement has been reversed.
Men Oh Tokushima opened its second shop three months ago, in February, in an unobtrusive strip mall off of West 182nd Street in Torrance.
tan tan men ramen at Men Oh Tokushima in Torrance
The second shop, in another reversal, is smaller and decidedly less auspicious than the one in Little Tokyo, which sports a flat-screen television and a swank, high ramen bar. The Torrance restaurant has a small bar, a front booth and seven smaller tables. No flat-screen. For entertainment you can watch other people slurp noodles, or peer into the tiny kitchen in the back.
What the ramen-ya in Torrance does have that Little Tokyo's Men Oh does not is tan tan men ramen (ramen topped with Sichuan-influenced spicy ground pork) and the option of a raw egg in your bowl of tonkotsu. The eggs, which also come in pasteurized form, are stirred into the noodles rather like you would into a bowl of carbonara, the raw egg binding to the hot noodles to make a creamy, velvetty sauce. (Torrance does not have the spicy ramen, which you can find in Little Tokyo, on its menu.)
The Torrance Men Oh Tokushima is the fourth U.S. shop (there's also one in San Francisco and one in Union City). There are also 12 shops in Japan of the ramen chain, which is based in Tokushima, a city on the island of Shikoku, in southeast Japan. Shikoku is an area known for pig-farming, so the rich tonkotsu broth - made from kurobuta pig bones - is the one used in the Tokushima ramen from which the restaurant takes its name.
Another pork-intensive signature of Men Oh Tokushima is the use of butabara, or stir-fried pork belly, in place of the more usual chashu (Men Oh serves just butabara in Japan, although it serves both in the U.S. shops).
If pork isn't your thing (really??), there's also a classic shoyu ramen, and a tori-shio or chicken paitan ramen, for which the rich, milky broth is made from chicken bones rather than pork bones. Other non-ramen options include gyoza, chicken karaage and two styles of pork rice bowls. You also can get plain rice, if you want to pour your remaining noodle-less soup broth over that. Or just sit back and finish your beer (Asahi or Sapporo) instead.
See also: 10 Best Ramen Shops in Los Angeles
Get the Squid Ink'd Newsletter
Sign up for our weekly food newsletter, which features top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips and a link to our print review.