For ramen lovers who live in the San Fernando Valley instead of someplace with a surfeit of excellent ramen (Torrance, Gardena, Sawtelle Boulevard), Christmas has come early. To be specific, it came about three months ago, in the form of a tiny ramen shop in a strip mall on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks called Ramen by Omae.
Owned by chef Takeshi Omae, Ramen by Omae serves six versions of the traditional bowl of ramen: tonkotsu, salt, vegetable tomato, shrimp vegetable tomato, and two variations of miso ramen, one chicken-based and one pork-based. The miso ramen bowls are laced with something called burnt kogashi miso, which was described to me as kind of like a beurre noisette as applied to miso paste. (Kogashi, or 焦がし, means burnt, so this is accurate, although a little redundant.)
The stuff reminded me more of the spicy chile in the pots at Chinese dumpling houses — but maybe that's because it's not only dolloped onto the ramen but also comes in a similar pot on the table. Great stuff. They should consider selling pots of it to-go.
See also: 10 Best Ramen Shops in Los Angeles
Anyway, if you live in or near Sherman Oaks, or spend a lot of time in the casual hell of the Galleria, with or without teenagers, Ramen by Omae is not only a holiday present but a godsend.
The chef has a fancy pedigree, having apprenticed under Masaharu Morimoto and become Morimoto's executive chef at XEX in Tokyo's Roppongi district. Omae's digs here are decidedly less swank. A few small tables, seats at the ramen bar, nothing much in the way of decoration, the furniture downscale. Unlike some ramen shops in crappy strip malls, where the crappy strip mall vibe ends once you walk under the noren, at Ramen by Omae you never quite forget you're in a crappy strip mall. This is not necessarily a bad thing: Your attention should be on the bowl, not the decor.
And your attention deserves to be on the bowl here. The broth is extremely rich but not so much so that you have to pull a David Chang in the alley. The noodles (both thick and thin) are beautifully chewy. The eggs are cooked just right, or at least they are when you ask for them soft-boiled (you're given the option, not unlike your server agreeing to have your steak incinerated to well-done if that's truly what you want).
There are extra bells and whistles, such as wontons and cabbage, plus the requisite gyoza, edamame and mochi ice cream. And the stuff in the spice bowl is pretty damn great, too. Is the proximity of Ramen by Omae enough to make the Galleria bearable? Almost, which says a lot.
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