When one ramen shop closes, another one opens. Just remember that, when you show up at Marukai market in Gardena and stare longingly at the ramen-ya-shaped hole where Ramen Iroha used to be.
Yep, Iroha — one of our picks for the city's 99 Essential Restaurants in 2014 — closed about a month ago. So go buy some baumkuchen and bags of dried squid at the market and console yourself in the fact that you have only to go a mile or so down Western to find the ramen-ya that Shuji and Mariko Hisataka opened this Monday, Aug. 4.
The new restaurant, Restaurant Shu-Chan, is an entirely separate ramen shop than the tiny stand at Marukai. But the two ramen-yas are connected: Mariko was the ramen chef at Iroha, and when she left, the very good ramen left with her. The other folks at Iroha apparently tried to make ramen without her, but it wasn't long before the shop closed. RIP, at least for now, to those bowls of black mapo ramen.
And now you can sit at an actual noodle bar — rather than in the courtyard of the Marukai, crammed with your grocery bags — and watch the Hisatakas and their friends and business partners Eduardo and Marina Morales make you bowls of traditional tonkotsu and shio ramen. And, courtesy of Eduardo's cultural background, bowls of chorizo ramen to slurp with your gyoza, curry rice — and maybe a burrito.
Shu-Chan is decidedly a family business. Not only do the two couples own and operate the restaurant, but the Hisatakas' two grown children, Remi and Tsuyoshi Hisataka, will be taking over the new bar and cocktail program in about a month. The restaurant is in soft-open mode now, with a small menu of ramen, various toppings for your ramen, snacks and a few salads. And not only is booze coming, but also a yakitori component as well. Good thing there's a big parking lot outside.
On a recent evening, as she sat at the noodle bar next to a celebratory opening-day bouquet from Weekly LALALA and took a break before yet another Home Depot run, Remi Hisataka said that this was a kind of second act for her parents, who once owned another restaurant, also called Shu-Chan (Shu is short for Shuji). That first restaurant, which opened in 1993 and closed in 2007, was also a ramen and yakitori place. After it closed, her father had cooked for a time at Umenoya, and her mother, of course, cooked at Iroha. Finally, they'd decided to open up their own restaurant again, partnering with Eduardo and Marina Morales and taking over the former location of Bistro Miyoda Noodle House in a strip mall off Western in Gardena.
At Shu-Chan, Shuji Hisataka makes two kinds of broth: a pork-fish-based broth for most of the bowls, and a kelp-based broth for the vegetable ramen. There are so far eight iterations of ramen: shoyu, shio, vegetable, tonkotsu, chorizo, miso, curry and shisen (their spicy ramen). Toppings and/or side orders include: butter, bamboo, seaweed, spicy paste, boiled and flavored eggs, chashu, chicken katsu, pork katsu, cabbage, asparagus, corn, spinach and bean sprouts. (No tsukemen, sorry.) As for side plates, there's a gomoku mixed plate, pork gyoza, chicken enchiladas, stuffed chicken, breaded steak, beef or chicken burritos and an asada plate. Because if you could get a burrito AND a bowl of tonkotsu at the same time, wouldn't you?
As for Ramen Iroha, which was No. 2 on our list of 10 Best Ramen Shops in L.A., fans hope it will resurface somewhere else soon. Either way, time to put a new Gardena ramen shop on your traveling noodle list.