If the recent boom of Japan-imported ramen chains in Southern California is the crosscultural cousin of the '60s British Invasion — which feels like a fair comparison lately — then round up the screaming fangirls, because the Beatles have just landed in Los Angeles and Gardena's Marukai Market is looking to be their Ed Sullivan Show.
Starting today through Sept. 16, Ramen Menya Iroha will open in the food court of the Gardena branch of the Japanese specialty supermarket Marukai, serving its three distinct styles of ramen: spicy red miso, white chicken broth and a specialty black shoyu-based negitama ramen.
Why is Iroha, a Japanese mini-chain from the city of Toyama, such a big deal? Its claim to fame is winning the people's choice award at the Tokyo Ramen Show in 2009, 2010 and 2011, as well as being one of the most popular stalls in Singapore's Ramen Champion store, a sort of multi-kitchened restaurant that invites six of the most renowned ramen chefs in Japan to compete in a single space. Iroha's ramen is so popular in Japan that the company does brisk business selling an instant version of the soup online.
The rumor seems to be that Iroha, like Tsujita before it, is using this guest appearance to test the waters for a full-blown Los Angeles branch. Head chef Kiyoshi Kurihara, wearing his trademark brown do-rag, was even on hand for the event's opening, which attracted a good deal of coverage from the Japanese media.
In other ramen news, a spot called Kotoya will be opening within the next month on Santa Monica Boulevard near Bundy (in the former Rojas Eatery space). It promises “two rich flavors — Tonkotsu with soy sauce and Tonkotsu with miso — each takes 14 hours to complete [sic].” The man behind the new endeavor is Shinsuke Horinouchi, who according to the restaurant's website “crossed the Pacific in 2011 and brought his signature recipes from Asagaya — the Tokyo suburb in Japan.”
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