Thanks to a tip from L.A.'s resident ramen expert Rameniac, we found out that Ramen Mottaiani very quietly opened its doors on July 1st, without press, advertising or fanfare. Although many noodle shops open and close throughout the year (Ramen Jinya has just opened in Studio City), when word came from Rameniac that Mottainai was the real deal, we knew we needed to drop down to Gardena to take a look.
Mottainai comes with serious Japanese pedigree, as the first ramen shop opened in the U.S. by Takara Ramen Inc., a company that manufactures noodles, pork broth, and dashi in Japan, while also operating seven ramen stores there, as well as one in China. The menu is fairly simple, with three different types of ramen, each representing the three different cities of chef and CEO Tadanori Akasaka's background: Tokyo Props (shoyu), Yokohama Freaker (pork flavored shoyu), and Sapporo Lover (miso).
"I was born in Sapporo," said Tadanori, who is 30, "and I moved to Tokyo when I was 18. I've been in the ramen industry for 15 years. Tasting, tasting, tasting, since I was 3 years old." Tadanori arrived in the U.S. with a very specific purpose in mind. "The reason I came here to open the store is, of course, to serve noodle, but also because I couldn't find the real kind in Los Angeles."
There are specific obstacles, though, that make it difficult to produce ramen in Los Angeles that compares to ramen in Japan. "I knew that there were so many differences, so I prepared for it." One problem was the water. To make it more similar to the water found in Japan, they filtered local water, corrected the PH balance, and added minerals. Up next is the noodles, which they will begin making fresh off-site, with a machine they estimate as being ten feet long. Hopefully they'll get the permit required to make the noodles in September.
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The rest of the menu is sparse, though they do offer gyoza, fried chicken, a 10 ingredient green salad, and a salted rice ball. There are also toppings which can be added to the ramen, including corn stir-fried with butter, or one of their "magic bombs," made either of chili paste, or garlic and pork back fat.
Ramen Mottainai: 1630 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Suite 9, Gardena (In the Pacific Square Shopping Center), (310) 538-3233. Open Weds.-Mon., 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
Noah Galuten can be followed on Twitter via @ManBitesWorld.