If you’re looking for a hearty meal to fill you up on these cold winter nights, ramen is a perfect fit. And with lots of new ramen restaurants popping up, there are more flavorful ramen choices than ever.
Many Asian chefs grew up with this noodle comfort food, which is said to also brighten the soul. Whether you like your noodles thick or thin, in broth or brothless, here’s a roundup of some of the very best L.A. ramen restaurants.
Bushi by Jinya
“As a child, my parents cooked ramen for me at their robata restaurant in Ehime, Japan,” Jinya CEO and founder Tomo Takahashi says. “During exam period, when I was studying late at night, they used to cook ramen for me as well. When I was little, tonkotsu was my favorite kind of (pork) broth and still is to this day.”
Takahashi, who opened Bushi by Jinya in Mid-Wilshire earlier this year, is the CEO and founder of parent company La Brea Dining Group, which encompasses Robata Jinya on West Third Street; Jinya Ramen Express at Hollywood & Highland; and Jinya Ramen Bar’s 30-plus stores across the United States and Canada, including locations in Studio City, Burbank, DTLA and Santa Monica.
The veteran restaurateur works tirelessly to augment traditional recipes with a U.S. culinary style, using seasonal ingredients. For example, tonkotsu ramen is often quite heavy, so Takahashi added chicken broth to make it a bit lighter.
“Our broths and noodles are authentic,” he says. “We added vegan and vegetarian options to make our ramen more approachable to the American diner. We also added many kinds of customizable toppings, such as Brussels sprouts, which are not found in Japan. Ramen shops there are often so small that they can only offer one broth, such as tonkotsu.”
There is a word in Japan, kaizen, which means always looking for improvement, and Takahashi is constantly making small improvements to the menu. “This experimentation often inspires new dishes that become quarterly specials.”
Bushi by Jinya, 5168 Wilshire Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; (323) 954-6477, jinya-ramenbar.com.
Eating some of the best ramen in the world inspired Yohei Uchida to become a ramen chef. “As a child, I had access to good tonkotsu on nearly every corner in Fukuoka, Japan, which is considered the birthplace of ramen,” says the executive chef/co-owner of Urban Ramen.
“Even today there are places near where I grew up that are still around and going strong,” he reminisces. “Those are on my bucket list to try!”
Urban Ramen, uniquely, cooks its miso ramen in woks. “When we cook these dishes, we add ingredients immediately to the broth as it cooks, such as Chinese broccoli, bean sprouts, mushrooms and ground meat. This enhances the ramen and gives it a bold flavor.”
Uchida also has a few lighter vegan ramen dishes on his menu.
“A specialty of ours is the maitake; I wanted to make sure we had something that accommodates all palates. Instead of a traditional dashi base, which usually consists of dried bonito fish and sea kelp, I created an original, completely vegan recipe using shiitake mushrooms, which takes several hours to make.”
Urban Ramen, 7300 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 512-6077, urbanramen.com.
Tsujita Noodle Production
Ramen has always been part of the diet of Takafumi Miyake, CEO of Tsujita Noodle Production. “I’ve been eating it for as long as I can remember. I was basically born holding a bowl of ramen!” he quips.
Debuting just a few weeks ago, this quaint hot spot offers a to-go and delivery menu that incorporates popular ramen bowls from Tsujita’s other innovative ramen restaurants: Tsujita L.A. Artisan Noodle, Tsujita Annex, the Tsujita and Killer Noodle.
Tsujita’s signature ramen is tsukemen, or dipping ramen, where the noodles are served with the broth on the side.
“Guests are able to dip the desired amount of noodles into the rich, hot broth, slowly blanketing each noodle so that each bite has just the right amount of goodness that has you wanting more … down to the bottom of the bowl!” Miyake enthuses.
Making Tsujita’s ramen is a very time-intensive process that takes about 72 hours. “We place pork bones into a pot and slowly simmer them to perfection,” Miyake explains. “We bring in ingredients all the way from Japan, including everything from our soy sauces to our condiments, to make sure our ramen tastes as authentic as possible.”
Next year, Tsujita will offer monthly specials focusing on different types of ramen in Japan. “I travel all around Japan to taste and experience all the different ramen my country has to offer,” Miyake says proudly.
P.S. Tsujita L.A. Artisan Noodle recently opened at the Americana at Brand mall as well.
Tsujita Noodle Production, 109 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; (323) 591-0470, tsujita-usa.com.
E.A.K. Ramen’s chef, Mike Vargas, has loved ramen since he was a kid, watching the anime Naruto. “The character was always eating ramen, and I would absolutely love watching him eat!”
Vargas considers himself a ramen connoisseur, eating two to three bowls a day. “I have been to every ramen joint within a 50-mile radius. I love it so much. Being a chef, it’s hard to see overpriced restaurants who don’t know what they are doing in the kitchen.”
E.A.K. is a play on words for a style of ramen from Japan, iekei ramen. It is the phonetic pronunciation of that particular style, which is a marriage of tonkotsu (pork broth) and Tokyo (chicken broth) ramen.
Vargas says that with iekei ramen, “The broth is a mixture of West and East. The noodles are much thicker than the more known thin noodles. It is thick in order to pick up the broth with every bite. The toppings are different from traditional toppings. Iekei was the first to introduce nori (seaweed) and spinach as toppings on ramen.”
E.A.K. Ramen, 7455 Melrose Ave., Beverly Grove; (323) 866-1866, eakramen.com.
Okiboru House of Tsukemen
Okiboru chef/co-owner Hyun Sean Park is completely mesmerized by ramen. “There are few meals I get cravings for — tsukemen is definitely one of them! Unlike an infatuation that comes and goes, the craving is more like love, which doesn't fade. It truly has an addicting quality to it.”
The restaurant makes its ramen noodles in-house. “The benefit of making our own noodles is that we can adjust our noodles to fit our broth,” Park explains. “We can change the firmness, chewiness, thickness and flavor to match the broth we are making.”
Tsukemen is beginning to gain popularity in the United States, but “many people still don’t know what it is,” acknowledges Park. “We carry styles of ramen that are unique or nonexistent in America. Educating our customers has been the biggest challenge. We consider ourselves the pioneers of this food style.”
Okiboru House of Tsukemen, 635 N. Broadway, Chinatown; (213) 988-7212, okiboru.com.
Men Oh Tokushima Ramen
Even if it feels as if Los Angeles is filled with delicious ramen restaurants, chef Yuki Tomizuka believes there are still many people who haven't experienced these tasty noodles yet.
“I want people to know more about Japanese culture, language, people, music,” he says, “and ramen is an excellent way to be introduced to that.”
Men Oh is based in Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku, and has 12 restaurants all over Japan. Its Little Tokyo location serves authentic Tokushima-style ramen, a creamy pork broth flavored with soy sauce, with thick or medium thick noodles, typically topped with green onion and bean sprouts.
“This is unique since Tokushima is known for its pig farming,” Tomizuka says. “We have access to lots of bones so our soup is very rich and savory.”
The restaurant also includes butabara (stir-fried pork belly) as a topping. “We offer the option of adding a raw egg for those would like additional complexity to the soup in Japan. But here in Los Angeles, we serve a soft-boiled seasoned egg instead.”
While Japan is not traditionally a place for spicy food, Tomizuka created a habanero sauce recipe. “There are many spicy lovers in L.A. and I want to please them.”
Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 456 E. Second St., Little Tokyo; (213) 687-8485, menohusa.com.
If you haven’t tasted the broth of Tentenyu’s ramen dishes, you are missing out. “For the majority of our ramen dishes, we use a delicious chicken-based broth,” enthuses restaurant manager Joshua Davis.
“Chicken bones, feet and other parts are boiled for hours to boil out the collagen, calcium and other minerals. The chicken fat adds a subdued yellow tinge to the translucent soup. Fatty, thick chicken umami is evident. Despite its appearance, there is no dairy in the broth whatsoever.”
Tentenyu’s ramen is from Kyoto, Japan, where its first restaurant originated.
“One of our highlights is the mushroom ramen. Not only is this one of our highest-selling dishes but it provides a great, flavorful option for both vegetarians and vegans,” Davis says.
The noodles used in this ramen are 100 percent wheat, and the broth is a garlic oil–based broth that is a bit thinner than some of the other broths but no less flavorful, Davis promises. “Plus it has a colorful, attractive appearance that tends to please the customers.”
Tentenyu Ramen, 3849 Main St., Culver City; (424) 603-4803, tentenyu-us.com.
Ramen Go Venice
At Ramen Go Venice, chef Taigo Sato has created a tasty, ramen noodle vegan salad, which has 100 grams of kale plus tofu and vegetables.
“This is our specialty and what makes us stand out from other ramen restaurants. We consider this our take on the Japanese cold soba ramen. The noodles are very filling but super healthy,” he says.
With many Angelenos are into health and fitness, Sato knew that he wanted to create something new in the ramen world that would cater to this lifestyle.
“I have been experimenting with a lot of different ingredients now for a couple of years that could replace the traditional ramen noodles, and kale has been growing in popularity. People here at the restaurant seem to really like it.”
Ramen Go Venice, 5 Dudley Ave., Venice; (310) 314-3222.
Also just opened is the fantastic Ippudo, which was founded in Daimyo in the Chuo-ku ward of Fukuoka City in 1985, and just celebrated its 33rd anniversary.
The red miso broth dish, akamaru, is a favorite among guests, says Jason Cha, the U.S. brand manager. “This is our modern interpretation of the classic hakata style tonkotsu ramen. With ingredients such as back fat and black garlic oil, the flavors are much more pronounced and strong, giving guests the bold flavor exploration they seek when visiting.”
Ippudo is one of the best-known ramen restaurants in the world — already a second location in West Hollywood is planned for next year.
Each savory bowl is created by Ippudo's ramen artisans, made with creamy tonkotsu broth that is brewed for 18 hours and matched with thin, handmade noodles.
Ippudo Ramen, 1403 Second St., Santa Monica; (310) 893-0577.
Shun Sakaguchi, a bartender at Blackship and a Japanese craft beer expert, recommends you pair your ramen with Japanese beer.
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“Generally on the lighter side and presenting a lower alcohol content, Japanese craft beer pairs beautifully with ramen,” Sakaguchi asserts.
“Japanese brews bring out the delicate flavors and complexity of the dish without overpowering it. While you’re most likely going to pair Italian food with Italian wine, you want to do the same with Japanese fare. Ramen and Japanese beer share common origins and therefore tend to be a better match on the palate.”
Coming soon: a glow-in-the-dark ramen popup next year!
And remember: if it’s too cold or rainy to go out, Postmates will deliver your favorite ramen from flavorful restaurants including Pasadena’s Tatsunoya, Glendale’s Kanpai and the San Fernando Valley’s Tamashii right to your door!