With the dollar-yen exchange rate so good right now, you may be reading this in a Tokyo tsukemen shop. Lucky you. But if you're still in L.A., you might consider heading over to Little Osaka, where the beautiful noodle palace of Tsujita L.A. has recently expanded across the street. Lucky us.
A few weeks ago, Tsujita Annex opened in the space that previously housed the short-lived ramen shop, Miyata Menji.
That Tsujita has expanded should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent time waiting outside the original shop at lunchtime, when long lines often snake down the street as the usual crowd waits for a table at which to consume tsukemen, the dip ramen in which the restaurant has specialized since its opening in 2011, which is served only at lunch.
Tsujita Annex does not have tsukemen (see: divide and conquer), but it does serve the more traditional tonkotsu and miso ramen, huge deeply flavorful bowls of it, the noodles of the thicker variety, the eggs cooked perfectly, which is to say not hard-boiled into dull submission but more like what you might get with a handy immersion circulator. The Annex also has combination specials, as does the larger restaurant across the street, donburi bowls of ikura or spicy tuna or char sui that you can match with your massive bowl of ramen. If you're that hungry, which is a good state to be in along this stretch of Sawtelle.
What the Annex also has — thanks to city planners and the gods of street food — are outside chairs and patio umbrellas, such that you can sit and wait for your name to be called in bucolic comfort, maybe texting your sunburnt friends waiting in line across the street. Maybe bring your battered copy of 1Q84 and enjoy yourself. (Pretend you're on a bullet train. Pretend we have them.)
Another fun thing to do while you're waiting is to check out the menu, which is a classic example of creative ESL phrasing. “Sometime ago we died at a very popular and well-established Ramen Noodle restaurant in Tokyo…” being my favorite. (Hopefully nobody got an editor, as it made me seriously nostalgic for the tsukemen shack down the street from my sister's Tokyo apartment.) The menu also has a convenient number ranking for the amount of fresh garlic and chile spices you can add from the (free) bowls of it on your table for “extra flavor,” in which one spoonful is “Good” and three is “Awesome.” It is.
The restaurant is cash only and no, you can't get take-out. If you've ever brought tonkotsu ramen home, assuming it doesn't spill all over your car en route, and stored it in the refrigerator until the next day, you'll know why. But why would you anyway? One of the myriad joys of our current era of fantastic L.A. ramen is that you can slurp your beautiful noodles at a crowded bar, the servers yelling, the patrons elbow to elbow, without having to fly to Shinagawa to do so.
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