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While Los Angeles could never compete with Japan in terms of its ramen and soba (buckwheat noodle) offerings, a few eateries throughout the Southland come fairly close to satisfying my noodle cravings. Picking just five favorites proved to be a difficult — but delicious — task, but I hope the places I’ve listed will bring you and your clients a bit of gastronomic gratification on your next visit to the City of Angels.
A disclaimer: You may notice that most of the places I’ve listed are located in Los Angeles’ South Bay region, which is located about 20 miles south of downtown L.A. This is because the South Bay, especially in the cities of Torrance (my hometown) and Gardena, is home to a number of authentic and highly regarded Japanese restaurants. Many of these mom ‘n’ pop joints have gained a loyal following with local Japanese expats, so don’t be surprised to hear a symphony of ardent slurpers once you set foot inside. (In Japan, you’re expected to slurp loudly when consuming your noodles).
Daikokuya (Downtown L.A., Monterey Park, Hacienda Heights, Costa Mesa)
Daikokuya’s koterri broth is rich and delicious. // © Deanna Ting 2010
The tonkotsu broth at Hakata is equally satisfying. // © Deanna Ting 2010
Ichimiann (Torrance – Two locations)
Ichimiann serves its hot soba noodles with a side of rice. // © Deanna Ting 2010
Ramen California’s signature dish — the Californian — features more than 30 different veggies in a homemade chicken broth. // © Deanna Ting 2010
Santouka (Torrance, West L.A., Costa Mesa)
My favorite ramen to order at Santouka comes with a plate of savory pork cheeks. // © Deanna Ting 2010
Asa Ramen(Gardena)This unassuming little ramen shop serves up a hearty and delicious bowl of ramen with one of my favorite additions — a soft-cooked egg that just melts into the broth. It also specializes in takoyaki (Japanese batter dumplings).Kotohira Restaurant(Gardena)When I feel more like eating udon (thicker wheat-flour) noodles than soba or ramen, I always head straight to Kotohira, where chefs make their own udon daily. Served in a steaming bowl of light dashi (fish-stock) broth, these noodles are one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.
Shisen Ramen(Torrance)If you like ramen with a bit of spice, Shisen Ramen is right up your alley. This Szechwan-influenced ramen shop is heavy on the spices, ensuring that its rich and flavorful broth delivers a true kick along with its chewy and savory ramen noodles.