Welcome to my ramen dream... Currently being interpreted in Ramen Burger Land... Looking for a good slurp? Email me ! - Keizo

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Go Ramen Rankings! (Top 48)

Shinnen Akemashite Omedetou-gozaimasu!! Happy New Year!!!

The year has finally come to an end and in looking back; I can't believe I ate so much ramen! What started out as a simple way to keep busy while the company I was working for went through bankruptcy, slowly turned into an obsession that ignited a crazy addiction for the slurp. Bob Sylva might have said it best when he described my passion as being "never sated." Thanks to all who managed to keep me company during these ramen expeditions. And thanks to those of you who have taken the time to actually read and enjoy my blog. Here's to a happy and healthy 2008.

On to the rankings! I'm still deciding on whether to start a ratings system. And from the looks of my poll, I'm still not sure if you really want one. One reason I choose not to have one is because restaurants can be so inconsistent these days and plus, my mood may not be very consistent either. Anyway, the best I can do right now is rank all 48 ramen-ya's that I've been to in the past 7 months. This was extremely hard to do so I hope no one is offended if their favorite ramen-ya is not where they think it should be. Let me know what you think in the comments. Here it goes!

  1. Umemura - I'm definitely biased since I have a history with Umemura, but it still impressed me the most and any ramen-ya that's lasted this long should surely deserve the recognition. Congratulations!
  2. Foo Foo Tei (Hacienda Heights) - Great ramen, great gyoza (the best!), great staff! The location is horrible but they still manage to pack the house everyday. That's just admirable.
  3. Cafe Asa - The latest ramen-ya to open has you experiencing the giddiness of a new relationship. I really hope this one lasts.
  4. Shin-Mama Ramen - Because mama said so.
  5. Daikokuya - Early on this was the best I've ever had, but subsequent visits may have cost its number one ranking.
  6. Ramenya - The best of the west-side. Their chahan was incredible.
  7. Gardena Ramen - It's simplicity just makes you appreciate it that much more.
  8. Shisen Ramen - An interesting twist at the least. A spiciness that doesn't disappoint.
  9. Shinsengumi Hakata Ramen (Fountain Valley) - Top ten for sure.
  10. Kairakutei Ramen House - The hidden gem of OC.
  11. Kohryu - Probably number one in the 90's, but we all know about the ownership change. Their constant improvement (plus my hope) ranks it at #11. Please improve...onegai!
  12. Men-Bei - The noodles were very impressive.
  13. Chabuya - I loved the environment. Great place to relax.
  14. Ebisu Ramen - Takeda-san is my hero!
  15. Santouka - My apologies to rameniac, but I'm sure edjusted can back me up.
  16. Tamaya - A great surprise! I think it could only get better.
  17. Koraku Restaurant (Sherman Oaks) - I might favor this location since I've been working in the area, but it does have a certain uniqueness that outshines its original location.
  18. Kinchans - I only wish it was around when I was going to school.
  19. Asahi Ramen - It may be hard to believe but I've ranked it last on the west-side. I had high expectations so I expect them to be higher in '08.
  20. Kiraku Ramen - The gyoza was outstanding.
  21. Ramen Nippon - It's not the best in the valley but it still has the best potential.
  22. Kokekokko - The best chicken ramen. It really hits the soul.
  23. Katana Sushi and Ramen - It cuts fine, but could still use some sharpening.
  24. Koraku Restaurant (Little Tokyo) - It's been around a long time, but it may have faded with the rest.
  25. Teri Cafe - A great place to get away...even if it may seem far.
  26. Hanaichimonme - My girlfriend liked it so maybe it can stay in the top 30.
  27. Kyushu Ramen - Not quite Kyushu, but close enough.
  28. Hanashima - Not much flavor, but I liked the place.
  29. Tampopo - Their mabo-ramen is delightful, but it can't make up for the rest.
  30. Eboshi Noodle Bar - A disappointment for sure, but I still look forward to going back someday.
  31. Takeshi Ramen - Not bad if you're in the Glendale area, but competition is scarce.
  32. Orochon Ramen - It's all hype to me. Though I still would like to try the Special 2.
  33. Shinsengumi Hakata Ramen (Rosemead) - The youngest Shinsengumi may have some growing up to do. I'm sure it'll mature just fine.
  34. Mr. Ramen - According to one reader, I just may have had a bad experience here. I look forward to trying it again in '08.
  35. Honda Ya - My favorite izaka-ya! Ramen plays the part of Robin courageously, but it's still no Batman.
  36. San Sui Tei - A great place to chill, but it still yearns for more.
  37. Chuuka Soba Gomen - Very sorry but I still forgive you. (UPDATE: It's way better than I thought. Check out my revisit!)
  38. Mitsuru Cafe - I can picture this place booming in the 80's but too bad it's 2007.
  39. Mentatsu - At least their not the worst in the OC, but then again they are the worst that specializes in ramen only.
  40. Igosi Ramen - It's the best ramyun but not quite ramen.
  41. Oki Doki Asian Cuisine - Just Oki Doki and only worth eating toki doki.
  42. Takaraya - The mushroom essence has renamed the place--ShiiTakeraya.
  43. Yokohama Kaigenro - If the old Yaohan Plaza had a basement, this should have been banished down below.
  44. Ajisen Ramen - A popular place, but just not for me. The msg content was insane!
  45. EZO Noodle Cafe - A disappointment at best.
  46. Noodle World - Places like this might be better off not serving ramen at all.
  47. Sushi Pia - Not the worst but still really bad.
  48. Mountain - The worst ever. The only time I couldn't even finish the bowl. I'm not even sure why I've included it on this list.
Well there you have it. Don't forget to GO RAMEN! in 2008!!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mitsuru Cafe - Los Angeles, CA

117 Japanese Village Plaza Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-1028

Best known for their Imagawayaki's, Mitsuru Cafe does manage to include a single ramen on their menu, simply listed as...Ramen. I doubt that it's a best seller with all the other choices in the area, but perhaps it could be a quiet sleeper in what used to be a booming plaza.

Ramen: A simple ramen for a simple ramen addict. This shoyu-based ramen was not nearly the best, but I still enjoyed it's light flavor and boring appearance. The toppings (chashu, menma, moyashi, and negi) sat lazily in the broth like they've been doing this for years. All in all, this was a below average ramen, but once you set foot in Mitsuru Cafe, you really can't ask for anything more.

On a side note, I stopped by Daikokuya to take some gyoza to go, but I was told that they can't do to go today. That sounded strange to me. I never heard of anything like that...have you?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Cafe Asa - Gardena, CA

18202 S. Western Ave.
Gardena, CA
(310) 769-1010

Rameniac wasn't kidding!...not that he ever does. Cafe Asa is definitely "one of the top ramen shops in town." Located in the same center as my favorite udon-ya, Sanuki No Sato, Asa explodes into the LA ramen scene with some of the best stuff on this side of the Pacific. Let's just straight out say it now--this ramen-ya is a must GO! I've waited hours to eat ramen that's far more inferior than this. I know some of you may be weary of letting the secret of Asa out, but I say we start rounding up everyone we know and start lining up at the joint! I would hate to see them disappear so soon. The only reason I say this is because the place was empty when I was there. Tell your friend's and have them tell more friend's and so on. Let's keep them in business!

Kotteri-shoyu: Kotteri or Assari...that is the question. A great way to keep it simple! Kotteri is the thicker more rich (and probably more fattening) soup base. With plenty of flavor, one sip will send you drifting away into a heavenly dream. The noodles are thin and add a delightful crispness to the whole experience. The toppings (chashu, negi, and menma) are perfect and you even get an option to add others. Need I say more...

Assari-shoyu: After tasting the Kotteri, the Assari was extremely refreshing. But I would still prefer the more intense Kotteri any day. That's not to say the Assari was bad. It still rocks and would bury most other ramen out there.

Kurobuta Wiener: If it weren't for ramen, I might have a blog entitled "GO WIENER!" Thank god for ramen...hahaha. Japanese sausages are the best. I practically grew up on these too and remember having to smuggle these into the country whenever I visited Japan. Okay enough wiener talk, let's move on.

Mochi-Cheese Takoyaki: The other Cafe Asa specialty is their takoyaki and this mochi-cheese takoyaki was surely something special. Give it a try!

Sushi Pia - Fullerton, CA

3165 Yorba Linda Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92831
(714) 986-9888

Sushi Pia, a ramen house? I remember passing by this place earlier in the year while searching for Wakai Sushi & Ramen House and I can recollect seeing a space under construction with a sign that read "Sushi Coming Soon". I guess this new sushi place also serves ramen. Hopefully it's better than Wakai's because I've heard some bad things about how their ramen was.

Pork-ramen: One word...eck! Okay that's not really a word, but I don't know how else to describe it. It's a shoyu-based chashu ramen that tasted downright funky. I don't even want to touch what I thought it tasted like. Let's just say it was one tiny step above Mountain. The toppings (chashu, moyashi, egg, cabbage, kamaboko, seaweed, and negi) only funkdafied it more. The noodles were like ramyun noodles.

Chicken-ramen: Two words...eck+chicken!

Gyoza: If I would have known they were fried I wouldn't have ordered them. But I'm glad that I did because they were the only things that tasted decent.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chabuya - Los Angeles, CA

2002 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 473-1013

After a strong feeling of disappointment was literally trapped in the pit of my stomach, I decided to walk across the street to see if Chabuya had a cure. Okay, I didn't really go in the same day (I've learned my lesson since my Daikokuya-Mr. Ramen encounter), but maybe I should have. Chabuya is probably the nicest ramen-ya I've ever set foot in. I think I was more impressed with the decor than the actual food. Anyway, Chabuya's ramen is famous in Japan (not sure if it still is but who's keeping track). Friend's that live in the area claim that it has the best ramen on the westside. Is that really true? With Chabuya being the last of the big four in the area that I've visited, perhaps I can assist in making a final judgement.

The Classic: A shoyu-tonkotsu ramen that is definitely one-of-a-kind. It's look and presentation is elegant and cocky with what appears to have the endurance and stamina to last a 15-round prize fight, but unfortunately its lack of strength fails to deliver that knockout punch. The ramen wasn't bad, but the flavor was not all there. The noodles were thin, straight and firm like a quick jab to the throat with every slurp. Sadly, they reminded me of an instant ramen I once had that was even more flavorful. The toppings (chashu, menma, egg, negi, and glazed scallions) were interesting at most. The chashu tasted surprisingly more like thinly-sliced roast beef than pork. I guess in the end, I would have to say that the ramen battle on the westside is a draw. I can't decide. If I had to choose one though. I might just stick with the sleeper--Ramenya.

Gyoza: Despite a slightly pasty aftertaste, this gyoza was delicious and 100 times better than Asahi's. The thin, light-tasting skin gave way to a succulent, moist pork filling. Chabuyaaaahhhh.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Asahi Ramen - Los Angeles, CA

2027 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 479-2231

Back when I was in college, Asahi Ramen was the only good ramen-ya in the Westwood area. I never considered it the best ramen, or even really good for that matter, but it was decent and always fulfilled my weekly ramen craving--especially during finals. I've often wondered why I haven't been back since those days, but I guess I've just been too busy trying the rest. I even received an email the other day from a reader saying: "I can’t believe you’ve never blogged Asahi Ramen?! " Well here it is. I hope you enjoy it better than I enjoyed the ramen.

Shoyu-ramen: I wish I could say a(aaaah)sahi...but it's not even worth the oxygen it'll take to do that. I think I may have been overly looking forward to this ramen because it was a serious disappointment. The soup was very bland. According to their website, "the broth is derived from meats and 10 different types of vegetables and steeped for over 24 hours." What meats? I couldn't taste a thing! Even the noodles were overcooked. The toppings (chashu, egg, menma, moyashi, and negi) were also sub par. The chashu weren't as dry as they look in the picture, but they still couldn't rescue this review. I think the trick here is to NOT get the shoyu-ramen. I remember the mabo-ramen being good in the past and I've also heard good things about the tan tan-ramen. Next time, I'll definitely be trying one of those.

Gyoza: Do you really want to know how these tasted? They were like rubber erasers with thick skin and a hint of garlic. I was utterly disappointed. Enough said!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Shisen Ramen - Torrance, CA

1730 Sepulveda Blvd #6
Torrance, CA 90510
(310) 534-1698

With plenty of Sichuan-style restaurants located throughout Japan, it's good to see a ramen-ya in Torrance trying to distance itself from the others with a Sichuan (Shisen) influence. Shisen Ramen does this by perfecting their signature Tan Tan style ramen, a spicy spectacle of sensation. Located on the corner of Western and Sepulveda, Shisen (sort of) reminds me of ramen-ya's in Japan--more counter seats then table seats. The waitresses are all dressed in nice Chinese dresses and are very friendly.

Shisen-ramen: An unusually delicious spicy slurp. It's not as spicy as it looks but it was still enough to give you a kick. It reminded me more like mabo-ramen without the tofu. The soup had a great flavor, probably due to the bottom-dwelling ground pork. The noodles were straight and thin with impeccable texture. The toppings (baby bok choy, cabbage, carrots, onion, and ground pork) were a welcome change from the norm. A return trip is a must!

Shisen Paiko-ramen: All of the above plus paiko (fried pork). I definitely recommend getting this one. The paiko was amazing and made the ramen twice as good.

Gyoza: These were so small that I couldn't get a good grip on the taste. They weren't bad, but they had this strange tangy-ness that sort of exploded in my mouth.

Chahan: A bit on the greasy side and missing some flavor, but still pretty decent and better then average.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Kinchans - Los Angeles, CA

2119 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 445-0031

Happy day after Thanksgiving! Another perfect day for ramen!! My initial destination today was Asahi Ramen (after a reader emailed me to say she can't believe I've never blogged Asahi), but since I didn't have time to wait in a long line, Kinchans was the suitable replacement. Being on Sawtelle during the middle of the day for lunch brought back many fond memories of my college days. Oh how I wish I could go back. Anyway, Kinchans wasn't around back then so hopefully those memories won't interfere with this review. I just want to quickly mention that the service here was great. I was able to get in and out in 20 minutes fully satisfied.

Shoyu-ramen: An average ramen that was somehow better than average. That's the only way I can describe it. The simple soup was slightly strong and surprisingly satisfying. It's not as complex as some other places, but you can still taste the effort that went into it. The noodles, at first taste, felt overcooked due to its slick coating, but after a few more bites they actually tasted pretty good. They even reminded me of my favorite thick soumen noodles that mom used to make. The toppings (chashu, menma, spinach, corn, and negi) blended well with the rest of it. Although the chashu wasn't the moist kurobuta kind, it was still full of flavor. I would go back again.

Gyoza: This gyoza was also surprising. They were very juicy and full of garlic. Definitely not a disappointment. The only downside to them is that the garlic will stay with you throughout the day, but is that really a downside?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Eboshi Noodle Bar - Lomita, CA

2383 Lomita Blvd. #116
Lomita, CA 90717
(310) 325-6674

Located on the outskirts of Torrance, Eboshi Noodle Bar has all the makings of a good ramen-ya. From your typical ramen (shoyu, shio, and miso) to the more exotic (gomoku, kanitama, mabo, and toku miso), Eboshi has all the tools to compete with the best of them, including yakisoba, donburi, and several izakaya-style dishes. As I walked in to grab a seat at the counter, the crowded hustle-and-bustle environment got me all excited. This place must be good, I thought...

Shoyu-ramen: Contrary to what I was wishing for, I wouldn't be receiving anything good from Eboshi on this day before my birthday. All the excitement I felt upon entering came crashing to an unexpected halt. This shoyu-ramen was a HUGE disappointment and that may be an understatement. I couldn't believe how bland the soup was! My taste-buds kept reaching for a flavor that didn't seem to exist. My only explanation for this blandness could be due to the various exotic ramen on the menu that add-in their own flavor. But still, there's no excuse for this shoyu-ramen being so bland. The noodles were also disappointing. Slippery and slightly overcooked, they couldn't hold up and rescue this ramen from the hole it was in. The toppings (chashu, egg, menma, seaweed, and negi) were the only highlight in this mediocre mess. Since I was really hoping for Eboshi Noodle Bar to do well, let's just say I ordered the wrong ramen. Next time, I'll have to try the gomoku-ramen. And yes, I did say next time.

Gyoza: The gyoza was decent. There was a lot of flavor but they still couldn't rescue the ramen.

Chahan: This was the best part of the meal. It's not the best I've ever had, but it definitely kept me from walking out. I would get it again.

UPDATED on 12/28/2008:

Gomoku Ramen: So I finally made it back to try the Gomoku Ramen. Man, was that a mistake! I really hoped it would be better, but unfortunately I don't think I'll ever be going back. The egg tasted like it was soaked in glass cleaner. I'll leave it up to your imagination for what the rest tasted like.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Orochon Ramen - Los Angeles, CA

123 Astronaut E. S. Onizuka St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 617-1766

Whenever I hear someone talk about Orochon ramen, it's almost always about the "Special 2" ramen and the "wall of bravery" or the nine levels of spiciness. Rarely do I hear anything about the actual quality of ramen. Although I still plan to take the challenge one day, this day was just meant for unveiling the truth behind all the gimmicks.

Shoyu-ramen (Level 4 - Orochon): Level 4 is the signature Orochon ramen. It's your average shoyu-ramen with a little (or lot depending on your taste) spiciness added. To get straight to the point, I do not understand this ramen nor its concept. And I don't understand what all the hype is about and why this place is usually packed. Maybe I'm just old school. I like spicy foods, but I also like it when spicy foods have character. The soup was so bland that it was almost like drinking spicy salt water. The noodles were even worse. They had a tough undercooked feel that tasted pasty. The toppings (pork, menma, negi, konbu, and bellpeppers) were sparse and just odd. I've never seen bellpeppers in a shoyu-ramen before. Now I'm not sure if I even want to try the "Special 2" ramen. Not because I don't think I can survive the spiciness, but because I don't think I can survive the bland ugliness. I wonder if they'll let me try the challenge with ramen from Daikokuya!

Gyoza: These oddly-shaped shumai-like gyoza were juicy and full of flavor. A good way to extinguish any minor flare-ups.

Friday, October 26, 2007

EZO Noodle Cafe - Irvine, CA

13256 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92602
(714) 544-5075

Before I get started, I just want to give my condolences to all who have been affected by the recent fires in socal. It's been crazy enough just watching it on TV. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose almost everything you own in a matter of minutes. I hope you are all safe and best of luck with piecing things back together!

It doesn't take much to get me to go eat ramen. But after edjusted gave EZO a bad rating back in 2005 and cutie followed by commenting "ezo noodle cafe is really really bad!!" one year later, I was never in a real rush to give this place a try. The only reason I even considered going is because I found this coupon online the other day. It's not much of a coupon, but it was enough to just get EZO on the board and out of the way.

Miso-ramen (EZO Special): I love miso soup, but I've never really been a huge fan of miso-ramen. And this EZO Special didn't impress me enough to change that. In fact, it didn't really impress me at all. Granted this is a "fast-casual" restaurant where everything is served in plastic on a flimsy lunch tray, but that's no excuse to serve a less than mediocre ramen. Perhaps they should get some tips from Santouka. On a another note, providing plastic teaspoons for sipping soup should be outlawed! Anyway, the soup was strangely tangy for ramen. I'm not quite sure what to think about it. The noodles were decent, but I couldn't get over that tangy-ness. The toppings (naruto, negi, moyashi, cabbage, and a horrendously dry piece of chashu) were mind-blowingly boring. And tangy.

Shoyu-ramen: Bland with an extra hint of bland. The noodles and toppings were the same as above, minus the tangy. Did I mention that it was bland? Wait, it wasn't that bland but it was pretty bland. Who came up with the word bland anyway? Did someone just eat something bland and happen to mutter bland? Okay, this blandness is making me balmy.

Gyoza: Straight from the grocer's freezer. At least that's what it tasted like. Don't let the seared outside fool you, the inside was still cold. I'm not sure I'd even say that they are worth the free coupon. Actually I am sure, they're not!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Yokohama Kaigenro - Los Angeles, CA

333 Alameda St. Ste. 125
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 325-2113

Yokohama Kaigenro is another ramen shop situated in the deserted former Yaohan Plaza. Located on the first floor next to the Mitsuwa entrance, it appears to be a nice, friendly place to enjoy a good ramen. Unfortunately, their ramen wasn't very good. I'd rather take the escalator up two stories and eat ramen at Hanaichimonme or Honda-ya.

Shoyu-ramen: The soup was an average shoyu with an unexplainable after-taste. I couldn't quite pinpoint the strange taste but it must have something to do with the dashi. The noodles were crinkled and average as well. The toppings (chashu, egg, baby bok choy, menma, moyashi, negi, and nori) were the best part of this not-so-impressive ramen, but they still couldn't make up for the damage already done.

Shio-ramen: The shio soup was really bland and tasted like sea water--very fishy. The noodles were the same as above. The toppings (chashu, cabbage, egg, moyashi, menma, and negi) couldn't make up for this flavor either.

Gyoza: They looked good but looks can be deceiving. They weren't the worst that I've had, but they still could've used some more flavor.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mountain - Rowland Heights, CA

18414 Colima Rd Unit R
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 810-9697

In a desperate effort not to exceed more than ten days between posts, I went digging deep into the Hong Kong Palace area of Rowland Heights only to discover...the...WORST RAMEN EVER!!! I honestly never thought I could find a ramen this bad. I know that ramen isn't their specialty, but come on...this was horrendous. Why even have it on the menu?!! I've never not finished a ramen before no matter how bad it was (Noodle World included), but I guess--like they say--there's a first for everything. After only a few slurps, we asked for the check and left. With that said, let's not waste any more time.

BBQ Pork-ramen: Basically a really bland chashu ramen with mushy, overcooked noodles. It even came topped with not one, but TWO gnats. Yum!

Chicken Ball-ramen: Need I say anything else?...I think not.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Koraku Restaurant - Sherman Oaks, CA

14425 1/4 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
(818) 906-0045

I've been working in Sherman Oaks lately so I thought I'd give Koraku Sherman Oaks a try. Having already been to the Koraku in Little Tokyo, I thought I'd order some of the other not quite traditional ramen's on the menu. In surprising contrast to the Little Tokyo restaurant, this Koraku was empty. My co-worker and I were the only ones in the restaurant. Hmm...I wonder why?

Koraku-ramen: If you name a ramen after your restaurant's name it better be good! And indeed this ramen was good but I still think it could've been better. Slightly on the fishy side, if you aren't a seafood lover then you should definitely pass. But I did enjoy it. Since there are too many toppings to name, I won't even try. The soup was a little oily but that's nothing new. The noodles were typical Koraku. I probably will never order this again, but not because I didn't like it. More so because it's just not my style.

Gekikara Miso Yasai-ramen: I didn't try this so I really can't review it. I'll just provide the picture and let you imagine what it would taste like. According to the actual eater, this ramen was really good. Let me know if you agree.