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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Kyushu Ramen - Van Nuys, CA

15355 Sherman Way
Van Nuys, CA 91406
(818) 786-6005

How often can you sit down at a ramen-ya and listen to an 80 year-old Japanese-American man tell random stories about Manzanar? Not very often, but today must have been my lucky day. Unfortunately, I could only take an hour for lunch so I had to leave right when he began telling the story of how they used to sneak off the camp in the middle of the night, while the guards weren't looking, to go fishing at the nearby creek. I wish I could have stayed longer. Anyway, I feel fortunate to have the freedom of being able to mindlessly travel from ramen-ya to ramen-ya. Being at Kyushu Ramen today has definitely put things in perspective.

Kyushu-ramen: I've seen this tonkotsu ramen mentioned favorably in comparison with the greats--Daikokuya and Shinsengumi--so I HAD to see for myself. So what did I think?...good but not even close to the greats. BUT, I'll have to try it one more time to make a final decision. The noodles were overcooked so it threw my judgment of everything else off a bit. The chashu was flavorful but nowhere near as moist as Daikokuya. The rest of the toppings (egg, seaweed, spinach, naruto, menma, and negi) were just along for the swim.


Shoyu-ramen: The soup was very dark and that darkness transferred over to the noodles in discoloring fashion. The strong flavor was bearable, but not what I've been used to. The toppings (chashu, menma, egg, naruto, spinach, and negi) were great, but they also absorbed much of the soup's color. If your taste buds yearn for strong, bold flavor, this ramen is for you.


Gyoza: There are two-types of gyoza served here: A regular gyoza (seen below) and a house special gyoza. I wasn't quite sure what the main difference was, but the house special gyoza tasted a bit more garlicky. Both were good but I'd rather order the regular gyoza from now on. You can also choose between pork or chicken.

4 comments:

  1. Kyushu Ramen used to be a great spot when the former owner still had it. She was an energetic woman with an almost "punk" spiked" hairstyle that she used to color in vibrant shades and designs "back in the day". She had the same waitresses for years, was present herself, and the food was always great. Although many are the same dishes and she left recipes with the new owners, the food is not the same. They’re trying to make it much more Asian Fusion. It’s a shame she had to retire, but it was for a nobel cause - her mother in law was ailing and needed to be cared for at home. I just with the people that took over didn't try to change that simple, yet magically flavorful hole in the wall and turn it into some trendy joint. The points they made in aesthestics were lost in taste. I've given them "one more chance" 4 times and each time was disappointed. I haven't been back in close to 3 years and was hoping to read that Hiroko was back. Kawaii-so...

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  2. That is sad. That always sucks when someone messes up something that already works so well. I might give them a chance later this month just so I can get an update. Thanks for the history!

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  3. Thumbs way down for this spot. I've been a Kyushu patron since I was in high school (under the original owner). I'm now grown up and travel extensively, but every time I come home, I try to get to Kyushu. Unfortunately, the place is in decline. The food is mediocre at best and the ownership is problematic.

    As a Japanese American who grew up in the Valley, it's great to have a few cozy spots that serve up foods that I grew up with--chicken katsu and ramen included. But I see Kyushu cutting corners in a way that is damaging. The ramen especially lacks the fabulousness that it could potentially be.

    Most recently, I had a horrible experience taking my dad (a Native of Japan) there where he ordered the miso saba (mackarel in miso sauce). It was dry and full of bones. I know fish can be bony, but miso saba lovers also know that that dish in particular can be prepared really meticulously, something Japanese people do pride themselves on doing. But after a few bites, we sent it back--we NEVER send food back, mainly because of my dad's pride. The owner was livid and insulted me when I went up to pay and continued to insult me all the way out the door.

    It's an uncomfortable experience for Japanese people who have lived in the Valley for over 40 years, like my parents. My advice: For excellent food and authentic Japanese hospitality and service, make the trip to Gardena and check out the Japanese noodle houses there. Or stay home and crack open a pack of instant noodles.

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  4. Lived in the valley many years and had their ramen with the original lady owner. Honestly, it was just barely average. I am sure it's terrible now, but it wasn't that good.

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