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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I can't believe 2008 is already over! Looking back, it truly was a great year of slurping--one that will not be easily forgotten, ever. I was fortunate enough to visit Japan not only once, but twice and although you won't see any of those ramen-ya's in this ranking, they have greatly refined my ramen expectations. So what can we expect in 2009, you ask? Well, that's a great question! Two words: Ramen Rampage. Hopefully, you'll stick around to see...

This year's ranking consists of 72 restaurants in and around Southern California (2 in NV) that either entirely serve ramen or have some type of ramen on their menu. This ranking is based solely on my own opinion, so whether you're a seasoned veteran when it comes to noodles or have never even tried real ramen before, I hope this list can serve as a guide to building your own ranking. All comments are welcome! Enjoy!! (Last year's rankings are in parentheses.)
  1. Foo-Foo Tei - Hacienda Heights, CA (2): The food itself deserves this #1 ranking. Add in a cool and friendly staff with a crazy, imaginative, culinary genious at the helm and you get an unbelievable combination that defines how a ramen-ya can thrive in the U.S. With 31 different types of ramen, several appetizers & entrees, and THE BEST Japanese curry in quite possibly the world, Foo-Foo Tei is without a doubt my favorite!

  2. Asa Ramen - Gardena, CA (3): Inconsistent or not, you won't find a better kotteri shoyu on this side of the Pacific. It's as close as you can get to Tokyo while remaining in LA.

  3. Shin Mama Ramen - Torrance, CA (4): Because my mama STILL says so! And because I say...SHINASOBA!

  4. Umemura - Gardena, CA (1): Last year's #1 may have dropped a few spots, but it's still going strong with an unbelievably soulful Umani Ramen.

  5. Daikokuya - Los Angeles, CA (5): Do I need to explain this one? Rock solid, it remains at #5.

  6. Shin-Sen-Gumi - Gardena, CA (n/a): Kaedama please! No not the noodles, I'm talking about the girl in the YouTube video...hahaha. This Gardena location is the best of the 3.

  7. Gomen - Stanton, CA (37): Most improved! And best in OC! A rather bland gomoku ramen kept them out of the top 5, but their tonkotsu-shio more than makes up for it.

  8. Shisen Ramen - Torrance, CA (8): Shisen Ramen then a beer...no complaints here.

  9. Chabuya - Torrance, CA (n/a): Better than the original (LA that is), it makes me feel all "kara kara" inside.

  10. Santouka - Los Angeles, CA (n/a): What? Top 10? The West LA location left quite an impression.

  11. Ramenya - Los Angeles, CA (6): No longer the best of the west-side, but runner-up ain't that bad either.

  12. Kohryu - Costa Mesa, CA (11): It's definitely improved, but so have others. The love-hate meter with Kohryu is currently leaning towards love. Let's see how long that will last.

  13. Shin-Sen-Gumi - Fountain Valley, CA (9)*: Top 15 for sure.

  14. Kairakutei - Tustin, CA (10): If only my dad had owned a ramen-ya in Japan too...

  15. Ebisu Ramen - Fountain Valley, CA (14): Aaah, Ebisu. Takeda-san, I have a new hero and sometimes they call him Doraemon.

  16. Tamaya - Hacienda Heights, CA (16): Tamani (sometimes), it surpresses the need for nearby Foo-Foo.

  17. Gardena Ramen - Torrance, CA (7): Shhh...it's a secret.

  18. Chabuya - Los Angeles, CA (13)*: Still love the environment.

  19. Tajima - San Diego, CA (n/a): Best in SD! Don't worry, it could be worse.

  20. Santouka - Costa Mesa, CA (15): Yeah, that's probably more like it.

  21. Ducks - San Gabriel, CA (n/a): If you listen closely, you might hear a QUACK.

  22. San Sui Tei - Los Angeles, CA (n/a): A decent alternative to Daikokuya, but why do you feel the need to have sushi?!

  23. Togoshi Ramen - Las Vegas, NV (n/a): Dude, a ramen-ya in Vegas? Awesome!

  24. Mentatsu - Costa Mesa, CA (39): Yes, you're not the worst in OC. Congratulations.

  25. Koraku - Sherman Oaks, CA (17): The best ramen near my work. Mabo is my favorite.

  26. Koraku - Torrance, CA (n/a): I still have the right to remain silent. You can talk to my lawyer.

  27. Men-Bei - Torrance, CA (12): Don't get it without MSG. It's a necessary ingredient here.

  28. Kiraku - Gardena, CA (20): Much better than that sorry place next door.

  29. Santouka - Torrance, CA (n/a): Perhaps the competition is intimidating. I wasn't very impressed.

  30. Hanaichimonme - Los Angeles, CA (26): Superballs, transformers, and ultraman. All great memories from my past.

  31. Kinchans - Los Angeles, CA (18)*: It's not that bad, actually.

  32. Asahi Ramen - Los Angeles, CA (19)*: It is that bad, actually.

  33. Orochon Ramen - Los Angeles, CA (32): The challenge still awaits me. Or should I say eludes me.

  34. Tamaya - Alhambra, CA (n/a): Freshly opened this year, SGV needs a place like this.

  35. Ramen Nippon - Reseda, CA (21): C'mon, just call yourself Ramen Valley.

  36. Daikokuya - Costa Mesa, CA (n/a): It's sad, but it's still maturing. Get rid of the diapers already!

  37. Kokekokko - Hacienda Heights, CA (22)*: Still hits the soul.

  38. Koraku - Los Angeles, CA (24)*: Still around and still fading.

  39. Teri Café - Oceanside, CA (25)*: I'll need to revisit in 2009.

  40. Santouka - San Diego, CA (n/a): Hey, at least you got a Santouka!

  41. Maruyu - Santa Ana, CA (n/a): What a disappointment. My last visit felt like I was slurping transmission fluid.

  42. Hanashima - Rowland Heights, CA (28): I'm confused, an island on a flower?

  43. Shin-Sen-Gumi - Rosemead, CA (33)*: At least you're not called Shin-Sen-Gomi.

  44. Joy Mart - Los Angeles, CA (n/a): Why do I feel so happy?

  45. Café Koraku - Jean, NV (n/a): Dude, a ramen-ya on my way to/from Vegas? Awesome!

  46. Oki Doki - Costa Mesa, CA (41): Okee Dokee.

  47. Mr. Ramen - Los Angeles, CA (34)*: Hi mister, let's meet again in 2009.

  48. Honda-ya - Los Angeles, CA (35)*: Izakaya, beer, yakitori...no ramen.

  49. Sushi To Sakedokoro - Anaheim, CA (n/a): Only this low because their ramen has not yet been perfected. It could be next year's most improved.

  50. San Sui Tei - Temple City, CA (36)*: Still yearning for more.

  51. Tokyo Table - Arcadia, CA (n/a): Not a place for ramen.

  52. Gyu-Kaku - Pasadena, CA (n/a): Not a place for ramen, either.

  53. Chopstix - San Diego, CA (n/a): I don't know what to say. Nothing memorable here.

  54. Rockstar Noodle Bar - Rowland Heights, CA (n/a): Stick to the teas and appetizers. Rockstar's don't really eat ramen, anyway.

  55. Mitsuru Café - Los Angeles, CA (38)*: Reminds me of my grandma.

  56. Eboshi Noodle Bar - Lomita, CA (30): Do I smell ammonia?

  57. Kyushu Ramen - Van Nuys, CA (27): Down, down, down. Hachoo. Bless you!

  58. Katana Sushi - Hacienda Heights, CA (23): A once great tamayu ramen has now been bastardized by multiple ownership changes.

  59. Aji Man - San Gabriel, CA (n/a): Now accepting applications for umami.

  60. Hamada Orient Express - Los Angeles, CA (n/a): The finest airport ramen in the U.S.

  61. Igosi Ramen - Rowland Heights, CA (40)*: It's actually not ramen, but ramyun.

  62. Takaraya - Irvine, CA (42)*: Hey, at least they were open on Christmas.

  63. Yokohama Kaigenro - Los Angeles, CA (43)*: I would still hate to see them be evicted.

  64. Tampopo - Gardena, CA (n/a): This is that sorry place next door.

  65. Fuji Ramen - San Gabriel, CA (n/a): Even though the ramen I tried at Mt. Fuji wasn't much better, at least that ramen was from Japan.

  66. Ajisen Ramen - Temple City, CA (44)*: Still not for me, regardless of location.

  67. EZO Noodle Café - Irvine, CA (45)*: E-Z-O, E-Z-O, E-Z-O. It's only fun to chant its name.

  68. Noodle World - Pasadena, CA (46)*: Don't even bother.

  69. UCC Café Plaza - Walnut, CA (n/a): The biggest disappointment of the year! Stick to the coffee.

  70. Sakura - Los Angeles, CA (n/a): Needs to be replaced with Santouka, badly.

  71. Sushi Pia - Fullerton, CA (47)*: Su-su-su-sushi pia.

  72. Mountain - Rowland Heights, CA (48)*: For as long as Mountain stays open and serves their gnat-infested ramen, they will continue to pad the bottom of this list.
Wow, I didn't realize the list was so long. Anyway, I hope you had as much fun as I did in 2008! Hopefully, I'll be able to complete the SF ramen-ya's in 2009, as well as check out some more cities across the U.S. and Japan.

Be safe and have a very, very Happy New Year! Don't forget to eat your toshi koshi soba!!

(*Based on 2007 ranking.)


  1. Sweet Keizo!! I now have a great starting point to try out ramen spots up in L.A. And hope we get to hang some time in 2009.. :)

  2. Nice. I'm in LA this week, I wish I could hit up a dozen of these. But LA without a car ain't like Tokyo without a car!

  3. holy crap - that's a lot of ramen you ate in '08! Going to try out Ramenya ASAP. happy new year!

  4. Hi Keizo,

    This is such an epic list! I had been waiting for it all month long. The top deserved to stay in the top. The bottom feeders have some fantastic commentary. (Especially #56 - which coincidentally some people thought it tasted like dishwashing water).

    As in for the big dropper, wow! How mighty it had fallen, but then again per our discussion...it does have its own fallout.

    Sweet! I used your list as my guide for some of the ramen adventures for myself. Have fun for this year's ramen run because I'll be following it.


  5. nice and thorough list keizo! i think i'll cede LA to you... simply because i don't have the stomach to visit or re-visit about two-thirds of the places on here anytime soon.

    let's face it, the majority of ramen shops in town are just totally mediocre (i was at aji man a few days ago and it was just... hm... sad? lol). plus you shouldn't be living in socal without alternating ramen with pho and tacos at least half the time.

    which means i'll probably stick to asa and santouka, et. al until something new and truly awesome opens up.

    happy 2009!

  6. @Dennis: I'm glad I could help. Hit me up if you're in the area!

    @Brian: Yeah, public transpo here sux. But don't worry, compared to what you've been eating in Japan you're not really missing much.

    @Felix: Let me know what you think of Ramenya. I like getting their Mabo ramen.

    @Pepsi Monster: Thanks for waiting. I hope it didn't disappoint. About #56, the egg tasted like it was soaked in windex. It was bad...real bad.

    @rameniac: Thanks dude. I hear ya! I don't know how my stomach did it. Hopefully I'll get to visit more "real" ramen-ya's in Japan this year.

    Happy New Year everyone!

  7. Hi Keizo,

    Sorry for the late reply (I was AFK for nearly 2 weeks)! (~_~)

    Congrats on the great list and 2008 Rankings! :) Thanks for the great work and tracking and trying of so many places, and as many others have said, it's sad to see so many mediocre Ramen-yas in L.A.

    Hopefully next year (this year now :), you can find some new Ramen-yas that are worth a visit. I'll be happy to join you. :)


  8. Hey EK, not a problem. Welcome back. Hopefully the ramen scene will drastically improve this year. We should probably make another ramen run soon.

  9. I'm shocked that there is nothing in Inland Empire, especially Riverside. Hey, anyone who have the smarts to set up a ramen cafe in Riverside!?

  10. Most IE people go to OC like Irvine for ramen. Check out some of the spots that is on the list from Irvine or Costa Mesa.

    I mean, if Keizo has to make those drive, you can do it too from Riverside.

  11. I'm shocked that there's nothing in Riverside too! But is there a demand for it? Hopefully someone will take on that challenge and open a ramen-ya someday. Hey, if there's ramen in Dublin, CA then there should be one in Riverside!..haha.

  12. What a comprehensive list! WOOT!

    But... how can you rank Shinsengumi Rosemead lower than Hanashima??? Hanashima would definitely be my absolutely bottom of the list... but then, my list will be like 10-15 shops at most =P

    Outta the list of yours and rameniac's, I think I must give Umemura a try this year then =)

  13. Thanks kelvlam! One reason: I haven't been back to SSG Rosemead since it opened so I could only base it on my 07 ranking. Hey at least they're closer to Hanashima now..haha.

    Btw, to anyone out there. If you can guess which ramen-ya I accidentally left out of the ranking, maybe I'll buy you your next bowl...hahaha...no cheating!

  14. even at 5am, I think I just died a little laughing at all ur commentaries of each place. ok, so u were right, u did rank ur places =P I am amused and impressed :)

    so happy to finally try #1 in less than 8 hours!! w00t!!