The Best Ramen In Los Angeles
The Original Ramen Burger’s uni tonkotsu ramen made with butter, egg yolk, bacon, scallions, and white pepper from their secret menu. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
The ramen craze shows no signs of slowing down in Los Angeles. What was once a staple of cash-strapped college students has become a full-blown foodie obsession around town. While the popular Japanese noodle soup is served up with a variety of regional styles and ingredients, most ramen can be categorized into four major types based on the broth used: tonkotsu (pork), shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), and miso (fermented bean paste).
Luckily for us Angelenos, we've been blessed with a plethora of different styles—both traditional and fusion—and we've tracked down the best. LAist even has the lowdown on secret ramen menus and where you can score yourself the elusive uni and bacon ramen. Read on to find out our top picks for the best ramen shops in Los Angeles—and as always leave your own favorites in the comments.
Santouka's signature shio salt ramen from the Mitsuwa Japanese market food court. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Who said food court cuisine had to be terrible? Santouka Ramen is a popular ramen chain from Japan located at the Mitsuwa Supermarket food court. Santouka's renowned tonkotsu pork bone broth takes a lengthy 20 hours to make, and comes in four different flavors: salt (shio), soy sauce, miso, and spicy miso. You won't go wrong with any of them, though the shio ramen is Santouka's signature style, which delivers a creamy, salty taste and is topped with Japanese pickled plum. Each bowl of Santouka ramen includes two slices of fatty pork char siu, seaweed, woodear mushrooms, fish cake, scallions, sesame seeds, and bamboo shoots. Diners can also add a fatty pork or grilled salmon with salmon roe rice bowl to complete their order. Portions are small, so make sure to size up your order, just be sure to remember that Santouka is cash-only. The only other drawback we can see is that they don't include a soft-boiled egg with their ramen-one of our favorite ramen garnishes-but rather a soy sauce hard-boiled egg.
Santouka Ramen is located at 3760 Centinela Avenue in Los Angeles, (310) 391-1101 and at 21515 Western Avenue in Torrance, (310) 212-1101
Tsujita Annex's fatty pork tsukemen dipping noodles. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
Tsujita LA is such a popular ramen destination that the restaurant was compelled to open Tsujita LA Annex almost directly across Sawtelle Blvd, both of which have an extensive line at most hours of the day. If you ask ramen aficionados, each will have their own favorite branch, but we here at LAist think Tsujita Annex takes the ramen-cake as the better of the two branches for their thicker noodles and the addition of tonkotsu shoyu (soy sauce) ramen. The BBQ Pork Tsukemen or dipping noodles stands out as the most popular dish to order at Annex. The cha siu fatty pork melts in your mouth and is very tender. The most obvious difference is that the ramen noodles at the Annex location are much thicker, roughly twice as thick than the ones across the street. For those unfamiliar, tsukemen is basically hot ramen noodles that come in a bowl alongside a separate bowl of soup. The noodles are intended to be eaten after being dipped in the broth. Annex's broth is sweet and slightly vinegary flavor, filled with layers of pork fat, and each table is stocked with freshly minced garlic, black pepper, and Japanese chili powder (onikasu) to customize your ramen. Annex's soft-boiled egg (when not overcooked) features a runny yolk that is delectable. The broth may be overly rich for ramen traditionalists, but the tsukemen is tough to find in Los Angeles and is definitely worth trying for the uninitiated.
Tsujita Annex is located at 2050 Sawtelle Boulevard in Los Angeles, (310) 231-0222
Torigara-shio (chicken) ramen from Ramen Burger’s ‘Late Night Ramen’ menu available only Friday and Saturday nights. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
THE ORIGINAL RAMEN BURGER
It was only a matter of time: now that ramen-blogger-turned-chef Keizo Shimamoto has won L.A. over with his signature Ramen Burger hybrid, he's finally added actual ramen soup to the menu. The Original Ramen Burger brick and mortar in Koreatown now serves up two coveted types of ramen for their ‘Late Night Ramen’, which takes place every Friday and Saturday night starting at 10 p.m. until close (2 a.m.). The torigara-shio (chicken) ramen broth is made from free range chicken bones that are simmered for thirteen hours, then mixed with sous-vide chashu, 7-minute egg, enoki mushrooms, and crunchy scallions. The mixture is then soaked in a shoyu sake marinade for 24 hours before adding in green onion, nori seaweed, bean sprouts and wavy ramen noodles. While the tonkotsu (pork)-shio ramen packs a punch with a rich and creamy broth created by pig head that has boiled for 24 hours. The broth serves as the foundation for freshly roasted garlic, sous vide chashu, sake-infused bamboo shoots, crunchy scallions kikurage mushrooms, marinated egg, crunchy scallions, and nori seaweed, all of which is piled atop thin ramen noodles. Both ramen options are also available for order from inside the attached speakeasy-style lounge, Lock & Key, as well as through the window of the Ramen Burger brick and mortar. They offer a limited run of 50 bowls of both types of ramen every Friday and Saturday with the possibility of an extension to Sunday sometime in the future. If you're lucky (and ask real nicely), the staff may just let you sample their limited off-menu option they are currently testing out: uni and bacon ramen.
The Original Ramen Burger is located at 239 Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles, CA 90004, (213) 380-2399.
Kosuke’s black garlic oil tonkotsu Kuro Ramen. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
At Kosuke, a tiny mom-and-pop shop in Alhambra with only a hand full of seats, the two most popular ramen options to order are the Kuro Ramen and Spicy Miso Ramen (both of which can be topped off with a helping of crispy popcorn chicken). Kosuke’s ramen is served with a hard-boiled egg, black mushrooms, green onions, and choice of chashu grilled pork or chicken. The Kuro Ramen has a unique black garlic oil that sits on top of a tonkotsu pork broth, which has a rich and slightly salty flavor. Spicy lovers, beware though, Kosuke’s spicy miso is not for the weak: the ‘medium’ will set your mouth on fire. There are also several items you can add with your ramen order to make a combination set such as curry, gyoza, spicy tuna roll, California rolls, and tofu salad. Kosuke also makes a mean takoyaki (fried octopus balls) that is definitely worth trying.
Kosuke is located at 618 West Main Street in Alhambra, (626) 289-8030
Hakata Shin-Sen-Gumi’s basic hakata bowl with ginger, green onion, and two slices of char siu BBQ pork.
Hakata Shin-Sen-Gumi has various locations throughout Los Angeles. If you love the thin, hakata-style ramen noodles, this may be the place for you. At Shin-Sen-Gumi, it’s all about customization, and there are plenty of decisions to be made. You can customize everything from the strength of broth and oil, the chewiness of the noodles, as well as the extensive array of toppings, which can include garlic paste, garlic chips, fried onions, kimchi and curry paste. Shin-Sen-Gumi is always busy, and it's easy to see why: they make an excellent bowl of ramen, from the toppings to the chewiness of the noodles to the amount of oil in the soup. The pork broth is cooked for more than 15 hours to achieve the strong, creamy pork flavor. The basic Hakata bowl comes with ginger, green onion, and two slices of char siu BBQ pork, though you can add other ingredients such as bamboo shoot, extra pork, spinach, eggs, corn, and more, which range from $1 to $2 extra for each topping. For those with big appetites, additional orders of noodles are $1.50. Small eaters can even order half portions. Don’t forget to ask for their minced garlic topping. Hakata Shin-Sen-Gumi always has some fun contests for their patrons, such as a recent ramen-eating contest where the winner won a free trip to Japan!
Hakata Shin-Sen-Gumi has various locations throughout Los Angeles.
Ramen Yukinoya’s spicy red tonkotsu pork ramen. (Photo by Kristie Hang/LAist)
With only 20 seats available, Ramen Yukinoya is a tiny eatery that delivers big. This Monterey Park favorite cooks their broth for more than 10 hours to achieve their creamy, rich soup base. They offer the typical shoyu, shio, miso, tonkutsu white (pork bone-based), spicy tonkotsu red (spicy pork bone based), as well as chicken broth ramen and Sizchuan-influenced tan tan noodles. The ramen comes with chashu pork, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, green onion, soft-boiled egg, fishcake, and nori seaweed. The tan tan noodles come in a sweeter, creamy broth with spicy sauce, topped with ground pork, moyashi tamago, and bok choy. You can request wavy egg or straight noodles. Ramen orders can be upgraded to a combo with a choice of fried rice, pork rice bowl, California roll or inari sushi .The best part of Yukinoya are the garlic mincers found at each table, allowing you to take fresh garlic and mince it directly into your bowl of piping hot noodles.
Ramen Yukinoya is located at 1423 South Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia, (626) 821-0901 and at 816 Atlantic Bolevard in Monterey Park, (626) 281-6060, and at 18230 East Gale Avenue in City of Industry, (626) 581-8420
Bowl of Daikokuya's signature ramen bowl (Photo via Facebook)
No ramen list is complete without giving a nod to old school ramen joint Daikokuya. It's rare you won't find a line of people queuing outside of this tiny Little Tokyo spot. Luckily, the eatery has expanded and opened up additional shops in Monterey Park, Arcadia and Sawtelle to cater to their hungry customers across town. Daikokuya is a no-frills type of place and they only have a couple of different ramen options, which makes ordering a lot easier. Our favorite is their signature Daikokuya Ramen. It offers a rich and creamy tonkotsu broth, which is so flavorful that we sometimes wish we could just drink the broth straight out of a can. The bowl is loaded with chewy noodles, a sea of sliced green onions, bean sprouts and a marinated boiled egg with a creamy yolk. The best part is the ramen is topped with melt-in-your-mouth kurobuta pork belly chashu. If you just so happen to still be hungry after slurping down a huge bowl, we suggest getting their fatty chashu pork fried rice to go along with it. —Jean Trinh
Daikokuya is located at 327 E 1st St., Little Tokyo, (213) 626-1680; 2208 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle Little Osaka, (310) 575-4999; 111 N Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park, (626) 570-1930; and 1220 S. Golden West Ave., Arcadia, (626) 254-0127