The Unvegan

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‘Ramen’

Porked Up Japanese at Momofuku Noodle Bar

A ramen of many colors.
A ramen of many colors.

In the world of ramen, Los Angeles generally dishes out some of the best in the country. Yet, New York may have produced one of the most famous. Momofuku Noodle Bar is by no means known for traditional ramen, but its success has spawned other Momofuku offshoots in New York and even internationally. Thus, when I found myself hungry at an off-peak hour I decided I had to take the opportunity to hit up the noodle bar.

All About That Skull at Ramen Tatsunoya

Perfection.
Perfection.

Pasadena isn’t exactly known for being at the forefront of the food world. Often a restaurant finds success elsewhere in LA and decides Pasadena is a good outpost for a sequel. You could say that is the case with Ramen Tatsunoya, which first found success in Japan, then as a popup in Torrance, but Pasadena was officially chosen as it’s first location for a long-term foray into the United States. The incessant¬†hour-long line out the door proves that this wasn’t a bad idea.

A Solid Bowl at Orochon Ramen

View from the top.
View from the top.

It’s pretty well-known that Little Tokyo is now home to some of the best restaurants in LA. One of these is better-known for their spicy ramen challenge perhaps moreso than how good their ramen actually is. This place is Orochon Ramen, which can be found in one of Little Tokyo’s mini malls and I set out to try their non-crazy-spicy ramen to see how it held up.

Asian Fusion at Grit & Grace

Kinda like dim sum.
Kinda like dim sum.

EDIT: Grit & Grace is now a noodle bar, but I’m guessing it is just as delicious as before.

While some parts of the country might have Asian fusion around every corner, Pittsburgh has (most likely for the better) avoided much of this. There is, however, a spot downtown called Grit & Grace that has welcomed that sort of cuisine. It starts with a little something they call American Dim Sum. It’s nothing at all like actual dim sum aside from the fact that it is in small servings, but it is quite delicious. We had some of the Pork Belly Bites (with orange, chili, garlic and ginger) and Kimchi Balls (with rice and cheese). They were both incredible, and the balls surprisingly so because I have a rational hatred of kimchi and these tasted nothing like it.

A Bowl of Awesome at Daikokuya

It's like the inside is outside.
It’s like the inside is outside.

In all my time living in LA I had one major failure. Well maybe more than one failure, but one of them is not making a trip to Daikokuya. Fortunately, that ramen spot set up an outpost over in Little Little Tokyo. It has a crazy wait, but when you step inside it feels like you’ve really stepped onto a street in Japan (as evidenced by that picture to the left inside the place).

Don and Ramen at Tampopo

Spicy for reals.
Spicy for reals.

Down in Gardena and Torrance, it’s hard to turn a corner without spotting a ramen shop. So when my coworkers and I set out for some Hakata Ramen Shinsengumi and found the line to be too long, it wasn’t hard to get our ramen fix elsewhere. That led us to Tampopo in Gardena. Tampopo may have a good amount of ramen on their menu, but they reminded me of an old-fashioned Japanese izakaya moreso than a simple ramen restaurant.

All-Out Asian at Noodle World

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That’s some white ramen.

Before attending an event in Westwood, my woman and I decided to see what the college town had to offer in terms of dinner. Sure, I had eaten in Westwood many times before, but typically with specific places in mind. This time, it was about walking around and picking dinner based on our gut, which led us to Noodle World. I had expected something like Noodles & Company, which makes dishes from all sorts of noodles, but Noodle World has a lot more options, while keeping its noodles Asian. No mac and cheese here.

Tatsu to the Future

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Dry bones!

On a drunken evening in Osaka, I vaguely recall punching buttons on an old school lotto-style machine at a ramen restaurant. The result was some of the most delicious drunk food I have ever eaten. Fast forward to 2012 and Tsujita continues its stranglehold on the ramen scene of Little Little Tokyo in West LA. Yet, it is not alone in ramen. Tatsu sits just down the road and has taken that machine concept I encountered in Osaka into modernity.