After a somewhat horrific experience downing 72 ounces of subpar ramen at Orochon, I briefly held the sentiment that I never wanted to see another bowl of noodle soup again. Just thinking about ramen gave me nightmarish flashbacks.
The cure for my post-traumatic stress? A visit to Ramen Yamadaya for tonkotsu ramen.
Widely considered one of the best ramen shops in L.A. proper, the Culver City branch is often packed, with a line that snakes out the door. The décor of the relatively small eatery is stark and focused, simple wooden tables and walls adorned only with ramen-related business, including a mission statement (above, right) that tells you they know exactly what they are doing. It reminded me, in the best way possible, of Ippudo in NYC (my favorite ramen place of all time) - this place is not messing around.
Having arrived just a few minutes after Yamadaya opened, we snagged a table in the back right away and ordered a couple of appetizers and some tea. The gyoza (below, right) were nicely seasoned with a good crispy exterior, but nothing to jump up and down about.
Better were the pieces of karaage chicken – plump morsels of poultry, battered and perfectly fried. A more sophisticated, tastier version of chicken nuggets.
Best of all, obviously? The glistening, beautiful bowls of ramen. Because I just can’t help myself, I ordered the spicy ramen (below, right), which really wasn’t very spicy at all. Did I care? NOPE. This is the stuff, friends. This broth right here. SO thick. SO porky. I would eat 72 ounces of this ramen every day. Even better was Mark’s selection, the tonkotsu kotteri (below, left), which came with an extra scoop of pork fat and a drizzle of black garlic oil. Both bowls came standard with a deliciously yolky seasoned egg (for extra decadaence, Mark upgraded with a huge hunk of pork belly for $3.50). Both bowls featured really great noodles (of which you can order more for $1.45).
Does the tonkotsu ramen at Yamadaya take the crown from Ippudo? Not quite, but it's pretty close. And with the standard bowl running just $7.95 ($9.95 with slices of roasted pork), it's much more economical (a bowl at Ippudo will run you $15).
BOOM. Nightmares gone. Love of ramen fully and completely restored. Thanks, Ramen Yamadaya!