a bowl of ramen with chopsticks and a glass of beer

Best Little Known Ramen Spots in Los Angeles


I LOVE RAMEN! This Japanese noodle soup dish is one of the best things you can eat. A week doesn’t go by without me having a nice bowl of ramen, whether I eat out or decide to make it myself at home. And I try never to eat at the same place twice. Nothing is more fun for a foodie than exploring and trying out new menu items to decide what could be the best in the area or somewhere you want to make a regular stop.

What makes good ramen?

Ramen Bowl
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

You don’t need to be a food expert or professional chef to understand what makes a good ramen. If you are trying a new dish or location for the first time consider these several simple factors in determining if this is going to be your go to neighborhood spot or if you want to keep trying different places to find one that best fits your taste buds.

Ramen Broth

The broth is essential to whether or not this is going to be a good ramen. One mistake and the entire base is ruined and professionals will spend years essentially learning the techniques. Base ingredients include the standard Tonkotsu (pork bone), Torikotsu (chicken), Shio (salt), Miso (soybean paste), and Shoyu (soy sauce) types of broth. Most restaurants and chefs will have large of pots of these broth simmering from anywhere between 12-24 hours. Throwing in other aromatics and seasonings help bring out the full flavors. The flavor profile distinct to each one will help determine which one is best for you.

Ramen Noodles

Noodles are the second most important item after the broth. They need to be perfectly well-cooked to help complement the consistency of the broth flavor. Too long in the boiled water or too much sale and the texture is affected. It becomes mushy and soggy, clumped together for one big mess. This can also affect the broth flavor with access to water and dilution. It will leave the whole ramen bowl tasting bland and the toppings won’t be able to help the difference to your palate. One mistake just throws the whole meal out of whack you won’t be interested in having a second try.

Ramen Toppings

The toppings you choose not only reflect the presentation of the ramen bowl but also enhance the overall taste. All the ingredients should be freshly chopped and well prepared.

Overall Ramen Experience

The perfect ramen bowl is when all the flavors are in balance with each other. None of them should overpower another. It all needs to be complimentary. All of this will always be subjective and is different from person to person and their preferences on taste. I choose to have my ramen bowls spicy compared to others. I prefer Miso over Tonkotsu sometimes.

But the restaurant is only as good as its ramen. So here are some top-notch affordable places I recommend to grab a bite next time you are in Los Angeles. I suggest checking regularly for new updates and recommendations as I continue to explore.

Tatsu Ramen

Tatsu Ramen
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Restaurant Name: Tatsu Ramen

Location: 2123 Sawtelle Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90025

Ambiance

This is probably one of the best ramen spots on the west side of Los Angeles, right in the middle of Sawtelle. It’s got small indoor seating where you can sit at the bar and watch the cooks make your meals, and a large outdoor seating that goes into the parking lot, perfect for some people watching or just enjoying the California weather.

Service

Following in the most current ways of Japan, instead of servers taking your order, you make your selection at several kiosks in front of the restaurant. This allows you to customize your order in terms of the type of ramen noodle you would prefer, spice levels, and additional toppings. You can get exactly what you want without any miscommunication with a server.

But this can also be a hindrance as it is sometimes difficult to get their attention for any other requests after you put in your order. The staff are friendly enough though and extra helpful. You just have to wave them down.

Food Quality

Preparation of the broth does not seem to be consistent depending on what day you go. If you’re ordering the same type of ramen every time you might notice the subtle differences, maybe too much salt or served warm when you want it hot. Yes, it’s still kind of good but you know it can be better.

The noodles though always seem to be on point. The quality is consistent with them being well-cooked, firm, and bouncy. Just the way you want when it comes to your noodles. You have the classic Hakata-style along with your gluten-free and vegan options to meet any needs.

The included egg is good but may sometimes come out a little saltier than you’d prefer. It does bring the meal together nicely. Chashu is well cooked but not too crisp, just right in the middle. Any additional topping you choose to have will be well prepared and finely chopped.

Menu Variety

The chef’s recommendation is the “Bold” Ramen, their most popular menu item. It is rich in its flavor from all the spices that give the ramen its namesake. The vegetarian “Naked” ramen is broth-free but still packs the same perfect flavor. The vegan aptly named “Hippie” ramen has a little too much ginger for my tastebuds but is still an excellent choice.

The sides menu is small, only really focused on fried rice options and a pork bun. It’s really not worth it to order from this part of the menu as the portions are small compared to the price. Just stick with the ramen bowl.

Price/Value

The value is a little overpriced compared to the broth-to-ramen noodle portion you are going to be receiving. There has been a slow price increase over the last few years due to increased costs and supply chain issues. Also is an increase in the price of gluten-free items such as noodles. So make sure you get what you paid for.

Special Features/Unique Selling Points

A selling point of this place is less about the restaurant and more about where it is located. You are in Los Angeles Sawtelle Japantown. This encompasses several blocks lined up with other Asian noodle shops, fusion, manga, and anime gift shops, and after-dinner desserts. So you can park and find yourself just strolling around in the evening as you explore this part of town.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Kai Ramen

Kai Ramen
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Restaurant Name: Kai Ramen

Location(s): 15030 Ventura Blvd #23, Sherman Oaks CA 91403

Ambiance

This is a small location located within a strip mall, mostly indoor seating with 3 small tables placed outside that can seat 2 people each. For a place not well known and considered a hidden gem it is very popular with locals as there is always a consistent line of people ordering to go or picking up their takeout. This can make parking complicated as the strip is small and spaces are filled rather quickly.

Service

The service here has been impeccable. Even when it is during busy hours the servers make sure to check on you and your party consistently.

Food Quality

The food quality is excellent and remains so. All the ingredients taste as if they are fresh just out of the box. The broths are deep and enriching. Tasting the noodles you can see they are not overcooked and have maintained their firmness and texture. You can taste that they took their time to make sure everything is well balanced.

Menu Variety

They have a large menu of soup options that focus on Pork, Chicken, and Vegan broths. There are also the chef specialties of the “Bomb” and “Volcano” ramen with their infused spices and chili sauce to help give it an extra kick at the backend of your meal.

The larger menu also extends to the sides and appetizers. These include rice bowls, salads, takoyaki, steamed buns, and a number of other complimentary choices.

Price/Value

The prices are at an affordable rate for the portion sizes you will be receiving. A good idea is to get one of the all-day combo meals for the ramen and appetizer.

Special Features/Unique Selling Points

No special features or unique selling points for this place. The food speaks for itself.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Kansui Ramen

Kansui Ramen
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Restaurant Name: Kansui Ramen

Location(s): 2728 Townsgate Rd. Ste 6 Westlake Village, CA 91361

Ambiance

As a recent addition to the suburbs of Westlake Village, this place has become a welcome surprise. You will notice the changes compared to others as soon as you walk through the doors. A bit more upscale presentation but does not disappoint. The decor is traditional with a modern take on it and the atmosphere is very relaxed.

Service

The service is fantastic. I think even at one point, the cook came to our table and asked us how our meal was. Very attentive to any dietary restrictions and you can see they keep the place cleaned and well maintained.

Food Quality

The broth has been nothing but spectacular. It has good depth and flavor, perfectly well-balanced in my opinion.

Aside from the ramen, the chicken wontons have been nothing but positive. Handmade inside they were crispy yet soft texture. Good flavor with the right amount of heat.

Menu Variety

It is small and straightforward when you compare it to others, with only 5 ramen options and 4 sides. You can tell though how much dedication they put into each of the items.

Price/Value

A little pricey in my opinion but that kind of goes with the neighborhood you are in. The toppings are light but that is only to help showcase the broth which is the star of the show.

Special Features/Unique Selling Points

The unique selling point here is that they advertise that everything they do is in-house and that the recipes are their take on traditional dishes. You will receive an overall pleasant dining experience here.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Hoshi Ramen

Hoshi Ramen
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Restaurant Name: Hoshi Ramen

Location(s): 2205 Michael Dr. Newbury Park, CA 91320

Ambiance

Another new up-and-comer to the neighborhood. This tiny spot is unassuming so you can pass it by without even realizing it. It’s small and cozy, with small tables and booth-like benches on one side. Nice decor on the walls to bring the place together. Very clean inside which just adds to the charm.

Service

The staff are personable and super friendly. It is a small staff though, as I only saw one server while I was there. It was not that busy when I went on a weeknight but on weekends it could be busier and more staff may be included. They may also try to upsell you on sides and appetizers to complement your ramen meal which happened to me but I did not mind as the garlic butter fried rice went along well with my bowl.

Food Quality

The quality is good but not amazing. The broth is very filling but somehow flavor is slightly off. I am not sure if it may have been watered down more than needed but did not have the depth I am familiar with. Noodles have been prepared exceptionally well but the brand is a little thinner. But that could be for style reasons and does not take away from the meal.

We recommend the cooked Ponzu Sesame Brussel Sprouts. Cooked to perfection and the sauce is just put over the top. The shrimp tempura is crisped just right and fresh as they come. Everything here was pretty stellar and not left waiting under heat lamps before being served.

Menu Variety

What I noticed in the menu compared to the other ramen places was the Super Seafood Ramen section which was enjoyable and a nice change of pace. They also serve Udon as an alternative noodle soup dish as well as yakisoba. This can help expand the customer base possibly but should most likely focus on the most popular ramen menu items.

Price/Value

Prices are very reasonable for a small restaurant with its contemporary and traditional recipes. The portions are filling and very generous in size. You are not going to empty your wallet treating yourself here.

Special Features/Unique Selling Points

They give you a full egg to top off your ramen bowl, which is a positive since these days some places will only give you half and charge you extra for more. There are so few ramen noodle shops in this suburban area that they can corner the market.

Overall Rating: 4/5

This article originally appeared on The World Overload. Featured Photo Credit: Unsplash

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