Mr. K’s current favorite place for ramen is any of the Hakata ramen restaurants run by the Shin-Sen-Gumi group, with various locations in Los Angeles (they also have some restaurants that do Yakitori, Shabu, etc).
What I particularly enjoy about it is the the fast service and the customized ordering. Our first visit was to the Little Tokyo location. Despite the long line of people, the wait time was relatively short. The place is run like a well-oiled machine.
For the ramen, you get to customize your bowl in various ways such as choosing how you want your noodles cooked (soft, hard, regular), how strong you want your broth, etc. You can choose to add additional toppings for a little extra like bamboo and marinated egg, or choose to remove standard toppings like green onions.
There are various other sides and toppings you can order. And there are appetizers and some other menu items as well.
On both of our visits, the ramen was cooked just as ordered. The broth is rich but not too salty. Hakata ramen has a milky tonkotsu (pork bone) broth and uses thin, white noodles.
If one bowl isn’t enough, you can order extra noodles for only $.95. Make sure you order this after you finish though, so that they can bring you a steaming, hot, fresh cooked bowl of noodles which you can then add to your leftover broth. The portion is big enough for a whole new bowl.
At the Little Tokyo location we tried pork belly cha-shu and fried pig ears as additional side toppings. The pork belly was very soft, but not too memorable. The pig ears were chopped up and deep fried. They were super crunchy and you could barely taste that you were even eating cartilage.
Our second visit was to the Rosemead location. It was similarly run, though the menu varied slightly with the side dishes.
I love that they have soup spoons designed so that they will hook onto the bowl and not fall in.
We also tried their pan fried cha-shu topping. This, unfortunately, was too salty.
On both occasions, the ramen was cooked perfectly. The service was fast, but friendly. Our first visit was shortly before our NYC trip. We had a bad ramen experience during our NYC trip, leaving Mr. K grumbling and wanting Shin-Sen-Gumi. So when we had to be in LA, we made sure to make time for Shin-Sen-Gumi again. We really enjoyed our visits here and only wish they had a location in San Diego.
Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen
various locations in LA