Tsujita – Ramen Perfected

20 Jul

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Let’s just say it – this might be the single most delicious thing in LA right now.

Tsujita comes to LA from Tokyo, one of a number of famous noodle slingers in ramen-mad Japan. LA has caught the fever, with at least four ramen additions to Little Osaka alone this year. Yamadaya and Shin Sen Gumi have also expanded past their South Bay homes to evangelize Downtown and Culver City (and Westwood now).

But Tsujita arrived with incredible fanfare – Tokyo street cred, a trial run on Santouka’s home turf, and the (sort of) introduction to LA of tsukemen, “dip ramen.” As someone who loves Yamadaya, SSG, and the ol’ favorite, Daikokuya, but finds them all about equal, could I be convinced Tsujita was something new? (especially since Daikokuya has had tsukemen for a while) The answer is yes. Absolutely yes.

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The tsukemen comes in two parts, a cold plate of noodles with a lime, nori slice, and optional slice of chashu, and the reduced broth that is the heart of the dish. The noodles are really thick here, more like udon noodles or Chinese pan-frying noodles, and have a nice chewiness. The noodles are served not quite cold – kind of body heat warm. The idea is to take a bit of noodles and dip it into the broth. This is because the broth is a sludge-like reduction of ramen broth and fish broth.

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The broth is intense. It’s full of bits of pork belly, deep umami from the pork, and a funkiness from the fish. The richness of the broth clings to the noodles and provides such a deep flavor that it came as a shock a first. You wonder what lurks in the deep brown sludge, but it gives off such incredible flavor that it’s hard not to go into full-on shovel mode.

The recommendation is to eat a third of the dish this way, then squeeze the lime into the broth for the next third, and then ask the server for a pour of hot water to turn the broth I to a soup for drinking. That last part is a bit much for me because of the still-intense richness of the broth. But the lime is a great contrast with the acidity and tartness cutting through the thick fattiness.

I also highly recommend getting the chashu upgrade. The chashu here is in a category all its own. The other ramen places serve thin grey slices that are ok, but are really only good because of what they add to an already rich pork broth. Tsujita’s chashu is incredible on its own. Beautifully seasoned, it would make a great meal with rice on its own. They are also really generous with it, giving you a big plate of it.

My only complaint is that the broth is served a little cold. I checked with the server – that is intentional. But I prefer it warmed up a little, which they will do if you ask.

The other problem is that the tsukemen is so flavorful that it makes other ramens taste strangely bland. I had Yamadaya a couple weeks later, which is full of fatty rich broth, and I couldn’t shake the memory of Tsujita’s tsukemen filling me with disappointment.

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We also ordered the ramen with a chashu upgrade. Rather than ring an also-ran, this ramen is the best straight-up ramen I’ve had. It’s unmistakably ramen, with a slurpable soup broth. And though it is nowhere near as intense an experience as the tsukemen, the ramen broth is rich and porky – deeply satisfying. They use the same thick noodles and the same beautiful chashu. It’s also satisfying to be able to eat the noodles with spoonfuls of ramen broth (an act that would invite a heart attack with the tsukemen). Just incredible.

Even without the tsukemen, Tsujita would have the best ramen in town. But the tsukemen is an unbelievable dish that makes this place set apart from the rest of the pack. My only regret is not being able to enjoy the other ramens.

*sigh*

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2 Responses to “Tsujita – Ramen Perfected”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ramen Iroha Pop-Up at Gardena Marukai « Fooddouche's Blog - August 25, 2012

    […] something else entirely (I’m looking at you, Santouka). So maybe I’m still reeling from the greatest ramen in the world. And it’s like comparing a steak to chicken nuggets — of course one tastes beefier than […]

  2. Tsujita Dinner – Yes, There’s a Lot of Pork « Fooddouche's Blog - October 10, 2012

    […] knew that going in, having been for ramen during lunch several times. But the servers would greet everyone walking in for dinner with this line. Several […]

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