Sunday, April 15, 2012

Asahi Ramen in Los Angeles

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I was a little unsure how to approach a ramen adventure in my old home of Los Angeles. The city has an established ramen scene, with pockets of Japanese enclaves dotting the area. But time was limited. I'd rather reconnect with old friends at a leisurely craft beer bar than a hectic ramen shop. Sure, the facebook page yielded a lot of recommendations, like Yamadaya and Sinsengumi, and I wish I had more time (and a car!).

The two that I was most interested in, newly opened IKEMEN and Tsujita LA, will be mentioned in due time.

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So how did I end up at Asahi Ramen? Did I consult the internet? Yelp tends to like this place. Yelp also tends to judge ramen shops solely on wait time and whether they take credit cards. Thirty minute wait and cash only! Zero stars! Did I consult the real experts? Keizo from GO RAMEN! finds that just uttering the shop's name is a waste of oxygen. The Rameniac's review isn't any better; "dry, stiff chashu, pre-boiled non-marinated eggs, and a healthy sprinkling of ugh."

The simple reason was that my cousin wanted to take me here. How bad could it be?

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This is how I left the bowl after one sip of soup and one slurp of noodles. My first bowl of ramen in America wasn't just a let-down, it was a shock to the system. The lack of taste, any taste, and words escape me. How do you review a bowl of piping-hot dishwater? At least it was hot.

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Yes, critically renowned Tsujita LA is less than 100 meters away from here. You should probably go there.

Apparently, this place used to be good, but they flipped ownership a few times in recent years.

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Wait, Tsujita LA? To be honest, I didn't really want to go there. I've heard nothing but positive reviews. Praise upon praise for the masterful noodles; noodles made just the way they are made at Tsujita's shop in Tokyo. And that's why I didn't go. Should I spend a precious meal just so I can confirm what everyone else already said? Not this time around. Also, I emailed Tsujita-san before the trip, asking if I could come in for an interview, but he never wrote me back.