Pleasurepalate went ramen tasting recently, checking out Koraku, Shinsengumi Hakata Ramen, Santouka ,and Daikokuya.
Shinsengumi is a favorite, with its incredibly rich, porky broth (tonkotsu). Being able to customize the soup is also a plus: “Firm noodles? Check. Normal soup oil? Yes. Strong soup base? Definitely.” This soup is really a meal. Side dishes (spam musubi, gyoza, ground chicken bowl), though, are nothing special.
Daikokuya’s tonkotsu is less refined, more intensely meaty, and still mind-bogglingly delicious. “To my palate, the Hakata ramen was more refined. It’s the part of James Bond that is sophisticated, cool under pressure, elegant,” he says. “You can taste the porkiness of the broth but it wasn’t completely in your face. Daikokuya, on the other hand, was that part of James Bond that was rough and tumble, aggressive and took no prisoners.” In other words, Goldfinger vs. Casino Royale.
Santouka’s shio ramen is a hybrid of tonkotsu and clear shio soup. So it’s cleaner and smoother than Shinsengumi, but still packs a hit of porkiness–the best of both worlds. The noodles aren’t that firm, although rameniac says this is a style called asahikawa ramen. Leek rice and egg are nice on the side.
Koraku, while not strictly a ramen place (a Koraku Ramen opened recently in Sherman Oaks), offers a huge variety of ramen soups, including daily specials. Sutamina ramen, with a light, possibly shoyu broth, garlic sprouts, ground pork, green onions, and mushrooms, is decent but not spectacular. The garlic sprouts and scallions add good flavor, but broth is a little too thin and the noodles too mushy. Note that ground meat isn’t a good choice for ramen–it all escapes to the bottom. Still, there are plenty of other options.
Santoka Ramen [South Bay]
in Mitsuwa Marketplace
21515 Western Avenue, Torrance
Santoka Ramen [South OC]
Mitsuwa food court
665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa
Koraku Restaurant [Little Tokyo]
314 E. 2nd St., Los Angeles
Koraku Japanese Ramen [East San Fernando Valley]
14425 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks