Other than the Jews, hardly any ethnic group does comforting soup like our pals in the Far East. From Vietnamese phos to Chinese wontons or egg drop bowl to the Korean’s cold noodle soup, folks on the other side of the Pacific know how to put the slurp into a great meal. But the Japanese bowls of heartwarming ramen noodle soups may be the best to cure the common ills.
The Japanese establishments that line Sawtelle Boulevard in LA just south of Santa Monica might offer more ramen choices per capita than anywhere in Los Angeles. Now, say ‘ramen’ to a round eye and one thinks of the college-dorm, astronaut-approved, freeze- dried oodles of noodles that one dumps into hot water at home with a flavor packet so full of MSG that the temples skyrocket to Russia upon the first spoonful. But there is a refinement to the creation of ramen soups and Chabuya makes one of the most ethereal.
Chabuya offers a choice of soup stocks, each one slow-simmered for several hours to let the flavors coalesce into a rich, molten base. Pork, chicken or miso broth are the primary choices. Miso is drab and salty, while the pork has a liquid gaminess that can be an acquired taste. Better to stay middle of the road and let the chicken base soothe the soul. You choose the protein (chicken, pork or tofu) and then the other accoutremounts such as hard-boiled eggs, green onions flecks, bamboo spears or sheets of nori seaweed.
The star remains the noodles themselves; long, luscious ropes of edible velvet that soak up the broth to give a discernible squirt of flavor with every slurp.
If you’re not a fan of soup, then several rice bowls are warm and wonderful with crunchy veges and tender chicken, pork or beef medallioned on top. The curry dishes are also perfectly spicy with the hearty beef in brown curry sauce over rice akin to Japanese pot roast. Specials include a sesame chicken that is both crispy and tender with a hint of ginger and an assault of sesame seeds on the senses.
You can sit on the heat-lamp-fueled outdoor patio for maximum people watching. Beer, wine and sake are the adult libations of choice. If you’re picking up a friend from LAX and driving back to the Valley, this is the perfect place to catch up on travels and let the passenger buy you a warm, comforting meal. And a hot sake…or two.