2.02.2006

Restaurant Review #109: Asahi Ramen, Sawtelle, West LA


Extra spicy ramen with chashu

I finally got to go to Asahi! There is almost always a line several people long to get a table, and I never want to wait, especially when it is cold outside. But I got lucky last Sunday and snagged a table with no wait at 8:30, just 30 minutes before closing time. Maybe that's the secret.

Once inside, I realized that the service is so fast that the wait for a table is probably not that long. Also, quite a few people came to pick up takeout orders. In the future, I think I'll do takeout, since the bowls of soup are enormous and one bowl could easily feed two people. The soups cost about $6-8 each. Talk about a cheap dinner!

I didn't have very high expectations for Asahi after my first ramen experience at Chabuya. There, the broth was salty and the noodles were just noodles, and sometimes soggy noodles.

Asahi is a whole different story. The broth is spicy (if you order it spicy for an extra 35 cents) and not overly dominated by one flavor. The portions are huge. The noodles are pleasantly chewy and somehow actually taste like something. Wow!

The chashu was a leaner cut of meat than what I'd eaten at Chabuya. I was pleased by the absence of fat slivers, but Asahi's pork was unpleasantly dry--quite a feat, since it had been soaking in broth. This was really the only downside of the meal, though. The fantastic wontons in our other bowl of soup more than made up for it. They had an incredibly rich flavor, and a small amount of meat that made them easy to eat in one bite.

Another pleasant surprise were the bamboo shoots. I've never seen brown bamboo shoots before, and they were a lot more flavorful than the pale yellow variety I've eaten all my life. (I'm pretty sure they were bamboo shoots--they have a texture all their own.)

The spicy cucumber slices that arrive at the table almost as soon as you sit down were also a big winner. Too bad they only give you four slices per person.

The atmosphere just floor and chairs and tables for 2-4 people. Grimy old no smoking stickers dot the walls, not quite above each table. Above those are rather nice watercolor paintings of flowers, for sale at low prices of around $50-100. The service was fast, and friendly in a fairly indifferent way.

I love Asahi, and I now understand why people wait for ramen. This ramen is not the same as that 12 cent bag from the grocery store! Now I can't wait to see what awaits me at Ramenya and Kinchans, and I can't wait for the next cold night when I can share a takeout bowl of soup with a friend.

By the way, in case it wasn't obvious from the nearly identical hours and locations, Asahi and Tofu-ya, next door, are under the same ownership.


Extra spicy ramen with wontons

Asahi Ramen
2027 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310-479-2231
11:30-9:00 daily, closed Thursdays
Website

6 comments:

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Foodie,

I've been here twice and am really appalled by the DRY pork slices. The noodles and broth are fine, but I wish they would put a lil' more work into the pork. When eating ramen, I don't consider Chabuya anymore. It's too much for such a small portion. I still prefer Kinchan's and Ramenya. Which is your favorite? Nice detailed review.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another Sawtelle Boulevard review. I hope you give Chabuya another try now that it has had time to tune up. To me Chabuya is the best for food and atmosphere (it's beauiful) at about the same price. They make a special effort to find quality ingredients. The pork is especially tasty. They also have a parking lot. As alway I enjoy reading your take. d.

Foodie Universe said...

D. - I agree, Chabuya does have a very nice atmosphere. The interior probably explains their higher prices to some extent. Have you been to Chabuya recently and noticed an improvement, or are you sending me out to be your guinea pig? :)

Dylan -
I haven't been to Ramenya or Kinchan's yet, but I'll let you know what I think in the upcoming weeks.

Anonymous said...

Amy! It's not just my opinion that Chabuya has the best ramen this side of the Pacific Ocean. According to the February 2006 issue of Angeleno Magizine, it's named as one of the "Top 10 Hot Spots" in Los Angeles. I quote, "Cheap eats don't usually make this list, but everyone's raving about this hot new noodle import from Japan that recently arrived on Sawtelle's restaurant row". "This ultra-urban noodle bar...offers chef Yasuji Morizumi's original take on the art of the bowl ramen: a house broth brewwed to flavor using organic ingredients and packed with thin dente noodles. The interior is simple and tastefully zen...See ya, d.

Erin S. said...

Thanks for the detailed review--many places along Sawtelle reside on my to eat list, but I so rarely make it out that way at mealtimes. Oh, the woes of an Eastsider. Anyway, it makes me smile to read about not wanting to wait in the cold--much better here in February than most of the U.S.! :)

Anonymous said...

i can't decide whether "d" is the owner or manager of chabuya.