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
2027 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
11:30-9:00 daily, closed Thursdays