Restaurant Review #114: Kinchan's, Sawtelle, West LA

Shiitake ramen

Update: Kinchan's has permanently closed.

Everyone has their favorite ramen house on Sawtelle. Non-grocery store ramen is new to me, so I've been on a mission to try them all--a mission that coincides nicely with my mission to eat at just about every restaurant on Sawtelle.

Ramenya is closed on Wednesdays, so I ended up at Kinchan's. It made no difference to me, really, since I hadn't tried either before.

I got the shiitake ramen to go. My order was ready very quickly, and the service was friendly. The restaurant looked a bit cramped and didn't have a whole lot of atmosphere. The ramen was good at first, and they sure didn't skimp on the mushrooms, but the flavor quickly became one-dimensional, with the dominant flavor being salt. The noodles were better than Chabuya, but not nearly as good as Asahi, but it depends on the texture you like. I'm an al dente kind of gal, but Kinchan's noodles were fully cooked (though not overcooked). I was pleased by the abundance of shiitakes, but the snow peas were soggy.

The soup also contained tofu and beef in small quantities. There wasn't a lot of broth in this ramen, and I'm not sure if that had something to do with getting my order to go or if Kinchan's just isn't big on broth. Eating the ramen out of the styrofoam it came in proved to be a surefire way to repeatedly burn my tongue (styrofoam really does keep the heat in) so I had to transfer my food to a bowl (dishes, boo!). As far as portion sizes go, I could have made two meals out of this (of course, wet noodles don't keep well at all), but I could probably feed three or four of me with a bowl from Asahi.

The soup came with a side of what may have been daikon pickles. They were an almost mustardy yellow and had a flavor that can only be described as "why white people eat at P.F. Chang's." I've liked daikon pickles at other places, like Yakitoria, but these had a sweet, musty flavor that made me wince.

Verdict: I'd rather wait in line at Asahi. Only one more ramen house to go! I have a feeling Asahi will win, though.

2119 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025


Anonymous said...

Amy, I think your dead wrong about Chabuya. It is the best. Angeleno magazine agrees (February 2006). They have listed it in the "TOP 10 HOT SPOTS". The noodles are especialy made for them. In Japan they have won several awards and they are also wildly considered the best. d.

Foodie Universe said...

I personally don't put a lot of stock in magazine's opinions of restaurants. Maybe I will try Chabuya again in the future. I will say that I am not the only one who isn't impressed with it though--have you noticed how empty the place is most of the time? They also cut back on their hours--when they were brand new, they were open seven days a week, but now they are closed on Sundays.

Anonymous said...

I went to Chabuya today (Friday) just before 2:00 P.M. to re-evalueate. The food is delicious, it's upscale campared to the others.The architecture, ambiance is also unmatched. The noodles are absolutely superior. Just about every seat inside was taken. Asahi is not open every day and it's not as good as it was several years ago. I enjoy your comments. d.

eatdrinknbmerry said...

amy, kinchan's is still my favorite. mainly b/c the chef/owner is amiable. he knows me and makes it a point to ask how i like the food. i do agree, it's salty, which is why i don't get their shoyu/chashu ramen anymore. i like their cream corn ramen, but ramenya, actually makes it better. the thing about the sawtelle trio (excluding the newly born Chabuya) is that they all have their champion ramen bowls. i don't like asahi, but i do prefer their miso ramen over kinchan's, for example.

as with Chabuya, the place is definitely much quieter now since i went there during their grand opening. i haven't gone back since then b/c of a place called Shin Sen Gumi in Rosemead and Gardena. If you're ever in those areas, definitely give Shin Sen Gumi a try. Both Chabuya and SSG specialize in tonkatsu ramen, which bears a white/brown broth color and is served with tender slices of pork. I still like Chabuya though, but it's too pricey for such a small bowl of noodles.

Foodie Universe said...

Thanks so much for pointing out that each place has a specialty. That is an important point that I did not consider, and if you know what other places consider to be their best bowl of ramen, I would love to know. Also, thanks for the Rosmead recommendation. If you have any other recommendations for that area (including San Gabriel) please pass them along. I'd like to expand the scope of my site somewhat.

D., at your behest, I may re-try Chabuya sometime in the near future. I do love their atmosphere--it is one of only a few places on Sawtelle that you could go on a (still casual, but classier) date.

Anonymous said...

Kinchan's is now closed. There is supposed to be an okonomiyaki place opening up in that space, at least according to the sign in the window.