Ramen Yamadaya Comes Between Santouka & I


My dearest Santouka,

We had a nice run, but I’ve met somebody else.

This Fat Guy.

After months of construction, and weeks of countdown signs with questionable math, Ramen Yamadaya finally opened their doors on Washington & Sepulveda on Saturday. A Torrance transplant, with the highest endorsement there is in the ramen world, the excitement for Yamadaya has been pretty intense- even though the westside is not the ramen deprived wasteland of, say, the pre-Jinya valley.  After all, while some ramen snobs get positively burger’ish about the best bowl noodles in Southern California, most people choose their ramen spots by location.  If you’re Downtown, and have a lot of time on your hands, you go to Daikokuya. Mid City? Robata Jinya.  The Valley? Ramen Jinya. Westside has always been owned by Santouka. And if you live in Torrence you go to- oh, who am I kidding. If you live in Torrence, you’re not reading what a short fat Jewish guy thinks about pork bone ramen.

In other words, I’m not here to proclaim Yamadaya the greatest bowl of ramen in the entire universe. Better than this. Better than that. (I’ll leave that to the experts.) But, as a resident of Culver City, and a lover of tonkotsu ramen, I can safely say that it was good enough on day 4 to (easily) be in consideration for go-to ramen king of the Westside.


If yesterday’s lunch was any indication, this place will likely have Daikokuya’ish lines in no time at all (we got there a little before 1pm and waited about 20 minutes to be seated.)  Not surprisingly, service is a bit harried- so if you are in a rush or bad service really bothers you, give them a little bit of time to work everything out before you rush over. They have some work to do service-wise.  The one thing that doesn’t need work is the food.

You have your choice of four different soups, all made from the same tonkotsu style pork bone broth.


The standard bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen ($7.95).


The Tonkotsu Kotteri Ramen ($8.45), which is the same as above but with an extra scoop of pork fat- giving the broth an extra layer of porky sheen.


The Tonkotsu/Shoyu ramen hybrid ($7.95), which is the same as the above but with soy sauce and black sesame paste (recommended for those who like things extra salty.)


And spicy ramen ($7.95), which comes with a scoop of chili sauce.   You don’t really get much pork in the regular orders of soup, so if you want more meat, you can get the chashumen ($9.95, and you get extra slices of pork) or the Yamadaya “All Star” ($9.95) which comes with more of everything, and can be ordered with any style broth.  (The photo you see above is an all star bowl, ordered spicy.)

The broth is everything you want from a tonkotsu broth (rich, porky, salty, fatty) but where Yamadaya clearly pulls ahead of Daikokuya (and Santouka for that matter) are their noodles.  The straight white noodles are excellent (and they can be ordered extra firm if you like your ramen with a good bite.)


Not enough food?  For an extra $4.50 you can add kara age (fried chicken) *and* a chashu pork bowl…


…or kara age  *and* a curry rice bowl.  When a place is only open for four days, you would forgive them for not frying things well, or having the spices perfected- but no such disappointment from Yamadaya.  Their kara age was pretty freaking great (dare I say, better than Chin Ma Ya!?) and the two rice bowls were really tasty as well.  It’s a shit ton of food for the price, but quite frankly… how can you not?


And that frying carries over to the bento boxes as well.  Their katsu is also scary good, and for $6.80 it’s kind of a lunchtime steal if you’re not in the mood for ramen.



The menu is labeled a “soft opening” menu, so if you are used to the Yamadaya in Torrence you might be disappointed. For example they didn’t offer us garlic to crush into our soup (maybe if we had asked they would have given it to us, not sure?)  But they promise that more things will be added to the menu soon, including their thick noodles (which they promise will be introduced in a couple of weeks.)  The space is also much larger than the original, and the decor is slightly more modern- so you won’t feel as transported to Japan.

Breaking up with somebody is never easy, especially when a relationship has been so going so strong and so intense for so long. But sometimes you just have to go with your gut. And my gut’s telling me that it’s over. What I had with Santouka was great, but I think I’m ready to move on.  Is this new relationship going to be forever? Or am I just infatuated with the newness of it all? Who knows. But for now, it just feels right.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • For authentic Hakata style ramen, it doesn’t get much better than this
  • The noodles are way better than Santouka or Daikokuya
  • The katsu and kara age are surprisingly excellent (especially for only being open a few days)
  • The combo is a shit ton of food for an extra $4.50. You could easily share between two people.

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I don’t eat pork, so I’ll be sticking with Jinya
  • I prefer miso ramen to tonkotsu ramen.  (i.e. this shit is too greasy and too porky!)
  • So much of what I loved about the original was the decor. This place is too big!
  • I like the food court vibe, and variety you get at Santouka
  • One slice of pork in the regular bowl of ramen?  That is soooo not enough.
  • FUTURE GRIPE: An hour wait for ramen?!  Fuck that. (Yes, this place is going to be that packed.)

Ramen Yamadaya, 11172 Washington Blvd, 310-815-8776



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    Had lunch here yesterday, alone, no wait, sat at the bar. Loved the broth, loved the noodles, both better than Santouka. But for the chasu alone, I prefer Santouka’s slippery cuts. Still, Yamadaya will be my new neighborhood ramen preference.

  • Next time I’m in LA, going here straight from the airport.

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