6 Soup-less Noodle Bowls I’ve Come to Know and Love
If you go by the insane number of new ramen places that have chosen the beginning of summer to open their doors, you’d think June, July, and August were prime ramen eating months. And maybe they are for some? But for me this is actually the one time of year I don’t really feel like slurping down a hot bowl of liquid pork fat, served underneath a glistening sheen of more pork fat. Call it my version of the bikini diet. That’s why I got so excited about the Naked Ramen at Tatsu, the new order-from-iPads ramen spot on Sawtelle. All my favorite parts of ramen (the noodles, the pork, the scallions, the egg), replacing the hot broth with with breadcrumbs, lime juice, and a slightly sweet sesame soy sauce. It’s not cold, but it is still perfect for summer. I could eat this every day for the next 3 months.
Luckily I don’t have to! Here are 5 more soup-less noodle dishes I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks…
Tatsu isn’t the only ramen place that’s had a Grand Opening on Sawtelle recently… the newest branch of the quickly popping up everywhere Ramen Jinya finally opened just south of Olympic. They’re serving all the hot soups that made the original branch in Studio City so popular, including their chicken ramen and their special Black & Red tonkatsu bowls. But I think my favorite dish at Jinya right now (as it was when they opened their branch on Wilshire) is their Tan Tan Men. Sure, the bok choy and the red strips of red bell pepper are a little unorthodox, some would say “modern” perhaps? But it’s a great bowl of spicy noodles, and even though it’s far from health food feels way less heavy than Jinya’s tonkotsu.
I’ve always said that Vietnamese Bun is version of salad, aka the light lunch I eat when I’m feeling particularly fat. So it would also be wrong not to mention the bun at Nongla, the new Vietnamese place also on Sawtelle. The fresh noodles they use are a bit of a change from the typical boxed vermicelli you find at most places, and it won’t make you throw away your road map to the South Bay (do people even use road maps anymore?), but for L.A. proper it’s my favorite bowl of bun right now.
At lunchtime Downtown’s Suehiro Cafe is probably most known for their $4.20 lunch special, and make no mistake about it, it’s one of the best deals you will find in Little Tokyo (if not all of Downtown). But when you’re feeling for something a bit more refined, their zaru soba (which a commenter recommended to us many moons ago) is pretty refreshing. As you can tell from the photo, the best part is the handful of tempura crunchies they put on top.
Naengmyeon (aka Korean noodles in cold broth) is always a great summertime treat, but I prefer bibim naengmyeon- the spicy version which feels less like a cold soup and more like a noodle dish. My most recent bowl was at Gaju Naengmyeon, the kimbap place you may have read about on Squid Ink last month. I’m not qualified to render it the best in K-Town, but it’s pretty damn good, it’s only $7, and their kimbap is pretty killer.
I’ve been spending a lot of time at Mitsuwa Marketplace stuffing my face with tempura (for some reason the heat has not quenched my appetite for deep fried seafood and vegetables), and on my last visit I couldn’t help but notice that Santouka has brought back their hiyashi chuka for the summer. The noodles aren’t exactly the best thing about Santouka’s ramen, but they hold up much better in a cold sauce. Mix in the mustard with all the veggies, and boom. Simple, refreshing, delicious. And the two slices of special pork you get on top are pretty great too. It’s not good enough to draw me away from Hannousuke too often, but if I was there with a second person I’d suggest getting both and sharing.
Tatsu, 2123 Sawtelle Blvd. West LA. 310-684-2889
Ramen Jinya, Multiple Locations
Nongla, 2055 Sawtelle Blvd. West LA. 310-268-1881
Suehiro Cafe, 337 E 1st St. DTLA. 213-626-9132
Gaju Naengmyeon, 3839 Wilshire Blvd, Koreatown.
Santouka, 3760 S Centinela Ave. West LA. 310-391-1101