Shin Sen Gumi is Now Open on Sawtelle; Here Are 5 Reasons To Go
I think it’s safe to say that Sawtelle Blvd, in West L.A., has become the ramen capital of Southern California. While practically every neighborhood in Los Angeles now has a decent ramen option, Sawtelle has practically every ramen option all on one street. Want to eat the best bowl of Tonkotsu ramen or tsukemen dippings noodles in the city? Go to Tsujita. Want a pork fat infusion from the place that held that distinction before Tsujita, and has better rice bowls? There’s now a Daikokuya on the strip. Infamous Jiro style ramen, with fatter noodles? Tsujita Annex. Soup-less ramen? Tatsu has you covered. And if you long for the days when L.A. didn’t know what a great bowl of ramen tasted like, there’s always the throwback assari-kei ramen at Asahi where you choose between shoyu, shio, or miso (although you’re probably better off driving the extra 3 miles to Santouka.)
So where does Shin Sen Gumi, the Gardena based hakata style ramen chain with locations in the SGV, Fountain Valley, and Little Tokyo, fit in to all this madness? When they opened up Downtown their only competition was Daikokuya, making it an easy sell. But their newest location just opened on the little extension of Sawtelle just north of Santa Monica, blocks away from some of the best ramen in the city. Here are 5 reasons you’d want to end up at SSG…
1. Customized broth – There are few things more satisfying than a bowl of tonkotsu ramen, dense with extra ladles of pork fat. But nobody would ever say it’s a good remedy for a cold, like Chinese wonton soup or Korean kalguksu. But sometimes you’re looking for something a bit lighter, and SSG is perfect for that. You get to choose your “oil” level (code for pork fat) and “base” (code for saltiness) which is perfect for that person who still wants a porky soup but might be fighting off the sniffles. Throw some boiled wontons in there from the toppings list and you’ve got the best of both worlds- wonton soup with ramen broth. Which brings us to the next reason why you’d choose SSG over the other places on Sawtelle…
2. Toppings! Nobody would argue that SSG’s tonkotsu broth is more complex than Tsujita or porkier than Daikokuya (even if you go big and check off thick oil and strong base.) But if you’re into toppings, nobody beats Shin Sen Gumi. Every bowl of soup comes with chashu pork, pickled ginger, green onions and sesame seeds, but if you want more SSG has a menu of over 20 extra toppings to choose from, including bamboo, corn, two kinds of egg (hard boiled and poached), pork cutlets, various seaweeds, pastes and butters. Each costs $1-3, and can definitely add up quickly, but they all come in a separate little container. So the best move is to go with other people and share the toppings.
3. Half bowls – And if that wasn’t enough customization for you, they also offer half bowls of ramen for just $4.75. The downside of the half bowl is that it doesn’t come with a ton of noodles and they won’t allow you to add extra (a clear cut case of “that’s how they getcha!”), but the upside is you have more stomach space for…
4. All the ridiculous fried shit – SSG has all the standard side dishes like fried rice, chashu don, and saboro don. (Aka the stuff that Daikouya does incredibly well.) But they have a ton of other crazy fried shit that you’re not going to find at any other ramen place on the strip. They do six kinds of karaage for $5.50 each, and have a menu of $3.50 tapas with close to 20 different items that range from totally normal (takoyaki, agedashi tofu, edamame) to just plain wacky (deep fried bacon butter croquettes and jack cheese egg rolls.) Not all of it is great, but it makes for a far more fun meal than just your typical bowl of ramen.
5. And finally… the location! The main stretch of Sawtelle, which extends from the Sushi Stop just south of Olympic to Plan Check just south of Santa Monica, has become a madhouse. Parking can get insane and lines at most of the ramenya are not uncommon these days. The new Shin Sen Gumi is not only north of Santa Monica, completely away from the Sawtelle strip, it’s on the larger side and hasn’t entirely been discovered yet. Not sure how long it will stay this way, and if Tsujita Annex is any indication the answer is: “not long”. But for now it’s worth taking advantage of the easy street parking and lack of lines.
Shin Sen Gumi, 1601 Sawtelle Blvd