Interesting how the two premier L.A. tsukemen specialists couldn't be farthest apart in their approaches. On one side there is IKEMEN with chefs sporting fedoras and listening to 70's Rock music that create dips inspired by Hollywood movies... And then there's Tsujita L.A. with a more formal approach that would make you think they're actually a fancy Kappo restaurant that happens to serve ramen and tsukemen by day (I've only discovered recently how their dinner menu is entirely different). The dress code behind the counter at Tsujita? White itamae style coats and headband.
Like who's heard of ordering Omakase
at a ramen-ya?! Haha. In any case the first time I made effort to eat at
Tsujita L.A. it was only half-hour past opening time and there was
already a large waiting crowd out. That time I just decided to drive on
by. This day though I made sure to be there at 10:59AM, a minute before. I was still seventh or so down the list.
order was actually taken before entering by the efficient waitress.
Since I knew I'd be going to Ikemen afterward my conservative order was
the Aji-tama Tsukemen (their tsukemen with flavored egg, $10.95).
At least for lunch it was nice to know that the vibe was pretty much
classic ramen-ya. (Dude, the chefs were like ON.) A slightly
weathered counter that is a visual reminder of loyal patronage with
giant pitcher of ice water set to the side. Your chopsticks and renge spoon perches and a
surprising amount of condiments for L.A. standards from benishoga (pickled red
ginger), karashi takana (spicy pickled mustard greens), shichimi, soy
sauce, rice vinegar... They even had those cute hand-cranked grinders filled with roasted white sesame seeds that I honestly haven't seen
outside of Japan (you can get them at Daiso though).
this was the regular portion and it was pretty plenty! The photo is a
little deceiving but basically the bowl is a good size ramen vessel
filled close to the brim with extra thick tsukemen-style noodles.
In Japan (the shop known as Nidaime Tsujita (or "Second-Generation" Tsujita..)) they would be from Mikawayaseimen as most top tier ramen and tsukemen houses (at least those who don't make
their own anyway) but very respectable stand-ins delivered locally from Sun Noodle
are used here. Shock-chilled in cold water then quickly thoroughly
rinsed, they're impressively resilient with a good chew, maybe only
lacking slightly in fragrance (of pleasant milled flour) and flavor.
Also would be accompanied with Sudachi citrus but here the close cousin wedge of lime is used for sake of availability.
So let's have a dip and do some slurping. As expected pretty good! But it was actually maybe about 85~90% concentration of my first sampled few years back
during a showcase visit (before Tsujita had their current
brick-and-mortar shop). The style is the more ubiquitous extra-viscous
savory gyokai tonkotsu that is familiar, but Tsujita's version somehow I
feel I can eat multiple times without tiring. Maybe it's the light
acidity, maybe the subtle spices, who knows. But I definitely still
missed the crack-like more intense bowl I originally had that left me with such lasting impression.
it have been a rare off day, or maybe because I had one of their very
first bowls served the morning? Can't say for sure until I do a few more
consecutive visits but I'll probably end up having their ramen next
Other things noticed, gone were the domino-like thick pieces of menma bamboo shoots and instead the dark well-marinated version seen in the last Edo Soba served at Mitsuwa.
Still very good, just different. The eggs are the same jewel orbs of
soft yolkaliciousness flavored on the lighter side. Since this wasn't
the Chashu version there are only a few smaller pieces of the pork in the broth dip,
the fattier kind that melts and delicious.
through the meal I use the lime wedge for a change of flavor. The
instructions here say to squeeze over the noodles but I actually prefer into the broth.
Then at the very end when all the chewy noodles are consumed, you can
ask for a soup-owari to cut the dip with a stock so to enjoy as a soup.
The idea easy to see inspired from soba houses that do the same with
Soba-yu and your leftover tsuyu.
ごちそうさまでした！Hopefully it won't be another year before I visit again... :)
Checkout a nice writeup on Eat, Drink + Be Merry. And another quickie post from Go Ramen!
Tsujita L.A. Artisan Noodles, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025