Yusho (Las Vegas, NV)

Yusho
Monte Carlo Resort and Casino
3770 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 5/7/14

Yusho is one of the more notable openings in Las Vegas this year at the Monte Carlo. A Chicago transplant, Yusho’s original location became popular for its concept inspired by a Japanese noodle house/yakitori shop. Matthias Merges, who worked almost a decade and a half under Charlie Trotter, went a completely different route from his fine dining background for this one. Ramen, of course, is on the menu, as well as a number of grilled and fried items and a handful of steamed buns. The restaurant is very casual, colorful and playful. I was invited in, bringing my parents along to try.

14333153052 c64f0381e4 z Yusho (Las Vegas, NV)

14148200659 344358cf38 z Yusho (Las Vegas, NV)

Continue reading

Yamakase (Los Angeles, CA)

Yamakase
10422 National Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Dining date: 4/8/14

14087783936 695c032acf z Yamakase (Los Angeles, CA)

Yamakase has been on my radar since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. The restaurant is an invitation-only (request one here) “secret” Japanese spot serving high-end Japanese. The meal may be best described as kaiseki, but it’s not really; it’s moreso a progression of sushi/sashimi and small plates of whatever the chef wants to serve. The courses are definitely Japanese-centric but there are a handful with clear Western influences. As expected, the meal is omakase-only with around 20-25 courses; the price varies somewhere in the low $200s. It’s a BYOB only affair.

14110941755 1dd176945f z Yamakase (Los Angeles, CA)

The chef here is Kiyoshiro Yamamoto (Yama-san) formerly of Santa Monica’s The Hump which closed amidst a ton of controversy. Yama-san is a one-man show and the ten-seat bar curves around the kitchen giving everyone a full view of the preparation of the meal from start to finish. For the food-enthused, it’s as much a show as a meal. On this evening, Yama-san began by expertly breaking down a huge bluefin tuna loin, proceeded to prepare two Japanese hairy crabs for the steamer, then grated fresh wasabi root and shaved some truffles. It promised to be an exciting meal even before the first bite.

Continue reading

Ramen Burger (Los Angeles, CA)

Ramen Burger Pop-Up
Osawa
77 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101
Dining date: 9/8/13

9703648281 a9811cbacb z Ramen Burger (Los Angeles, CA)

Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Burger is America’s latest food mania since debuting just over a month ago. Shimamoto has served his burger a few times at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg, generating extremely long lines comparable to the cronut. Already, it’s inspired other restaurants across the country to create copycat versions in order to capitalize on the buzz. This past weekend, the Ramen Burger made its West Coast debut in a limited release (~500 burgers at Torrance’s Mitsuwa Saturday and ~300 at Pasadena’s Osawa Sunday). Even though the event was announced just a few days before the weekend, word spread very quickly and people came out for the burger…big time.

9703622111 48f05fea8e z Ramen Burger (Los Angeles, CA)

Saturday’s event had some of the longest lines I’d seen in LA for a food item with an estimated 1,200 people attempting to try the creation (many more were likely deterred upon seeing early images of the line). I decided to attend the Sunday pop-up in Pasadena; luckily, those lines weren’t nearly as long. Still, the wait-time for a burger was multiple hours, the majority spent in the sun on a day where temperatures approached the low-90s. The pros brought lawn chairs and umbrellas, making themselves comfortable for the long waits.

9703631675 f0cb7a716e z Ramen Burger (Los Angeles, CA)

Continue reading

Ikemen (Los Angeles, CA)

Ikemen
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St #108
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 1/28/13

8428088855 e834de3985 Ikemen (Los Angeles, CA)

Ikemen is the latest ramen chain to open up shop in Little Tokyo (following other notables Shin-Sen-Gumi and Men Oh Tokushima). Located in Weller Court (the plaza shared with super-spicy Orochon), it kind of replaces the recently-closed Chin-Ma-Ya. Ikemen’s first location opened up in Hollywood in late 2011; I’d read mostly positive things about the shop but never made it out to Hollywood.

8429176616 bfb8ce44a8 n Ikemen (Los Angeles, CA)8429179038 642e4b08f6 n Ikemen (Los Angeles, CA)

Ikemen isn’t your traditional ramen shop; it’s actually kind of weird (modern?). The philosophy is very clear (it’s painted on the wall) – they aim to create edgy and stylish ramen.

8429176996 461495f7f6 Ikemen (Los Angeles, CA)

The specialty is what Ikemen calls ‘dip ramen,’ essentially a tsukemen where you dip noodles into a warm broth before eating. Except, they call the soup au jus here, and an option for the Ghostbuster Dip Ramen combines this jus with heavy cream, truffle oil, roasted marshmallows. Yep. My coworker and I weren’t quite brave enough to go that route, and stuck to some of the slightly more conservative options. Continue reading

Ramen (Tokyo, Japan)

As everyone probably knows, there’s great ramen in Japan. It’s seriously everywhere, and the breadth and depth of options is impressive. I can’t think of a food in the US that is matched with such passion (obsession?) as ramen is in Japan. There are countless restaurants specializing in the dish, and it really seems hard to go wrong wherever one steps in.

I had my fair share of bowls…most everything I had was pretty good, summarized below.

Ippudo
Marunouchi Brick Square B1F
2-6-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6990

8378474363 696e89bbd0 Ramen (Tokyo, Japan)

Ippudo was a must-visit for me; I mean, it’s now one of the most famous noodle houses in America. It’s very famous in Japan too, where the Fukuoka-based shop has expanded to 40+ locations around the country. The only location I tried (multiple times) was across the street from the office and in the same plaza as a La Boutique de Joel Robuchon (and San Francisco-based A16), in Marunouchi’s Brick Square.

8378471915 fd096edce7 Ramen (Tokyo, Japan)

Continue reading

Men Oh Tokushima (Los Angeles, CA)

Men Oh Tokushima
456 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 10/9/12

8073406627 25cf55e751 Men Oh Tokushima (Los Angeles, CA)

Men Oh Tokushima is the latest Japanese ramen chain to hit Los Angeles. Like the gourmet pizza/cupcake/burger, these shops seem to be popping up everywhere. However, the Little Tokyo scene has been rather quiet, with the likes of Tsujita, Yamadaya and Jinya opening up a presence outside of downtown. Sure, Shin-Sen-Gumi opened up a year ago to finally bring some competition (and relief for long waits) for stalwart Daikokuya, but there isn’t a whole lot of variety in the category (I dislike Orochon and find Mr. Ramen, Kouraku, and Chin-Ma-Ya to be second-rate at best).

Just this past week, Men Oh Tokushima opened their latest US branch in the Honda Plaza of Little Tokyo. They already have 12 locations around Japan and a couple in Northern California, so it seems like a successful concept. Their ramen is a little bit different from what I’ve had before, a shoyu-tonkotsu hybrid native to the Tokushima prefecture in the south of Japan. I’ve had both shoyu and tonkotsu (probably my favorite) separately but never together, so I was definitely intrigued. Standalone shoyu and tonkotsu broths are also available.

GYOZA pork pot-stickers

8073404474 911afa4f83 Men Oh Tokushima (Los Angeles, CA)

The gyoza had a delicate skin and a good balance of pork and cabbage. I would’ve liked more of a crusty sear on the pan-fried side though, and the fact that the gyoza rested in small puddles of its own oil resulted in some greasy, soggy dumplings if not eaten quickly.

KARAAGE japanese-style fried chicken

8073405576 ac36eeef6a Men Oh Tokushima (Los Angeles, CA)

The karaage came out piping hot with a great crust and moist thigh meat. They did a good job of trimming the skin and fat, leaving an ideal ratio of meat to fat. An addicting sweet/salty sauce of soy, sesame and scallions completed one of the best examples of chicken karaage that I’ve had.

TOKUSHIMA RAMEN house-made noodles in rich pork bone and soy sauce-based soup topped with Chashu Pork (simmered pork), Butabara (stir-fried pork belly), Menma (bamboo shoots), Negi (green onions), Raw Egg

8073403258 e938f65bbf Men Oh Tokushima (Los Angeles, CA)

The Tokushima ramen tasted, as advertised, like a rich hybrid of shoyu and tonkotsu broths. The milky pork broth was there, but the sweet soy depth was also present making something pretty unique for me. I enjoyed it (though I may like pure tonkotsu broths better), and the toppings were tasty too between the two different types of pork. I liked the noodles but thought they could’ve been just a tad more al dente, they were a bit soft for me…particularly as I finished the bowl.

TONKOTSU RAMEN house-made noodles in pork bone-based, salt-seasoned soup topped with Chashu Pork (simmered pork), Seasoned Boiled Egg, Menma (bamboo shoots), Kikurage Mushroom, Negi (green onions), Nori (seaweed)

8073409077 8b74c5fa2e Men Oh Tokushima (Los Angeles, CA)

I also wanted to try the pure tonkotsu, something more familiar and comparable in LA. I thought this one felt lighter in flavor than what I was expecting, though still with a nice fatty sheen on top. Bamboo shoots, scallions and mushrooms made things a little more interesting, but this broth lacked the depth that the Tokushima offered. Noodle-wise, I had a similar opinion with the texture, though I preferred them over the straight Hakata-style variety.

I thought Men Oh put together a pretty good meal. Their Tokushima ramen is something rather unique so it’s hard to directly compare, but I probably like the tonkotsu bowls at Daikokuaya and Shin-Sen-Gumi better (though I definitely prefer their tonkotsu over Men Oh’s tonkotsu). Having said that, Men Oh is something different and quite tasty on its own, so I’d say its worth a try (maybe for the chicken karaage alone). At the very least, I’m glad to have found another viable ramen shop in my neighborhood.