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Ramen

Gaja Okonomiyaki + Ryo Izakaya

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The Skinny:

Gaja is a Okonomiyaki restaurant that allows you to grill up Japanese style savory pancakes for Lunch or Dinner.  It’s located in the City of Lomita and sits in a tiny plaza next to two popular Udon Noodle shops.   Along with the Okonomiyaki and the vast variety of toppings, like Cheese, Seafood, and mystery Meats, you can also get Italian style Pastas, Soupy Noodles, and Beer.  A good time to go to Gaja is during lunch because they have specials where you get 3 personal size Okonomiyaki with 1 topping each, a side salad, and a drink for just about 15 bucks.

Ryo is a Izakaya not too far from Gaja and serves Japanese style Tapas, Sushi items, Ramen, and Yakitori.  It’s located in the Rolling Hills Shopping Plaza in Torrance and sits right in front of an AMC Movie Theater.  The interior has trendy old style wooden furniture and uses empty alcohole bottles as decorations.

The High:

Gaja was an interesting experience and cooking your own savory pancakes with a few friends is always fun.  We ordered their “Sparking Beer” which either has Blueberries or slices of Grapefruits. Both were good and refreshing.  Since I was in a party of 3, two of us ordered the lunch special to share and topped them with Cheese, Mushrooms, Scallions, Octopus, Teriyaki Chicken, and Shrimp.  I ordered some Takoyaki with a Spicy Sauce.  Of the 6 toppings that were ordered and shared, the Cheese was the best one, that is after we finally mastered the grill and made some decent well-done pancakes.    The way the Cheese crisped up on top of the stove was pretty awesome.   It was also fun seeing all the shaved Bonito flakes come alive as you place them on top of each cooked Pancakes.  The Takoyaki balls were decent and the spicy sauce needed more spice.

After Gaja, I went to Ryo Izakaya with a party of 4.  We shared Ramen with Pork, Yakitori items, a whole grilled Quail, Takoyaki, fried Squid Legs, Shrimp in Chili Sauce, Lamp Chops, Unagi, Asparagus in something-something sauce, and stewed Tendon in a spicy broth.  Of all the items that stood out, the stewed Tendon was my favorite.  It was gelatinous, tasty, and left a lovely sticky film on my lips.  The Ramen that one of us ordered had the thick porky broth and it was as good as those specialty places that only focuses on making really good Ramen.  The grilled items we ordered were the Chicken Hearts, Breast, Wings, Liver, Cartilage, a whole Quail and Lamb Chops.  The Chicken Hearts were pretty beefy in flavor while the Quail and Lamb Chops were both juicy, charred, and seasoned just right.

The Low:

I have no real lows about Gaja, it’s a fun place to eat at and once you master the grill, eating rare Okonomiyakis and half cooked seafood won’t be a problem.  You don’t even have to cook the stuff yourself, you can ask the waiter to have the in-house cook make it for you in the back kitchen.  Actually, one complaint I do have is that the Octopus came out raw and after grilling it with the pancake mix, it was super rubbery.  I think they should have precooked or prepped seafood items like that before hand so it’ll be easier to cook later.

At Ryo Izakaya, the tapped Kirin Beer during happy hour seemed to be really watered down.  It also came in a pitcher that has a pint size indent from the bottom for regular water to freeze up and keep the beer cold.  That’s just BS.  I didn’t really like the Chicken Cartliage, but only because it just isn’t for me.  Other than that, no real complaints about the environment or food.  The female waitresses were all friendly and the cook came out once in a while to see if the customers were cared for.

Would you come back?

Gaja: Only if I’m with a group of people. They have a menu that has as many combo items as a karaoke book has songs.

Ryo: Yes!  It’s a fun place to drink and eat among friends.

More Info: www.gajamoc.com | 2383 Lomita Blvd. Ste 102 Lomita, CA 90717 | (310) 534-0153 | Ryo-zan Paku | 2589 Pacific Coast Hwy. Torrance, CA 90505, Torrance | (310) 530-8720

MJ

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Little Tokyo: Orochon

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The Skinny: Orochon, the Ramen place that television host Adam Richman of “Man v. Food” visited and placed on the Travel Channel so viewers can see him drip away like the Wicked Witch of the West.  The restaurant is known for a challenge that gives patrons 30 minutes to eat a spicy cesspool of molten hot broth full of Egg Noodles and more Jalapeno slices than a bowl of cheerios.  The payoff, if someone finishes it, is a free t-shirt and a Polaroid picture of them placed next to Adam on their Bulletin Board of Fame.  While I did try to take on the challenge and failed in front of Nom Nom Bobbie a year ago, I only went there today to eat lunch with Echo and Jazzy.  Since every food blogger and their 2nd cousin on Yelp has already reviewed Orochon, I might as well too.

Orochon offers 3 styles of broth to choose from, Miso (which is a thicker kind), Soy, and Salt base. You get to choose levels of spiciness, 7 being free of it, 1 being face melting hot, and  “Special 2” being the reason why you died on the toilet. Each order of Ramen automatically comes with slices of Pork, Green Bell Peppers, and Green Onions.  You can also add extras like a Boiled Egg, Bean Sprouts, Char Siu Pork, Butter, Garlic, and more.  While Ramen is their thing, you can get side dishes like sauteed Bamboo Shoots and Gyoza and then pair it with cold Japanese beer on tap.

The High: I do enjoy Orochon’s version of Ramen since I am a fan of clear based broths.  I like how they use Green Bell Peppers to influence the scent and taste of the overall broth.  It is simply tasty stuff and their noodles are decent.  Jazzy ordered the Miso base version with a Boiled Egg, Bean Sprouts, and Hyper level 2 spiciness.  I could tell he liked it because even after we paid the bill, he kept on sipping on the leftover soup.  Echo got the Salt based Ramen at level 4 and even though his face was melting off from the heat, he was still enjoying the tastiness of it all.  I got the Soy based broth with Char Siu Pork and Bamboo Shoots at the same heat level as Echo’s.   Like I mentioned before, the stuff is just tasty and the fragrance from the Green Peppers really adds something different to their Ramen in comparison to other styles that prefer that thick broth.  Also, that extra Char Siu Pork I ordered melted between my chopsticks…..not sure if that’s a good thing, but it tasted great!

With our orders of Ramen, Jazzy also got some Gyoza and while I didn’t have one, I do remember a few times that I did and they were delicious.

The Low: Orochon isn’t the best Ramen in the world, but that’s as low as it goes.  People will either love it, hate it, or think it’s whatever.

Would you come back again? Yes and I have.

More Info: 123 S Onizuka St. Los Angeles, CA 90012 | If you pay by card, be sure to order more than 20 bucks.  All 3 Ramen without any extras are under 7 bucks.

MJ


Gardena: Shin-Sen-Gumi’s Hakata Ramen

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The Skinny: Shin-Sen-Gumi is a brand name associated with a chain of high quality Ramen, Shabu Shabu, Sushi, and Yakitori restaurants in both Japan and the USA.  Hakata is a popular hot spot in Gardena that usually has a long waiting list.  The Ramen shop allows customers to customize their order by letting them use a sushi-like check-list where they can dictate how al dente the noodles will be and the strength of the broth.  You can also get combo meals by adding chicken fried rice, gyoza, and other stuff.  And if you’re still hungry after killing a bowl, you can order more noodles and broth without having to wait

I’m not sure I should even bother reviewing the place because many people have already done so and we all pretty much like the place.  Anyways….

The High: One of two things I enjoy doing while waiting at a Shin-Sen-Gumi spot, in this case Hakata Ramen, is to watch the awkward but endearing promo videos of the staff members acting out skits.  When I’m with friends, I always play the “where’s the cue card the poor employee is reading from?”  Since there’s always a wait, the 2nd thing I enjoy doing is putting a name on the sign-up sheet that doesn’t fit me at all.  One time it was “Tyrone” and the last time it was “Jethro” to represent the redneck that is in me.

As for the Ramen itself, I’m personally a fan of the kind that has a clear broth, but the stuff at Hakata is solid regardless.  If you like that thick porky broth with those melt-in-your-mouth char-siu cuts, you’ll love the stuff at Hakata.  I can’t say that I’m a dedicated fan of the stuff, but I certainly didn’t hate it.  Their chicken fried rice is as tasty as chicken fried rice gets as well.

The Low: My only complaint about Hakata is that their broth is sometimes inconsistent and the style of their noodles are little too thin for my liking.  But other than that, it’s all good.

Would you come back again? Sure, why not!  They serve beer!

More info: www.shinsengumiusa.com | 2015 W Redondo Beach Blvd. Gardena, CA 90247 | Credit Friendly | Expect to spend around 10 bucks per person

– MJ


Las Vegas – Monta Japanese Ramen

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The Skinny: This is the ultimate hole in the wall Japanese ramen restaurant in Las Vegas.  Many of it’s predecessors have tried and failed, but here we have standing Monta.  It’s a very simple restaurant, with an even more simple menu.  You have 3 broths to choose from, Tonkatsu, Shoyu, or Miso.  Then you add your toppings:  extra char siu, corn, mustard leaf, extra noodles etc.  Aside from the Ramen menu there are other things for those who aren’t that into noodles.  They have a pork belly rice, kimchi fried rice, gyozas, etc.  a small variety of dishes.  Very limited seating including a counter seating like in Japan.

The High: I always order the Tonkatsu Ramen.  To me it’s the most flavorful of the soups and takes the longest to make.  (I tried making it…..12 hours later, I went to Monta to order instead lol)  The Tonkatsu Ramen comes with 2 pieces of char siu, green onion.  I always add corn, mustar leaf and sometimes the soft boiled egg.  Your first encounter with this broth is OMG WHAT? It’s SO flavorful and delicious you can’t get enough of it.  Every bite has to have enough soup to go with it.  If you get super hungry you can order more noodles, except they won’t give you more soup if you run out.  I also tried the Gyozas which were handmade in house.  I loved them! I’m used to restaurant frozen from the bag gyozas, but these were fresh because we were watching them make it while waiting for our food.

The Low: It IS a large sodium intake if you eat it too often.  It also gets VERY hot in the tiny restaurant during the summer.  Hopefully they’ve fixed it.

Would you come back again? Absolutely! Anytime I’m craving Noodles, Monta is always the winner hands down, even over Pho :O

More Info: www.yelp.com.  Monta doesn’t have a website, but take a look at the yelp reviews and you’ll get the gist of the restaurant.  They do to-go, but you have to cook the noodles for about 3 minutes when you get home.  Still tastes the same.  How often do you do take out and it still taste as if you were eating it in the restaurant?

Sniper Tam *Pew Pew Pew*