Is It Any Good?

A Ramen chain that I like I lot in Little Tokyo…

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I am sitting outside…and slowly roasting.

Not to death, mind you. Just till medium rare.

I’m sitting outside Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen’s Little Tokyo Branch and…even though it’s late, there’s a line to get in here.

Why? Well, good Ramen is good Ramen, even on a hot Summer’s day. (Plus, I think I’m coming down with something, so some good Tonkotsu sounds like a damn fine idea.)

But there’s that line, and even though I’m rolling in as a party of one. It’s going to be a while.

I sit again in Little Tokyo, a place that frankly…I’m kinda in love with. I love the history here. I can feel the tragedy walking down 1st Street. I can feel the weight of our Government’s ridiculous policy of locking our fellow citizens into Concentration Camps. It was a part of the American experiment that went wildly off the rails. It didn’t need to happen, but it did.

Now, Little Tokyo is transforming. The Japanese-American heritage, the place names, and (yes) the food are still there, but the neighborhood is a touch different. Everywhere I look, more and more Rental units are going up. Newly constructed. More and more, the old Japanese-Americans who’ve been here forever, are slowly leaving us, leaving this new Little Tokyo in their wake.

Shin-Sen-Gumi in Little Tokyo.

Still, it’s not all bad. The restaurants are hanging on. They’re still mostly Japanese. There are a few places that aren’t, and that’s…okay, I guess. I see the Pizza place across from the Far East Cafe and Farbar. The Lazy Ox was here, but now it’s gone. There’s a iteration of Spitz that actually serves Alcohol.

Across the street from the Japanese American National Museum was Señor Fish and the Spice Table. Both gone now. In it’s place, a new stop for the Metro. Next to that, a relatively modernish retail/commercial strip mall…with a Starbucks, a Quiznos…and Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen.

What one does for Ramen.

Like the location in Rosemead, Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen is not a huge restaurant, and generates a mess of business. It took about 20 minutes for me to get in. I sat at the bar…again, and got a good view of the Kitchen Staff. Tireless seems to be one word for these folks. Tireless, yet on the ball. The Staff was always around making sure I had what I needed. The food was prepared before my eyes and served up fresh.

Yeah, every bit the conscientious and precise Ramen place the Rosemead branch remains.

 

WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Well, I got the Hakata Ramen, and Hakata Ramen, according to the Company website:

Hakata ramen originated in Hakata city located north west of Kyushu . The main characteristic of Hakata ramen is the white, thick soup that is made from pork bones, also called Tonkotsu (pork bone) soup/ramen. Some of the other differences in character it has from other types of ramen are thinner noodles, and the simple decorative toppings of [Char siu], chopped scallions, red colored ginger, and sesame seeds.

I still like their Hakata Ramen. It’s not like you’re going to have a feeling of WOW, KAPOW. No. If you’re looking for a good bowl of Ramen, if you want to get a bowl of what your basic, straight ahead Ramen is, come here. You’ll get it. I like other places better, but I still like it here.

The Hakata Ramen at Shin-Sen-Gumi in Little Tokyo.

Just wish the wait was so–

anyway.

Because I only reacted “so-so” to the Gyoza I had at the Rosemead location, I decided to go with the Spam Rice Cake, which is kind of a Spam Sushi. Take good Sushi Rice, maybe a dash of sauce, put in a thin slice of cooked Spam. Put more Rice on top, and wrap the whole affair in Seaweed, and you’ve got yourself a real Hawaiian Treat. I like these things.

The Spam Rice Cake at Shin-Sen-Gumi in Little Tokyo.

Now, I’m not sure how they do it at Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen, but if you get the Spam Rice Cake here, it will come wrapped in Saran Wrap. I wouldn’t freak. I think it’s just to keep the whole affair together while they slice it up for you. But it’s one little extra bit of work you’ll have to put in to enjoy them.

 

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Remember, at Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen they give you a checklist, kind of like you’d find at modern Dim Sum joint. You check off what you want, what additions you’d like, hand it off to one of the Waitstaff and you’re off to the races.

The restaurant has a good system, even while waiting (and next time I’ll be sure to do this), you can fill out your form in advance (like at a good Dim Sum place) hit your seat and order in one fell swoop.

 

PARKING: I…did not do this right.

Because I was coming here for the first time, I parked where I knew, at the Japanese Village Garage across the street, which is gonna cost you about $10.

But Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen shares the lot with the Office Depot, and they do validate. So…go there. Don’t do what I did.

Shin-Sen-Gumi in Little Tokyo.

MAP DIRECTIONS:
Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen (Little Tokyo)
132 S. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Tel: (213) 687-7108

Hours:
Daily: 11:00 am – Midnight