Tsujita LA rose to the top of the L.A. ramen heap when Takehiro Tsujita started serving lunch-time only tonkotsu (and tsukemen) on Little Osaka’s Sawtelle Boulevard in 2012, but that wasn’t enough for the skilled Japanese noodle wrangler. His company opened a ramen-only Annex across the street to end April, featuring a plant-lined entrance and a row of congratulatory flowers from adoring supporters. Now, Tsujita LA is serving ramen to customers every day, and not just at lunch, but it’s not the ramen that Angelenos have come to love. In a surprise twist, they stowed away the scallions, nori, mushrooms and menma and introduced “heavenly new ramen noodle dishes” for the annex, instead of simply relying on what already worked. That’s a bold move. Then again, Tsujita LA is known for bold, uncompromising flavors. At the Annex, give your name to the hostess, place your order, and wait for her to call your name. At that point, an employee will lead you to a seat at one of the few tables, or at the counter overlooking the open kitchen. From there, enter slurping.
Tsujita LA Annex does have a version of Ramen with Char Siu, but as you’ll see, Tsujita’s “standard” ramen already has plenty of pork, so don’t bother. However, by all means order Ramen with Soft Boiled Egg ($9.95), which features deep flavor and a runny yolk. This bowl has thick, al dente noodles and a rich tonkotsu broth that’s floating with bits of pork fat and starts to form a film on top if you let the noodle soup sit still. Not that you will. Tender slabs of fat-rimmed char siu and a sizable mound of peppery bean sprouts top the mountain of ramen. They suggest adding a couple spoonfuls of fresh minced garlic and onikasu (red spice) “for extra flavor.” One Spoon = Good! Two Spoons = Great! Three Spoons = Awesome! Who wouldn’t want “awesome” ramen, so of course I piled on the red chile flakes, which delivered a spice that was by no means incapacitating. If you like, Tsujita staffers will even provide complimentary pork backfat, but that’s where I stopped short.
So far, I prefer the original Tsujita LA ramen, since I’m not a huge bean sprout backer, though there’s plenty to be said for the Annex’s new broth, noodles and kick. In the future, Tsujita LA Annex will also roll out Miso Ramen, so at this point, they’ve earned an INCOMPLETE on their ramen report card, but they’ve already earned a B+ or A- on the mid-term.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.