Thursday, July 23, 2009

The new kid in town: Ramen California

by Ivy

For Ramen purists, the new kid in town may be a bit appalling. He's got a new organic swagger that will fend off the loyal tonkotsu/shio, AKA porky broth fans. For the one's who are a bit more open-minded to new flavors and flavor combinations, Ramen California could be your new friend that shows you how to strut in skinny jeans and skip class. This interpretation isn't as deeply rich, creamy and heady as the original version, but it's not trying to be anything like the old and tried--it's daring to be different. Everything about this place bursts with creativity and even touches upon a bit of molecular gastronomy(he's friends with Ferran AdriĆ ) as innovative chef Shigetoshi Nakamura offers you his culinary adventures.

“One day, I want people in Japan to think of this as California-style ramen.” Love or hate the results, what Nobu did for sushi, Sean might well do for the slurpy stuff.
-Rameniac on Shigetoshi "Sean" Nakamura

Here are some shots from two different visits. Sorry for the quality--I used my camera iPhone on both occasions.

Original Ramen California with 20 varieties of vegetables.
For the Vegetarians, you can get this without grilled chicken.
It comes with an intensely focused and clean chicken broth--
instead of the usual pork broth ramen is known for.
It also comes in 3 sizes(small, regular, large)

My first reaction before seeing it was, "I don't think I even know 20 different vegetables". Now I know! The bowl is filled with nibbly bits of edamame, carrots, cauliflower, baby corn, squash, beets, radish, arugula etc all either fresh, blanched or steamed to perfection--it's feels like a ramen with salad thrown in--oddly enough it works for me.

After all, an artist needs quality materials to work with and not only a great concept--the chicken broth is incredibly clean and pure--a standout base for all its dishes at Ramen California.

The 2nd visit for dinner, which was last night...

We were given complimentary Rosemary Kashi bread. This was pretty damn farkin' delicious. BUTTERY with an all-around crunch, sea salt mohawk on top, fluffy... Somehow they surprise you more by the texture within, more bread twirled on the inside. I could just come back for the rolls. Mmmmm

Here's the next ramen I tried.
I've heard this one sells out alot...
Reggiano Cheese-Tofu Ramen.

After my friend ordered the Reggiano Cheese-Tofu as a Tapas dish, we realized the tofu and cheese had been blended together to form a sauce.

Based on friends' reactions, I think this dish wouldn't go over well with somedue to the yogurt-like texture who ordered it tapas-style. However, I liked it.......... inside the ramen. I was confused whether to mix the sauce into the soup or dip the ramen into the cheese-tofu sauce--I ended up doing both. Also, there was an edible flower in my soup which I found to have a definite citrus taste to it(pic: see the orange spot in the greens?)! Quite original and summery.

But after comparing the two, I still prefer the original Ramen California with 20 vegetables sans cheese-tofu sauce. However, the cheese-tofu sells out the most.

Overall, I really liked it and definitely would go back--I still can't turn my back on tonkotsu or shio broth ramen. I like what it's trying to do--but I know it won't replace the good old hat. For the uninitiated, I wouldn't go in with any expectations of what ramen should taste like but go to experience a new culinary branching and artistry with, well, ramen! Their concept lies in "organic"--so they also have an offering of organic wines and lighter, brighter healthier ramen. Everything about this place feels fresh! I'd still like to go back and try their heirloom tomato ramen and Masala ramen and various proposals of Japanese-inspired tapas(carpaccio, oysters!).

Other related links worth reading:

Ramen California
24231 Crenshaw Blvd. Unit C
Torrance, CA 90505
(310) 530-2749
Tuesday - Sunday, closed Mondays
Lunch: 11:30am - 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:30pm - 10:00pm


  1. Good stuff Ivy! I too have tried Ramen California and had similar opinions. Les and i actually ended up there by chance on their very first night! We were actually really craving Chabuya which use to inhabit that space in Torrance Crossroads. We were so sad to find that Chabuya was no longer there but decided to try it out anyway. I liked it much more than Les and co. but i think that's purely because of the healthy point of view. I am totally in love with the Rosemary rolls also! So delicious! I think in terms of the Ramen, it's just okay since let's face it the chicken broth is never going to be as good as pork broth. Even if you are a Ramen GOD!! I think the other items on the menu are more intriguing. You should try the Marsala Ramen. We heard from the staff that it's the chef's secret recipe. So secret that when he's not working there it's off the menu because he doesn't even tell his staff!!

  2. I have been DYING for a good ramen place out here after frequenting a popular one in the valley some time ago. I can't wait to try this. The main reason I don't eat ramen is because it's so fatty. Thank you for this post: I'm excited to try it! I think when I go, I'll get what you got.

    How are the prices? Low? High? Moderate?

  3. Hmmm....What can I say to not make me look like a douche (I guess this first line didn't help)...Anyhow, when I think Ramen, I don't think of California Ramen. Sure thier chicken broth is good and the noodles are pretty awesome, but it doesn't satisfy that primal urge inside of me to rip through a piece of meat. I guess what I am trying to say is that although the ingredients are good (very fresh and from local farmers), when someone says "let's get ramen" this wouldn't be my first pick (or second, or third, etc.,)...I guess if it were marketed as something else I may enjoy it, but not for "ramen". On a side note, if I did want noodles in a broth base soup and something healthy, this would be near the top of the list. Great review though Ivy, I'm totally with you on the bread (been there a couple times and it was better than I remembered from the last time).

  4. @Emi I think you are absolutely right about the chicken broth! haha.

    I know some people have complained about not being able to eat pork, so this might be a good alternative for those people. Now where can we find a good beef broth ramen? Haha

    Wow.. I didn't know that about the Masala ramen being a secret recipe! I totally have to try it! I was thinking next time I'll order two small ones so I can try the tomato and masala.

    I've only been to Chabuya once. Were they doing bad? Their ramen was pretty decent too.

    @Jax make sure to let us know if you liked it! :) I'm so curious to hear what you think of it.

    Prices are moderate and on par with other ramen joints.. like $9 for a regular-sized bowl of ramen. Having eaten with you, you may suffice with a small bowl for around $6-7. My petite friend, who isn't big on noodles, liked the small size.

    @Les You douche! Sorry, you self-proclaimed it--I couldn't resist. Hehe.

    Yeah, it's not meaty. It's definitely not Tonkotsu(I love SANTOUKA!). What ramen places do you like?

    I'm pretty sure Ramen California appeals to the more yoga, health-conscious set.
    The rolls are GOOD. lol. They remind me a little of chinese bao bread too.

  5. You have to take me to the ramen place when I'm in town. The reggiano-cheese tofu ramen looks yummy.

  6. Ok. Hehe. Come over here you Vegas fool!

  7. yumyum! that snapper was so yummy yesterday!!!