Over the winter holidays, I was dragged on a trip to visit my cousins with whom we got along surprisingly well with. You know those obscure cousins you definitely have but have never met before in your life. I was dragged on another trip to see them only a couple weeks later, and overall it was a fun trip. LA is a really weird place for me for a myriad of reasons. It’s also one of the original bastions of ramen in the United States, so of course I was excited to be able to go. If it had been up to me, I definitely would have eaten at least one bowl a day, but alas, I only really had the opportunity to go to one.
After a lot of waffling and not nearly enough consulting the people I really should have been asking, we ended up going to Ramen Tatsunoya. There was the vague hint of a wait, but to be honest, it was the most enjoyable wait I’ve ever had for a ramen place. There’s just something about the consideration for customer service at a place like Tatsunoya that really is special. I don’t often talk about service because, ultimately, I’m there to shove noodles into my face, not to be pampered. That being said, Tatsunoya had a little sheltered area right outside where the line was in case you got rained on, a heater equipped under it to keep you warm at night while you wait, and a guy hanging outside handing out tiny cups of barley tea. Plus the line moved pretty fast.
I’m going to be honest. I completely forgot what menu item I got. I knew I was wavering between the rich Koku and the miso-laced Spicy. One of the weirdest things about thinking about reviewing Ramen while eating it is trying to figure out what the fairest thing to judge would be. I usually err on the side of picking whichever is recommended by the restaurant, or, in the absence of any guidance, default to whatever looks spicy. If I’m remembering correctly, I believe I got the Koku with added hot oil. I think. At the very least, I don’t remember a prominent miso flavor so either the miso blend fades into nothing or it was never there to begin with, and I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt considering the fallibility of my own human memory.
So how did it taste? Well, to be honest, it was good if lacking a little punch overall. I tend to find that a lot of soups that don’t have enough punch literally just need more salt. I’m sure there was plenty sodium to well-exceed one’s daily recommended intake, but if your salt isn’t penetrating the entirety of the bowl and cooked into the pork fat, it’s going to make the whole affair a little bland. There are some places that get away with a broth that doesn’t taste as salty, but it’s difficult. Like, let’s be honest here about tonkotsu. It’s not exactly the most subtle soup out there. It’s pork bones and dashi boiled until every drop of pork is extracted. I don’t know if you’ve ever had unseasoned meat, but it’s a pretty unfun experience to eat. At least seolleongtang (Korean ox-tail soup) is served unseasoned with the intention of seasoning to taste at the table at the time of eating.
Without salt, the oil and the fat lose purpose and edge. The pork flavor is not as pronounced. It’s entirely possible that the increased presence of back fat reduces the ability of the salt to penetrate the soup, considering I had a sip of the lighter broths and found it honestly had more clarity of flavor to it.
The noodles were, on the other hand, unquestionably very good! Not really sure what to say about them beyond that they had the exact amount of chew and firmness expected. As a wise man once said, “Ahhh! I love the feelin’ of noodles slidin’ down my throat! Sweat drippin’ over my face!”
The pork chashu was also memorably tasty. Soft, supple, melty fat and a little chew to the meat. Definitely didn’t slack in the flavor department here. Good chashu is like a well-placed sticker: it’s not necessary, but it really does make things feel complete, like the world has clicked into place for a single moment.
Also the chili paste. God I love chili paste. I added enough to my soup to give it that kick it needed, and was subsequently much, much happier. Honestly, if this place was close by, I absolutely would not be upset. I would absolutely visit on a weekly basis.
Oh and the sink was alright, if not very memorable.
Ramen Tatsunoya is B-Tier.
Ramen Tatsunoya’s sink is B-tier.