Friday, February 15, 2013

A bowl of noodles - and temptation averted

Yesterday I made a point of getting out of the office. I was craving a bowl of noodles. I couldn't think of a place near work, but Sawtelle Boulevard is just a short drive away, so off I went to Little Osaka.

Kara kara ramen at Chabuya
Once a quiet neighborhood of Japanese nurseries, shops, and small groceries, Sawtelle is now teeming with artisanal noodle shops, Asian-fusion restaurants, and even a gourmet burger joint. Sprinkled among the older karaoke bars and sushi joints, there are Japanese toy stores, boutiques with edgy tee shirts and accessories, frozen yogurt shops and boba tea places.

Sadly, some of the older Japanese groceries are gone, their windows papered over while inside construction workers put the finishing touches on the newest Japanese fusion gourmet burger establishment.

But in one multi-level strip mall, you can still go buy Shiseido cosmetics, houseware, bento boxes and Japanese gummy candy at the Nijiya Market.

I'm always fixed with indecision when I go to Sawtelle. Do I want artisanal tonkatsu noodles at Tsujita? Or should I still with the old-timey ramen joint, Asahi Ramen? Sushi at the venerable Hide Sushi? Or vaguely frenchified cusine at Sawtelle Kitchen? 

This time, I picked Chabuya, a noodle joint on the east side of the street. It's named after a famous Tokyo Ramen shop, and claims to serve Tokyo-style ramen, which is made with pork and chicken stock flavored with dashi (seaweed and dried bonito stock) and soy sauce, or shoyu. Egg noodles in the broth are topped with a variety of extras - slices of roast pork, called chashu; strips of dried nori, bamboo shoots, chopped scallions, and sometimes a boiled egg. There are an assortment of condiments, too, from sesame seeds to pickled ginger and chile paste.

Ramen is a very casual meal - noodles and soup and accompaniments. In Japan, despite the prevalence of instant ramen with its packet of salty flavoring and the ubiquitous block of dried noodles, real ramen is handmade and each region has its own style. This aesthetic has moved to Los Angeles, thus the odd phenomenon of celebrity "ramen chefs" and artisanal noodles.

Chabuya's ramen offerings included one named "Bruin" after UCLA, and another named after a fraternity - so clearly there is a connection with the university that's just up the road.

I chose the Kara Kara Ramen, which includes spicy ground pork along with the toppings. My bowl came topped with lovely fried crunchy slivered garlic.

And then I did something totally out of character. It has to do with this little 6 oz. bottle. The rest of the story is HERE


Sue (Someones Mom) said...

You are so lucky to have so many choices...choices of places to eat, to walk, to visit, to shop. We have several restaurants for small town Illinois, but most are chains and not interesting. I followed the link...confused? Do you have 2 blogs or am I just having an afternoon, I need sugar, dense moment?

Anonymous said...

Love Sawtelle! There is now a pizza joint too - totally out of character - but the pizza was surprisingly tasty and pretty cheap

Aunt Snow said...

Hi, Sue,

It's another person's blog I contribute to.

Jen on the Edge said...

Oh yum. Now I want noodles for dinner.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I had a hankering for pho last Thursday, so I went to a recently opened Vietnamese restaurant a few miles from my house for lunch. It was worth the trip.

One of my favorite movies is Tampopo, which manages to spoof westerns, "Rocky" style sports movies, and gangster films while focusing on food. It's been a while since I've seen it, but it really stuck with me.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Now I understand why I have been craving ramen: there is something better out there than the stuff my kids eat every day after school!

When we lived in Germany, there was a group of us who would get together several days a week for a beverage while waiting for it to be suppertime. We had a rule: the 6 o'clock train -- we didn't open the beer and pour until the working folks would be getting off work and coming home. One of the women in the group, Crystl, occassionally got home at 5pm. When she showed up early, we called it the "Crystl factor" and called it an early evening, but otherwise, we waited until 6pm.

Sometimes, I think the idea of waiting for the "six o'clock train" is what keeps me from having a glass in the afternoon.
All that to say, I feel for your current situation.

Anonymous said...

YIKES! I recognized that bottle right away. Sorry about your job going away - hopefully you have some prospects? Man I miss the cultural choices of my old home state! Glad to live vicariously through your lovely posts though.

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

Last week when I was sick, sick, sick I was craving a giant noodle bowl from my favorite place in Minnesota, Tanpopo Noodle Shop. Have yet to find a good place here in Florida so I had to settle for miso soup. I'm always envious of your food posts!

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

Oh! Speaking of food...I found this place that you NEED to go. Take one for the team and go have a strawberry filled donut!!!