Sawtelle Boulevard is what I consider one of the food paradises of Los Angeles.
This stretch has gained a trendy reputation because of its many Japanese influenced lunch/dining options. Over the years, many ramen shops have started to pop in the area. It has reached the point that if you want wonderful ramen in Los Angeles, you have to stop by Sawtelle Boulevard.
This is one of my favorite areas in the big city and I am eager to share my Sawtelle ramen recommendations.
The ‘neighborhood’ comprises the portion of Sawtelle Boulevard between Santa Monica Boulevard and Olympic Boulevard.
This area is located very close to the most popular beaches in Los Angeles County. Santa Monica and Venice Beach are within a 7 miles distance (15-20 minutes’ drive). This is an ideal lunch stop for those touring Los Angeles and moving from the beach to Beverly Hills or Hollywood.
This one of the best places in the United States to have ramen (some assure this is the best place, period). Several Tokyo based groups have opened branches in here. If you are not flying to Japan anytime soon, satisfy your cravings in the Sawtelle area.
Here are the best restaurants in this famous Japanese enclave.
People rave about the ramen at Tsujita LA. If you do not believe me, just take a look at the lines that form outside the restaurant.
Tsujita serves tonkotsu ramen. For this variety, the broth is prepared by simmering pork marrow or pork bones for a long period of time. Their recipe was developed by a ramen master from Tokyo. Their broth simmers for 60 hours (oh, yes!).
You can choose between the char siu (topped with sliced pork) and negi (served with thin strips of green onion) options. It is possible to customize the noodle tenderness (soft, medium, hard) and add toppings (at an additional cost).
In addition, they serve Tsukumen, a dish where the noodles and the soup are served separately. The noodles are dipped in the soup before consumption. This is one of those “only in Los Angeles” dishes. This preparation is not that popular in other cities in the United States.
You can order the “plain” Tsukumen (a bowl of soup and a bowl of noodles), the char siu Tsukemen (the noodles are topped with sliced of pork) and Ajimata Tsukemen (a soft boiled egg is added to the broth).
Exact Address: 2057 Sawtelle Blvd
If you cannot get into Tsujita, they have an annex across the street. The menus are pretty similar so, you will be able to get the same variety and quality. It is a good idea, to check the waiting list in both places (the restaurant and annex) and sign in on the shorter list.
Exact Address: 2050 Sawtelle Blvd
Daikokuya, a branch of the popular Little Tokyo noodle shop, serves highly regarded ramen too. They are one of the ramen pioneers in Los Angeles. Even though competition has become stiff, they have been able to keep their base of loyal finds satisfied (and full).
Their Daikoku Ramen is one of the most requested dishes. It consists of Tonkotsu broth infused with a special soy sauce, pork belly chasu, boiled egg (marinated overnight), bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and green onions.
They have spicy miso ramen (with pork broth and thicker than usual noodles) and Tsukumen available as well.
You have the option to get gluten-free noodles. Unfortunately, the Sawtelle Boulevard restaurant do not offer vegan options. The Little Tokyo, Monterrey Park, and El Monte location offer spicy sesame and tomato options. They top the soups with ingredients such as bean sprouts, carrots, and zucchini.
The place is known for ramen but you can rice bowls, yakisoba, chicken teriyaki and other appetizers/sides.
Exact Address: 2208 Sawtelle Blvd
Tatsu serves amazing Tonkotsu broth ramen. And this assertion comes from somebody who doesn’t like soups.
Tatsu’s Japan-trained chefs prepare the broth daily from scratch. Their broth simmers for 14 hours. Their kitchen is visible from the dining area. So, you can take a look at where the magic starts.
The fun starts by customizing your ramen using an iPad ordering system (a la Tokyo style). Then, you proceed to sit down while the chefs prepare the food in front of you.
You have the following options (most of the following come with pork chasu, soft-boiled egg, and noodles).
Bold Ramen – the base of this option is Tonkotsu broth
Cheeky Ramen – chicken based broth
Hippie Ramen – option for vegans
Old Skool Ramen – milder, less aggressive Tonkotsu broth
Naked Ramen – no broth
Red Ramen – includes tonkotsu broth and it is finished with a tangy red sauce
Soul Ramen – includes tonkotsu broth, black garlic oil, and umami sauce. This is my personal favorite
You do not have to feel constrained. This is the land of customization and you can have your bowl the way you want (spicy, sweet, vegan, etc). Toppings such as corn, garlic and seaweed are free.
Exact Address: 2123 Sawtelle Blvd
This different concept, by Tsujita, offers ramen featuring spicy and numbing characteristics. You can customize the spiciness level.
They serve three different ramen styles:
The Tokyo Style – chili oil, sansho pepper, sesame sauce, peanut butter, white sesame, ground pork, dry shrimp, bean sprouts, cashews and green onions
Downtown Style – This is pretty similar to the Tokyo Style but the flavor is a bit different since it includes vinegar.
Original Style – This version does not contain chili, sesame or nut ingredients. Because of that, the broth looks clear (not red like in the other options). The bowl is finished with a lot of black pepper.
I recommend taking it slowly on your first visit. My husband says these are some of the spiciest soups he has ever tried (and he had some crazy stuff in Thailand).
Exact Address: 2030 Sawtelle Blvd
Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen
This Sawtelle Ramen place is part of a restaurant group that has been in operation since 1992. They have developed several yakitori, ramen and shabu shabu concepts in several cities in Southern California. They have expanded operations to Tokyo.
The Sawtelle restaurant specializes in hakata ramen, a style that uses thin, non-curly noodles. There are plenty of toppings available to make your bowl of soup unique. In addition, they have rice bowls, fried rice and pan-fried noodles on the menu.
Exact Address: 1601 Sawtelle Blvd
Menya Musashi LA
This is the new kid on the block and judging from reviews, it has been a total success. Their most popular version is Tsukemen based of a chicken and pork broth. What blows people minds about this place is that the pieces of pork served are very thick (same call it huge) when compared to other ramen shops.
The opening in Sawtelle of this Tokyo-based restaurant consolidates the area as one of the best places to get ramen in the United States.
Exact Address: 2012 Sawtelle Blvd
Close to Sawtelle
I know I have given you enough Sawtelle ramen options but I cannot end the article without mentioning Dosanko Ramen. This restaurant is located only a couple of blocks away from Sawtelle on Olympic Boulevard.
They are known for serving Sapporo-style ramen which consists of a broth made with pork bones and white miso. Their bowls are served with ground pork (instead of pork slices). This is a great place to visit to expand your culinary palate.
Exact Address: 11555 W Olympic Blvd
Sorry if you are way too hungry now! On a serious note, if you are visiting Los Angeles, do not miss the opportunity to have a taste of authentic Japanese food while in the city.
More of Los Angeles
Sawtelle Boulevard is not only about ramen. Check out my complete guide of Sawtelle restaurants, to get a good idea of what options you have in the area.
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Have you tried any of these Sawtelle ramen places? What is your favorite?