Food & Drink

Where to Slurp LA's Best Ramen Bowls

Hakata Ikkousha Ramen
Hakata Ikkousha Ramen | Ryusuke Umezu
Hakata Ikkousha Ramen | Ryusuke Umezu

Ramen isn’t quite as ubiquitous as burgers or pizza in the US, but it certainly should be. The crave-worthy noodle soup is easily one of Japan’s most delicious imports, and LA is one of the best places in America to get some. Whether you're after rich, pork-fueled tonkotsu, umami-enriched tsukemen, or brothless mazemen, your ramen options in LA are virtually limitless -- and that's not even counting the range of toppings on offer, from menma (marinated bamboo shoots) to kikurage (wood ear mushrooms). To make your ramen journey a little easier, we've narrowed the field down to 28 standout shops that run the gamut from the San Fernando Valley to the South Bay, the Westside to the SGV. Wherever you end up, don't forget: Slurping is essential.

Kazan

Beverly Hills
Luxurious Restaurant Row ramen bar showcasing serious noodles

Any restaurant located on the same block as Matsuhisa and Lawry’s needs to do something extra to stand out, and in Kazan’s case, that means serving high end bowls starring memorable house-made noodles crafted with a mysterious flour blend. Thin strands are aged for five days, cooked al dente, and carry enough tensile strength to (probably) pull a truck down the street. Kazan also serves thicker, fettuccine-like noodles designed for a creamy broth bombed with greenery and cheese, and crafts notably pricey ramen with whole chicken legs and lamb chops (when available), but start with their shio-based chicken and vegetable broth floating with firm pork shoulder chashu, delicate shrimp and pork wontons, and truffle oil. Stir in spicy yuzu kosho that rests on the bowl’s rim to bump up intensity.

Saikai
Jakob Layman

Saikai Ramen Bar

Koreatown
Mod new restaurant from the couple behind The Ramen Joint
Saikai Ramen Bar makes a surprisingly light shoyu tonkotsu ramen bowl, but mazemen is likely the best choice here. This broth-free ramen features spicy ground pork belly, nori strips, umami-boosting fish powder, crunchy julienne cucumbers, and a vivid seasoned egg yolk that seemingly floats above the center of the bowl like a specter and radiates like the sun. Mix to integrate the different flavors and textures. Saikai serves a bowl of steamed white rice at the end to soak up residual juices. As always, no flavor left behind.

Ramen Koo

Hollywood
A ramen upstart dares to take its bowls to unexpected places
This stylish, glass-fronted Melrose Avenue space touts a varied ramen menu with many atypical options, but we suggest starting with their spicy chicken miso ramen; it delivers a lip-coating broth with concentrated chicken flavor that grips thick noodles, as well as an entire chicken leg quarter, spinach, corn, cilantro, bean sprouts, and jolting squeeze of lime. Every table comes equipped with a jar of house-made, flame-orange sesame chile paste, which you should definitely tap into as it's actually not too spicy. Ramen Koo also offers a truly over-the-top "king" ramen with "extra rich" pork broth that comes loaded with King crab legs, shrimp, scallops, mussels, and lobster.

Mogu Mogu

West LA
A brothless counterpoint in an otherwise-brothy neighborhood

The ramen at Mogu Mogu is brothless mazemen, but the flavor definitely isn't missing. Curry and cheese versions are enticingly novel, but the “deluxe” bowl is clearly the smart initial play; thick, crimped noodles meld beautifully with thick-sliced pork chashu, spicy minced pork, poached egg, chives, minced garlic, fish powder, soft-boiled egg, Japanese leeks, and two types of seaweed. Stir to fully meld the different flavors, and pour on kombu and chile pepper-infused “umami vinegar” when you're halfway done to reinvigorate the cooling mazemen.

Iki Ramen
Jesse Hsu Photography

Iki Ramen

Koreatown
Longtime friends and industry veterans join forces on lighter ramen bowls
With a name that translates from Japanese as “cool” (and n/naka’s GM in the mix), it’s no wonder this airy restaurant shines brighter than its low-key strip mall surroundings. Iki specializes in tangy, highly repeatable yuzu shio ramen; yuzu zest and yuzu juice temper the richness from slow-braised Niman Ranch pork belly slabs, along with the standard accompaniments, all nestled in a clear, organic chicken broth made with house dashi. Add hanjuku (half-cooked) seasoned egg for a different taste of concentrated poultry flavor.

Ramen Josui

Torrance
Wonderfully savory tantanmen breathes life into a well-worn South Bay strip mall
This Nagoya-style ramen joint serves standout tantanmen that features spicy ground miso pork and house-made chile oil, either with or without soup. Soup is clearly the way to go, though, since the creamy, moderately spicy pork and chicken broth is so savory, finished with fish for an additional umami boost. Bean sprouts deliver another layer of crunch to the broth, which hosts a generous thatch of thin noodles. Josui translates from Japanese as “clean water,” and it certainly feels effortless to let their ramen broth wash over your palate.

Menya Musashi Ramen

Sawtelle Japantown
This place packs more pork into their tsukemen than previously thought possible

The owners named this Japanese import for a famous samurai, who historically carried two swords, and Menya Musashi’s signature tsukemen also delivers a one-two punch, but with pork instead of blades. In addition to big chunks of kakumi (braised pork belly), this place also tops its noodles with crispy fried pork cutlet and ajitama (marinated soft-boiled egg), as well as the usual toppings. The tsukemen also features an even richer, more concentrated broth than Menya's ramen, reduced for an extra 45 minutes. They do offer some relief; simply dress noodles with fruit vinegar (blueberries and strawberries) near the end, and servers can add wari, a lighter pork broth, to dilute the rich soup.

Ippudo

Santa Monica
Respected brand receives a big American push from a local fast food legend

This Japanese import built a loyal following in New York City and partnered with Panda Express for its stateside expansion, opening two LA locations since 2018. Ippudo's ramen is probably Santa Monica’s best, featuring a Hakata-style tonkotsu broth blasted with mysterious moto dashi, roasted black garlic oil, pork back fat, and umami-rich akamaru paste. "Akamaru modern" ramen delivers an added chile kick, along with thin noodles cooked to your desired firmness, thin-sliced pork belly chashu, cabbage, and sesame seeds.

Okiboru

Chinatown
This place takes tsukemen seriously, but still has fun with its “rules”
The tsukemen at this Chinatown staple takes three days to produce -- that's three times as long as the standard ramen, but it's worth the wait for a notably complex pork and chicken broth with shiitake mushrooms, dashi, smoked bonito and mackerel. Okiboru’s signature “big bowl” stars substantial pork ribs that are braised, grilled, and served with soft-boiled egg, piquant pickled radish, and a squeeze of lime juice for the noodles. The owners post a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” for eating dipping ramen on a blackboard; pouring broth over noodles or drinking the broth like soup is verboten, but slurping is fine. Our favorite advice: “Do look at your food angrily so it knows who’s boss.”

Momota Ramen House

University Park, Beverly Hills
Growing local brand delivers bold bowls to a ramen-starved college crowd

This successful LA chain's named for the owner’s favorite Japanese wrestler, but it definitely skips the pratfalls. The black garlic ramen is particularly satisfying, featuring tonkotsu broth that simmers for 16 hours, roasted black garlic oil, house-made chile paste, rich pork belly chashu, and gooey marinated soft-boiled egg. Sure, they’ve got standard toppings, but still accent with spinach and bright red (yet deceptively mild) chile threads.

MTN

Venice
Seasonal ramen at an imposing Abbot Kinney spot on a designer block
This Japanese-style izakaya occupies a dark wooden monolith on the neighborhood’s trendiest boulevard. MTN’s food is market-driven and variable, so don’t get too attached to any particular ramen, though they typically have at least five different bowls; we were impressed with their asari ramen starring clams, ginger, and pickled Fresno chilies in a vegetable broth. MTN also has rotating options like Dungeness crab and shoyu duck, plus a year-round house ramen that combines pork, chicken and duck consommé with pork collar chashu. The restaurant limits seating to high-top counter stools with no backs, which doesn’t exactly encourage lingering and may spur a chiropractic appointment.

YOK Ramen

Sherman Oaks
The mural may be entertaining, but this flavorful chicken ramen is no yolk

This colorful, heavily branded restaurant features a mural that depicts cultural icons enjoying their chicken ramen, including Bruce Lee and Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace character from Pulp Fiction. YOK's tori paitan ramen features a rich, subtly tangy broth that takes 24 hours to make, and comes topped with juicy, dark meat chicken chashu roulades, thick noodles, chile threads, red onion shavings, and runny egg. The pun-tastic menu also includes spicy, curry, soy and miso versions.

Gokoku Vegetarian Ramen Shop

North Hollywood
Vegan bowls generate surprisingly big flavor with spices and vegetables

This bright blue restaurant serves some of LA's only notable vegan ramen bowls, featuring a blizzard of vegetables and textures. Their spicy mayu garlic jalapeño broth comes fortified with mayu (sesame oil), earthy black beans, fibrous jicama, baby bok choy, fried garlic, and roasted jalapeños. Gokoku provides a soft-boiled egg option that re-categorizes each bowl from vegetarian to vegan. They even let you build your own ramen from a list of wholesome broths and toppings and provide a choice of flour, whole wheat, or gluten-free noodles; anything goes, except meat.

Kai Ramen

Various locations
A burgeoning ramen bar mini-chain 

Kai’s black ramen features a nutty black garlic oil float in flavorful salt-based pork broth that cooks for 12 hours and co-stars sticky flavored egg, crispy onions, crunchy marinated bean sprouts, and if you prefer, “jumbo noodle” versus their thinner default pasta strands. Red is spicier and white incorporates corn and butter. Tokyo native Tomo Nishinura honors his son with this fire-breathing ramen bar that started in Alhambra and also operates in Koreatown, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, and West Hollywood.

Hinoki & The Bird

Century City
Modern Asian restaurant dials up luxury ramen for high-end clientele

Executive chef Brandon Kida debuted luxurious lobster ramen in 2015, featuring the meat of a whole 1¼ - 1½-pound lobster in each bowl. Each order features a luxurious lobster and chicken broth that chef Kida boosts with aromatic tare. Sweet lobster meat, crunchy wood ear mushrooms, chile oil, and a jammy onsen egg further bolster this impeccable bowl, as do the supple, spaghetti-like noodles that Kida personally makes when he’s in the kitchen. Hinoki & The Bird only serves lobster ramen in cooler months.

Venice Ramen

Venice
A divisive egg punctuates one of the Westside’s best ramen bowls
Skilled ramen chef Hideki Mochizuki has been a Tokyo pro since 1994, and debuted an oceanic outpost less than a mile from Venice Pier in 2016. His hard-cooked egg is a decidedly off-trend choice, but it’s easy to forgive this facet given the ramen’s beautiful pork broth. Tokyo tonkotsu salt ramen is the restaurant’s star bowl, featuring cloudy pork broth, roasted pork chashu crafted from lean thigh meat, standard accoutrements, and the aforementioned egg. Make your ramen spicy by bombing the broth with a scoop of shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend), oil and secrets, or add chopped cabbage for more crunch.

hakata ikkousha ramen
Ryusuke Umezu

Hakata Ikkousha Ramen

Torrance, Little Tokyo
Black broth with wondrous depth highlights bowls from a growing Japanese brand

A fierce dragon keeps watch over the South Bay outpost of this popular ramen chain from Chef Kousuke Yoshimura. The “tonkotsu black” ramen features a creamy pork-based broth that radiates thumping base notes through garlic oil and gritty black pepper. Each bowl also touts thin noodles and luscious, fat-streaked pork chashu, but be sure to add a flavored egg to round out the bowl’s flavor profile.

Ramen Tatsunoya

Pasadena
Downtown ramen shop draws steady crowds for standout pork broths
Rich, creamy tonkotsu is a hallmark of chef Ryuta Kajiwara’s hometown in southern Japan, which is where he founded Ramen Tatsunoya in 1999; the company proliferated across Japan and expanded to Old Pasadena in 2015. A striking communal wood table that centers on a tree is the main design feature here, along with an L-shaped bar that overlooks the open kitchen, but your focus will still be squarely on the ramen bowls. “Koku” tonkotsu is the more formidable broth, versus lighter “jun,” and comes with classic accompaniments, fat-streaked chashu, and optional, but essential flavored egg.

Tentenyu Ramen Los Angeles
Ocean Photo Studio / WANANN,Inc.

Tentenyu

Culver City
A chicken ramen specialist's second chance

The initial Sawtelle Japantown location of this popular family-run Kyoto import didn’t last long, but the outpost on America’s shortest Main Street is still going strong. Tentenyu specializes in tori paitan, a chicken-based ramen that simmers and wafts intoxicating poultry aroma from their exhibition kitchen. If they could bottle the scent, we’d consider buying a vial. The broth has concentrated chicken flavor, enough to battle the fiercest cold, and comes dressed with crunchy bean sprouts and ultra-lean chicken breast chashu, an element that might be divisive for richer ramen fans.

Men Oh Tokushima

Little Tokyo
Regional pork-focused ramen in a DTLA strip mall

This franchise hails from Shikoku Island, a pig-farming hotbed, so it makes sense that its signature Tokushima ramen would pack this much porcine goodness into each bowl. The tonkotsu cooks down for 16 hours and melds with soy sauce to form a savory broth that supports medium thickness noodles of customizable firmness, butabara (stir-fried pork belly), chashu (simmered pork belly slabs), notably thick-cut menma, and runny-yolked ajitama that bleeds into the broth. The base bowl has flavor to spare, but customers can still pile on more punch by adding a spicy miso ball or habanero paste.

Chibiscus Ramen
Courtesy of Again Cafe X Chibiscus Ramen

Chibiscus

Hollywood
The neighborhood’s best ramen, hidden in plain sight
This strip mall location may not have the glamour of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Chinese Theatre movie premieres, but don't be fooled: Siraprapa Buranaprapaphan and Prinya Siripaibul serve Hollywood's best ramen at their pan-Asian restaurant. Chibiscus specializes in satisfying tonkotsu broth topped with torched roast pork belly discs, runny sliced egg, and fibrous bean sprouts. Crushed sesame seeds provide particularly nice touches: nutty flavor, with a gritty texture. They’ve also expanded to Alhambra and Pasadena.

Daikokuya

Little Tokyo
DTLA mainstay that helped spur the city’s ramen boom

This was one of the first ramen bars to catch on in LA, and the owners have expanded beyond Little Tokyo in the last few years. Their Sunset Strip outpost doesn’t have nearly the same crowds, meaning it’s easier to get a table, but it still holds much of the same flavor and charm, complete with a space that mirrors a Tokyo back alley with red paper lanterns and faux “storefronts.” The signature Daikoku ramen touts a cloudy tonkotsu broth balanced with special blended soy sauce, custom noodles, roasted sliced pork belly chashu, marinated hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts, and sesame seeds. Enrich your bowl with complimentary kotteri (pork fat oil), or keep things light. Daikokuya also has locations in El Monte, Sawtelle Japantown, and Monterey Park.

Santouka

Mar Vista
Supermarket food court mainstay still stands out after more than a decade

This Japanese import was another ramen brand to gain early traction in LA, filling stalls at Mitsuwa market food courts on the Westside and in Torrance. The salt ramen is particularly addictive, teaming a cloudy, powerfully savory tonkotsu broth with fatty pork chashu, menma with pronounced medicinal bite, sesame seeds, a fish cake sporting a spiral pattern, and a single umeboshi (pickled plum) that may be tiny, but delivers outsized pucker. For truly hearty eaters, Santouka also provides the option to form a combo with a rice bowl, including a version with salmon flakes and bursting ikura.

Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen

Gardena
South Bay stalwart continues to satisfy thanks to customer first approach
Shin-Sen-Gumi became one of the area’s first breakout ramen stars when it opened, partly by providing so much flexibility. A creamy tonkotsu base comes topped with juicy pork chashu, punchy pickled ginger, and scallions, but each bowl is a canvas for customization: you dictate your noodle firmness, soup oil level, and saltiness. From there, Shin-Sen-Gumi provides a choice of over three-dozen bonus toppings, including cod roe, pig ear, and a scoop of borderline dangerous Carolina Reaper pepper paste. The menu has become increasingly elaborate over the years, now including an “overload” bowl that combines three pork preparations and “spicy breakfast” with bacon, egg, and spicy miso paste. Shin-Sen-Gumi also runs LA ramen locations in Rosemead, West LA, and Little Tokyo.

Jinya Ramen Bar

Studio City
Booming chain first sparked excitement in the Valley and has since gone national

Branches now crisscross the country, and newer outposts have become increasingly stylish, but this low-key Valley restaurant was ground zero for the company’s expansion, and remains a draw today. Jinya chef-founder Takahashi Tomonori’s menu has become increasingly elaborate over the years, complete with shrimp wonton ramen and “flying vegan harvest” featuring tofu two ways, but basic tonkotsu ramen continues to impress most. Rich pork broth hosts fat-rimmed pork loin chashu, spinach, and a hard-boiled egg. As Jinya Ramen Bar’s literal poster boy says on the wall: “No Ramen No Life.”

Umenoya Ramen Co.

Torrance
South Bay ramen star that's been steadily spicy for years
Another LA stalwart that’s been popular outside the city center since way back in 2005, Umenoya’s small counter-focused space has a surprisingly diverse ramen roster, including one bowl spiked with garlic shrimp paste, though we prefer the spicy miso version. A murky orange pork broth delivers lingering kick and hosts noodles with good bite (especially if you order them “hard”), along with thin-cut pork chashu, shredded pork, a soft medium-boiled egg, crunchy cabbage and bean sprouts, minced leeks, and eye-catching chile threads. Bonus: Umenoya’s open five nights a week until 2:30am.

Tsujita LA Annex

Sawtelle Japantown
Westside spinoff takes LA’s most popular ramen in new directions

Tsujita provided Angelenos with a quantum shift in ramen understanding when Tokyo master Takehiro Tsujita opened up shop in 2012. His company followed up that megahit with this ramen-only annex across the street that specializes in even more intense bowls. Tsukemen is the clear choice, featuring thick, al dente Sun noodles, a soft-boiled egg, fat-rimmed chashu, sizable mound of peppery bean sprouts, and tangy, savory tonkotsu broth bobbing with pork fat bits. To bolster your bowl, spoon on minced garlic or onikasu (red spice) for “extra flavor.” They’ll even provide extra pork back fat for true pork hounds.

Killer Noodle

Sawtelle Japantown
Sometimes the spiciest ramen in the room doesn’t have the most balanced flavor

The in-your-face name, red walls and jars of fiery spices show that Tsujita isn’t holding back with their latest Westside concept. Their mission statement promises “painful, delicious and spicy” tantanmen in three different versions, all available either soupy or stir-fried. Crank up the ma (numbness from prickly ash) or la (spiciness from cayenne pepper) on a 0 to 6 scale, depending on your preference; “Standard” 3 is plenty spicy and tongue tingling. As it turns out, though, the best bowl here doesn’t require flame retardant. “Original style” tantanmen delivers a less tongue-tingling spice profile by blasting Killer Noodle's clear chicken and pork broth with cayenne and black peppers, and bumping up acidity with lemon. Tofu cubes, ground pork, garlic, pickles, and cabbage help balance the bowl.

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Joshua Lurie founded the LA-based website Food GPS in 2005 and leads custom culinary tours. Follow him on Instagram.