|Kara kara ramen at Chabuya|
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.