May 21, 2012

Tsujita LA

I finally made it to Tsujita!
I'm talking about the best new ramen shop -- I mean, "artisan noodle" -- shop on Sawtelle.  But here's the catch, they only serve noodles between11:00 AM - 3:30 PM. So basically, if you're craving noodles, go for lunch.

Photo courtesy of Midtown Lunch
On the lunch menu, there are essentially two options: Tonkotsu Ramen or Tsukemen.
Tonkotsu ramen is noodles in a pork broth that has been simmered for sixty -- yes, 60 -- hours, producing a delectable richness.  You can choose green onions or slices of char-siu (roasted pork) to top.  Sounds amazing?  It probably is.  But I did not have this.

Instead, I ordered the Tsukemen (pronounced like "skeh-men"), which is comprised of two parts: (1) a bowl of cooled noodles and (2) a super dense dipping sauce consisting of reduced pork broth.  You can order just the noodles and broth (like I did), or include toppings such as char-siu slices, a seasoned boiled egg, or extra nori (seaweed).

To be a proper Tsukemen-eater, you should adhere to the 3-stage eating process. Sounds labor-intensive, but it isn't.  And even if it were, it's so worth it.  After all, it's kind of the new, hip way to eat ramen these days, and who doesn't want to be cool?

Stage 1: Squeeze some lime juice all over the noodles.  You'll periodically sprinkle the tangy sweetness of the lime later so don't squeeze it all out at the beginning.

Stage 2: Take some noodles and dip them in the sauce.  Feel free to use the soup spoon to help gather all the noodles -- they can get unruly sometimes, especially when using chopsticks -- and some additional broth.

Stage 3: Eat and savor as a smile creeps across your satisfied face (creepy?).  Once you are done eating the noodles, you can request some additional soup stock to the remainder of your broth and enjoy it as soup.

And so it goes.

Tsukemen - $9.95

Thick noodles that require the right amount of chew.

Near-syrupy pork dipping sauce with green onions, pork slices, and everything delicious.

The space is small and they don't take reservations, so come early.  If the few tables and bar seating are full, sign your name on the clipboard by the door and wait patiently on the patio.  The good news is that there is complimentary iced barley tea while you wait.  The bad news is that you may be stuck in direct sunlight for awhile, so by the time you're finally seated, your bladder is on the verge of bursting.

Although you're inhaling your bowl of noodles while bumping elbows with your neighbor, the overall state of the restaurant is clean and the service, friendly and efficient.  This was definitely some of the best noodles I've had in West LA.  Oh, and important tip: CASH ONLY.

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Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle on Urbanspoon

cuisine: Japanese
location: West LA (On Sawtelle)
hours: Lunch - 11:00 AM - 3:30 PM; Dinner - 6:00 PM - midnight (Daily)
websites: { Tsujita | yelp }
parking: Street meters
attire: Casual
other reviews: { J Gold }