I was early for my appointment with Akiko at Taka Hair Salon on Sawtelle, so I went across the street to try the newly open Tsujita for their famous Tonkostu Ramen. Since this location is the first US outpost of an international restaurant, either go early or be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes for a seat. Note that they are a cash only restaurant, so make sure that you stop by your local ATM before coming for lunch.

Comparing Tsujita’s Tonkotsu Ramen is to instant ramen is like comparing tap water to Champagne, about the only thing they have is common is that they are both liquids. Let’s start with a few definitions for those who only know the prepackaged supermarket soup. Tsukemen is served with the noodles in a separate bowl from the very rich broth. You eat it by dipping about a third of the noodles into the broth and then adding a squeeze of lime and or condiments to the broth and dipping the rest of the noodles. The flavors change as you eat, so that your taste buds get to experience a variation on one dish. Some of the condiments available are hot leaf mustard, red pickled ginger, sauce, and sesame seeds.

If all this sounds too complicated, you can also order Tonkotsu Ramen, which has the flavors blended together in one bowl, which is what I did. The broth for both soups is cooked for 60 hours, so no matter which way you prefer your soup, the luscious reason for coming here will be in your bowl.

The menu is very simple, you only have four choices, plain ramen, which has 2 slices of Char siu pork, Negi ramen, with spring onions, a version with egg, or what I ordered, the Char siu ramen with about 10 pieces of slices car siu pork for $13.95. The tonkotsu ramen are the thin variety, so you can specify how you like your noodles cooked when you place your order (they will come medium if you do not specify).

This bowl was a melody of flavors, the intense broth, the fresh green onions, the crunchy wood ear mushrooms, the roasted seaweed, and the silky pork belly slices, all performed like an orchestra of virtuoso musicians. Every ingredient complimented the others, so you could enjoy all the single notes or simply enjoy the concert.

Bravo, encore!

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