Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chabuya Ramen - The Newest Baby in the Sawtelle Family

Driving up Sawtelle, I always slow my car down at the La Grange corner. I’m always drawn in by the beautifully designed restaurants in that particular strip of West LA’s Little Tokyo. Most of the restaurants, such as Orris, serve up some delectable food for reasonable prices. Yesterday, as I was leaving from Nijiya Supermarket, I slowed my car down as usual and my eyes caught on to a metallic sign: Chabuya - Tokyo Noodle Bar sign caught my eye. Hell yeah. Another ramen shop.

Chabuya is the newest addition to Sawtelle’s restaurant row. In it’s second week, this place is already getting a nice influx of ramen enthusiasts. The dimly lit ceilings and tall windows really give you a nice welcoming feeling. As I walked in, five Japanese waitresses greeted me in an audible volume: “IRASHAIMASE”. No where as loud as Shin Sen Gumi in Gardena, Fountain Valley and now Rosemead. Since this place just opened up recently, they had a limited menu. The waitress pointed out that I can only have “Cha Shu Ramen”. Don’t twist my arm. I was going to order that regardless. I figure if a noodle shop claims to be a noodle shop, then they should be able to make immaculate Cha Shu Ramen. Same goes with a bowl of pho in a vietnamese restaurant.

And now a few words from Chabuya.

“Straight from Tokyo, Chabuya is the urban ramen bar that revolutionized a favorite Japanese pastime. Its menu was conceived under the meticulous eye of Master Chef Yasuji Morizumi, renowned for his peak season ingredients and an uncanny talent for arousing the senses. Taste Chabuya ramen and two things will strike you immediately. The first is an instant appreciation for the fresh, organic ingredients cooked to mouth-watering perfrection. The second is an overwhelming urge to take another bit.”

The Cha Shu Ramen, what Chabuya calls “The Classic with Cha Shu”, came after only 7 minutes -- $8.50. (The Classic is plain ramen with green onions and bamboo shoots sans Cha Shu -- $6.75.) It was served in a tall, red bowl and had a strong scent of fried shallots. I’m a sucker when it comes to fried shallots because they make anything taste good. And now for test #1: the broth. I dipped my spoon in before disrupting the beauty of the ramen bowl to taste the broth… and it was… AWESOME. I could taste a lot of pork broth, shoyu, miso and shallot oil. Since you can’t customize your ramen like Shin Sen Gumi, I’d suggest that you request for less oil, because there was a lot. I just like it. I then mixed up the bowl, preparing for test #2: the noodles. These weren’t the typical gummy kind you’d get from Ramenya or Kinchan’s. These were more like Chinese yellow mein – thin and cooked al dente – how I like it. Noodles weren’t bad at all. Something tells me that the chef takes pride in his soup more, thus selecting thin weight noodles for a lighter taste, so you don’t become overstuffed.

And for the final leg, test #3: the Cha Shu. I was given about four THINNNNNNLY sliced pieces of what I made out to be pork shoulder or butt. There was a thin layer of fat on each piece. Not bad, but there was a very strong taste of dark soy sauce. I believe the chef had first pan seared the meat in dark soy sauce to give it that dark colored edge before braising it into Cha Shu.

The gyozas came next and I was a little bit suspicious of it. It looked too similar to frozen gyozas at the market because after tasting it, the skin was very, very thin and broken. The filling tasted a little bit watery; a result of being THAWED before frying. Either the chef had overcooked the dumpling or he’s just a master at making paper thin gyoza skin. Still not a bad deal for $3.75.

Overall, I had a great meal. I think the ramen is a little pricey considering how small the portion is. But then again, they use organic ingredients and honestly, everything tasted really crisp and fresh. Especially the spinach and green onions. I didn’t want to waste the broth so I decided to Supersize my meal and ordered a bowl of rice and dumped it in to make Cha Shu Rice soup. Good as well. Another thing I look for is a place with a small menu. Chabuya serves nine courses plus gyoza and shu mai and I know the spend more time perfecting each and everyone. Believe it or not, Ramenya and Asahi will still be open for business the next day if you should decide not to eat there. Give Chabuya a shot, I think you’ll be satisfied. Thanks for reading.

Location: Look up Orris (Los Angeles). It's 2 doors down on Sawtelle/La Grange.


Passionate Eater said...

SAWTELLE! Wow, that really brings back memories of being back in college and making late night runs to Sawtelle for boba ni tza! (I hope you understand "that" feeble attempt--I never went to Chinese school...)

The food looks amazing! Not like how I remember it, but I'm impressed, and hungry!

Mark Kawayoshi said...

Nice review Mr. Die Lawn. I am going to have to try it. I'm not surprised it's a bit pricey due to the location of it. That little strip is quite fu fu compared to the rest of Sawterre.

BoLA said...

LOL! Yeah, count Mac and me in for some ramen next week! I hope it's better than Kin-chan's. ;)

yoony said...

that looks so delicious! i saw chabuya the other day too when i was stopping by furaibo. i will definitely go try the cha shu.

J said...

perfect cha su ramen sure is hard to come by; great post, as always...

Mark Kawayoshi said...

The ramen portions here are small. The chashu is decent, but the I thought the broth was too salty. I would much rather to go to one of the other ramen houses for ramen. It's definately different that the others ramen houses, but it wasn't for me. I did not try the other dishes but they did look pretty good. I will try them when if I find myself there.

Young said...

jenny and i tried this place last week after reading your review. the only pleasant thing about this place was its decor. the service was slow as you could tell the staff was new and not well-trained. as for the food, the ramen had this burnt taste to it that i couldn't get rid of, and i much rather prefer that yellow noodle served at other ramen places. the broth was also layered with sesame seeds that i'm not much a fan of. but their gyoza was pretty decent. i'd give this place a C rating. definitely not a place where i'd go again.

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