Since there’s water falling from the sky and it’s cold outside, I thought a post on Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi was appropriate today. After all, a hot, steaming bowl of delicious ramen is great to warm up!
Before visiting Shin-Sen-Gumi, my noodle knowledge was limited to Nong Shim Shin Ramen (a Korean brand of spicy instant noodles) and Top Ramen. If you asked me what different types of ramen there were, I probably would have looked at you funny, and answered “Shrimp, Chicken, Beef and Oriental”. On a side note, exactly what does “Oriental” flavor entail?!?! My Husband likes to think it’s something along the lines of Soylent Green. Flavored by Asian people! Um, anyways…. After doing some research prior to my visit to Shin-Sen-Gumi, I discovered that Japanese ramen wasn’t a singular dish; different regions had different distinctive styles. Hakata ramen comes from the city of Hakata and uses a thick white soup made from pork bones which is why it is also called Tonkotsu ramen. It has slightly thinner noodles and simple toppings of cha-shu (pork), scallions, pickled ginger and sesame seeds.
Having been warned this restaurant was tiny and quickly built up a line, Husband and I arrived quite early…almost a half hour early. I thought it opened at 11am when actually, it opens at 11:30am. Oops! We hit up the nearby Target and all the while, Husband gave me a tough time. “Oh, yeah, there’s such a huuuuge line!” “I’m glad we came so early so we wouldn’t have to wait.” “Man, I don’t know if I want to wait in that line.” ;P Well, karma came back and bit him because when we returned a few minutes before opening, there were people lined up outside the door! Muahahhaa… Sweet sweet “I told you so!” :D Fortunately, it wasn’t enough of a crowd to fill up the restaurant so we were seated when the door opened.
Patrons have the option of eating at the bar or at communal tables. Since it was just the two of us, we got to sit at the bar which I liked because I could watch the guy prepare and put together the bowls. Huge pots filled with liquid sat on burners. Little baskets of noodles hung off the ventilation fans. As orders came in, the cook would drop the baskets into the pots and cook the noodles to the preferred firmness. He would fill the lines of bowls with broth and then garnish each with the ordered toppings. This guy was good and worked amazingly fast.
The menu here is short and sweet. Specials (usually available only at dinner time) are written on boards hung around the restaurant. Rather than tell the waiter your order, you fill out little cards. You specify what ramen you want, the firmness of noodles, the richness of broth, the amount of oil, the toppings and any special requests. I opted to go with a ramen set that included a side of gyoza and marked “normal” across the board for the noodles, broth and oil. I got cha-shu and spicy miso as my toppings. Husband went with the same set and opted for soft noodles and got an egg instead of spicy miso.
The spicy miso came out on its own. I guess they want you to decide how much of it you want; I used it all. The gyoza was delivered next. While these were cooked nicely with a crispy bottom, the filling was just okay. I was un-enthused. When the ramen arrived, the egg turned out to be the soy-sauce eggs I LOVE rather than a simple sliced hard-boiled egg as pictured in the menu. Husband saw my sad sad face and generously gave me half his egg. Reason #203948282 why I love him…
I fell in love with this ramen at first bite. The noodles were not too firm or soft (normal, I guess?) and had a little bit of pull. The broth was rich and porky, so flavorful! With the spicy miso mixed in, there was a little bit of a kick to it, not as much as Shin ramen but enough to make me happy without giving me a runny nose. I was surprised by the amount of cha-shu in the bowl; it was a lot more than I expected. The meat had a little bit of fat and was tasty. The egg, well, I could eat a dozen of these and still go for more!
Even though I was pretty full from the large bowl of ramen, I couldn’t resist the black sesame ice cream. While this wasn’t as good as the scoop I had at Tsuruhashi, it was still yummy and a nice end to the meal.
And yes, that $30 is our total bill after two ramen sets, a couple of sodas (they do cans, no free refills), the ice cream and tax. Pretty inexpensive in my book considering how big and delicious our meal was.
Catty Critic gives Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi 4 1/2 NOMs.
Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi
2015 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., #C
Gardena, CA 90247