Tsukemen from a different kitchen
The Sawtelle corridor, which was for a while called Little Little Tokyo but is now pretty much known as Little Osaka, has become the epicenter of Japanese noodles in Los Angeles, stand after stand, cheek by jowl, many of them serving among the best ramen in town. If the stretchy, springy, fantastically wheaty tsukemen, dip ramen, from Tsujita was the only noodle dish I was ever again allowed to consume, I believe that it would almost suffice.
Across the street from Tsujita, Miyata Menji, fitted into the former gr/eats space like an vinyl anime toy into a plastic capsule, is one of the newer restaurants on the street, a branch of a well-known Tokyo place named for a famous Japanese comedian. Even a couple of weeks into its run, the noodle parlor looked well-worn, like a student restaurant ground down by years of constant abuse. A plastic case near the door displayed damp lengths of French bread in case you wanted some to dip into the broth, the wall was cluttered with signs, and the ramen was garnished with strips of teriyaki. A menu insert instructed you on the rules of tsukemen:
- Enjoy flavor of wheat from Noodle.
- Try few Noodle by itself then feel flavor, texture . . .
The tsukemen themselves, served in a plastic strainer over a bowl, were hidden under anchovy-scented cabbage and mountains of grated parmesan cheese. The dipping broth was sweet, artificially thick and flavored with tomato -- it was a little like the tsukemen you'd expect the Olive Garden would make, right down to the tiny bobbing croutons, and the black pepper you were instructed to grind onto the noodles halfway through. In a world of change, it was clear that Miyata Menji was authentic. Authentically what, though, is harder to say.
2050 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 312-3929.
Photo credit: Jonathan Gold / Los Angeles Times