Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ramen Yamadaya: 20 Hour Tonkotsu and That's Not All They Got

I admire domestic goddesses.  But Susie Homemaker is just not in the cards for me, for many reasons - including my propensity to choose high stress day jobs that don't leave me in the mood to spend hours in the kitchen before and after elaborate meals, especially on weeknights.  Plus, I love what pro chefs serve up too much.

So I always appreciate places that can feed me on a regular basis - get me in and out for little time and money - and feed me well.

Ramen Yamadaya is one such place, that I can hit up on my way home from work. They slow cook their tonkotsu broth - breaking down the essence in pork bones - for 20 hours - something I would never have time to do at home - and would certainly never be able to do as well as them! 
And they have a fantastic dinner set that leaves me with delicious leftovers sizeable enough for lunch the next day!
It's a no frills, small storefront with a handful of tables.  You can choose a la carte items or pick a set. 

I liked the deal for the dinner set and went with: Yamadaya Ramen (everything in it) + Fried Rice + Fried Chicken (4 pcs) for $9.95 + $4.80 = $14.75. (Students can also get an extra noodle or steamed rice for free - how's that for hospitality at Yamadaya?) My Fried Rice ($6.80 on regular menu, size difference unknown) came first: it was a deliciously fragrant and generous bowl - I almost couldn't stop eating, but I knew that I still had two more dishes to come and fried rice is easier to take home than ramen.  I got a to-go box for this and had a nice and filling lunch the next day.
Next up:  Karaage (Japanese style fried chicken), 4 pieces ($5.80 for 10 pieces on regular menu - so you're getting a $2.32 value for 4 pieces with the set meal).  I loved the actual chicken - juicy, flavorful and fall-off-the-bone-tender, but the batter could have been more crisp and coherent - I wanted more flavor and less of a dry powdery texture.  Not bad for a side dish for a couple of bucks though.

Then the centerpiece of the meal made its dramatic entrance: Yamadaya Ramen ($9.95 a la carte from regular menu).  The thing to note when ordering your ramen, as it was confusing for me as a first timer - is that you can customize your bowl, to a certain extent. You pretty much choose the meats and other additions you want to your bowl (out of the four options available: "all stars", "extra chashu pork", "mouth melting big pork belly" or "deep fried huge pork loin"), AND the broth you want used. 
As far as additions: not sure what mouth melting refers to - temperature or spice, perhaps?  Or that the pork belly is so tender it will melt your soul?

Additions: I was drawn to the description for the Yamadaya option: "All stars topped with two kinds of chashu pork, egg and fried pork skin".  
Broth: You can choose from any of the four options at the top of the menu, from basic pork to soy sauce flavored, to "rich and fatty" with black garlic oil, or spicy.  I LOVED the monthly special at Ramen Jinya that has the black garlic oil, so that's the one I went for.

One taste and I was a believer.  They are smart to trumpet the "20 hour tonkotsu" as their slogan - you can really taste the love that went into this in the amazing, rich pork-packed broth.  And I devoured on sight, the luscious tender chashu, counterbalanced by crispy pork skin, tempered by a delicious egg with soft, creamy yolk.  And the embellishments of two crisp, toasted sheets of nori.  My only note is that I found the noodles just ever so slightly too chewy for my taste - I still prefer the more malleable noodles at Ramen Jinya.

In any case, loved the TWO meals I got out of Yamadaya for under $15, and will definitely be back way too much. It's hard to make a gourmet meal for party of one and make it worth my time -and I'm unfortunately not big on eating the same thing for days - once it goes into the fridge, aka black hole for leftovers, it's pretty much dead to me. But next day leftovers as tasty as Yamadaya's fried rice - I'll make a point not to forget.   So, Ramen Yamadaya is such a great option for busy people like me who just want to have a quick but delicious meal, cooked with care - ready when you are, and no dishes to take care of after! 

(And when the Sherman Oaks location opens in April, which I am so excited about, I will have another option close to me and be able to hit up either one on my way home from work - yes!)

On a 7 point scale:Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 5 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 5 stars
Service - 5 stars
Overall experience - 5.5 bites
Price - $ (1 bite mark)
Probability of return visit - 100%

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Ramen Yamadaya
11172 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232Ph: 310.815.8776
Parking: Free lot in back of restaurant
Website: ramen-yamadaya.com
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