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11555 W. Olympic Blvd. ~ West Los Angeles, CA 90064 ~ 310-575-9337 (TACO Map)

Asahi on Sawtelle has dominated the Westside ramen scene for years. With long waits for ramen that is fulfilling in overly salty, oily, soy-drenched gi-normous bowls, sparsely swimming with pork or beef over a dozen similar dishes, we knew their must be another option west of Broadway for our Japanese noodles.

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Sure 'nuff, hiding around the corner, Ramenya has a more refined, though similarly inexpensive, array of flavor, with just as generous portions of excellent ramen, and no lack of options on their 61-item deep menu including plenty of spicy numbers. The second and first generation crowd is also still there, though we had no wait, and the ambiance leans entirely more towards cafeteria than Edo-period hideaway (albeit one with a small manga collection). But the magic of Ramenya is in those fat bowls that hit the table right after your free glass of cold tea does...

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The ramen broth here is less salty, more complex and flavorful than its competition, giving us the sense that it is more authentic, and certainly easier on the blood pressure. A wide white bowl of Ajo-Ramen ($7.00) has an artful arrangement, and a clean, garlic-saturated flavor emanates from the whole clove drowned in the midst of sliced pork, crushed red peppers, onion, and chives stir-fried in butter. All flavors were discernable, even with the overpowering garlic essence making vampires bacdafucup.

The much more simple Tanmen ($6.75) was similarly clean and easy on the eyes, the surface skimming with cilantro petals, its delicate broth tasting of chicken stock, the vegetables retaining their rootsy tastes, the tender pork salty in the right way. The broth here is watery in texture, not in taste, which is a refreshing balance between the oily concoction we see around town and the tasteless, textureless Pho we sometimes encounter.

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For a taste of something different, we attacked Tenshin Men ($6.75), an unholy looking ramen creation with an entire 3-egg omelet floating inside a rich red gravy. Upon breaking the omelet open, a cooked mass of tender mini-shrimp and thin noodles emerges, allowing one to eat the egg with the ramen or to swirl in into the cauldron and eat it all in one big mess. The dish is a delicious monstronsity, an gnarly egg-orgy full of hot surprises and indulgent flavors.

The noodles in all the dishes are thin and not perfectly homemade, but certainly adequate to sop up the savory broth. In fact, all of the dishes' noodles reminded me a bit of the microwaveable ramen that got us through higher education, but in a good way, the unmistakeable flavors of the starch familiarly recalling food as nourishment. Asahi wins on the noodle front for texture sin duda.

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The gyoza were not standard, either, but seemed to have love invested in their recipe. Ramenya might get a B-grade from the health department, but to us it's at the head of its class.

Closed Wednesdays!

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