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Japanese Cheap Eats
Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle House. Photograph by Lisa Romerein
Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi
Mitsuyasu Shigeta’s chain of Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurants serves everything from yakitori to hot pots. The draw at the latest branch in Little Tokyo is a pork-centric hakata-style ramen that’s meant to be customized. From the firmness of the noodles to the thickness of the broth to the flecks of fried pig’s ear on top, you get to choose. » 132 Central Ave., Little Tokyo, 213-687-7108.
Beyond the curtained entrance of this slick ramen house awaits one of the heartiest tonkotsu broths around. Those looking to amplify the flavor can order “spicy bomb” balls made from garlic, pork fat, and red-hot chili paste. » 1630 Redondo Beach Blvd., Ste. 9, Gardena, 310-538-3233.
Six red lanterns hang outside the weathered exterior of the Boyle Heights spot, which has been serving Japanese food to the neighborhood for more than 50 years. Teriyaki, soba, and tempura shrimp round out a menu that doesn’t try to get fancy and yet remains unique. The avocado in a California roll balances the nori and the faux crab and has you looking at the classic preparation as if for the first time. » 2506 E. 1st St., Boyle Heights, 323-526-1150.
Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle House
When chef Kenta Ikehata decamped from Tokyo to open the Tsujita chain’s first branch in the States, it was akin to the Clippers landing Chris Paul. Ikehata is a tsukemen (dipping noodles) fanatic; he’s been known to toil into the wee hours to perfect his pungent broth. All that labor has yielded a bowl of silky soup unmatched in L.A. What a pity it’s served only at lunch. » 2057 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A., 310-231-7373.
Little wire stands are placed beneath panko-crusted cutlets to drain any specks of grease, but they are for form’s sake only. There isn’t any oiliness. Served with a slaw and a rich tonkatsu sauce (you grind the toasted sesame seeds yourself), these pounded morsels of Japanese pork rank among the finest schnitzel or milanesa. » 2904 Olympic Blvd., Koreatown, 213-387-9256.