Although I grew up in a Japanese culinary culture where ramen is a staple in almost every household, it never became something that I ate regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I like ramen very much, especially the Hakata-style. Nothing rivals the richness of the milky flavor of tonkotsu broth with thick noodle. I could never pinpoint the exact reason why I refused to welcome it into my regular culinary repertoire (I would eat it, say, once every five to six months) but the only thing that comes to mind is my mother telling me that I would die from eating ramen growing up because of its high sodium content in the broth. As a result, I’ve always associated ramen with slow, painful death. Threats and guilt always works in the Japanese family. Very healthy, I know.
However, once in a blue moon, against my mother’s warning, my body yearns for the salty bowl of ramen, especially when it gets colder outside as it has been lately. So when my epicurean friend suggested going to a nearby ramen restaurant that he frequents for lunch, I jumped at the opportunity to indulge in the ultimate Japanese comfort good.
Takeshi Ramen is a little ramen shop located on Brand Avenue, in the heart of Downtown Glendale. The regular clienteles consist of business people from the surrounding office buildings and the place gets a little busy during the peak lunch hour. This explains why it took us a while to get seated, not to mention the fact that there was only one poor guy serving the place that easily sat 50 people (I’d say about 15 tables).
But the wait gave us the chance to look through the menu that consisted of everything you can think of in Japanese lunch menu, from standard ramens (shoyu (soy sause), miso, shio (salt) and tonkotsu (pork bone)), curry rice, ginger beef and hiyashi chuka (cold ramen) and assortments of desserts.
We ordered a plate of fried oysters and gyoza for appetizers to share and we each ordered tonkotsu ramen as our main dish. Oysters and gyozas were just okay and I’ve had better, but I was just happy that I was having something other than my regular salad bar lunch from the office cafeteria or a packed lunch I bring from home to save a little bit of money.
Well, I’m not a ramen expert (I even think Umakacchan, the instant ramen, is friggin darn good) but it was not bad. The noodle was cooked with a little bit of firmness left, the broth milky, rich and satisfying, and the chashu pork was tender and flavorful. I added a swirl of rice vinegar and chili oil to mild out the flavor and it kicked up the flavor to the next level.
Although ramen is still not something to die for, so to speak, I would definitely incorporate Takeshi Ramen into my regular lunch rotations.
I think mom will be happy with that.
Takeshi Ramen: 126 North Brand, Glendale, CA 91203