Ramen Hayatemaru [West LA]
11678 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Like I previously mentioned in my Kotoya Ramen post (which has since upped its game, by the way), the ramen fad in LA isn’t dying down anytime soon, particularly in West LA. The newest entry in the area is the second location of Ramen Hayatemaru (the first one is in Torrance), opening in the plaza on the southeast corner of Olympic Blvd and Barrington Ave. As was the case with Kotoya, Hayatemaru also opened to little fanfare – doesn’t help when the first location went about its business under-the-radar, despite being in a city with ramen-crazed bloggers/Yelpers running amok (though B-Rod did review it in one of her first pieces in LA Weekly).
Hayatemaru’s ramen is that of the Hokkaido variety, meaning the shio ramen (which is more specifically of the Asahikawa variety) has a tonkotsu base with a hint of seafood (think Santouka), and the miso (Sapporo) ramen is prevalent (thanks to Rameniac for schooling me, because I still get mixed up over the different styles). On my first visit, I ordered the shio (called just “Hokkaido ramen” on the menu) – it was a pronounced porky flavor, but was nowhere as heavy as the ones you’d find at Santouka, Tsujita, Yamadaya, etc. The broth was rather clean and light compared to the counterparts, but that’s not a bad thing. I do like my tonkotsu base to be salty though, so it was indeed a bit light for me. As for the accompaniments, the noodles were thick and curly (again, think Santouka), but they were actually a little better than Santouka’s. The chashu and egg, on the other hand, left much to be desired. The thinly-cut pork slice (yes, just one very thin slice) lacked flavor or fat (more along the lines of chilled slices of beef you’d find on Szechuan cold plates), and the hard boiled egg was barely marinated.
On my second visit, I decided to try the tsukemen, since everyone wants in on the tsukemen market that Tsujita has all but dominated. While Tsujita’s concentrated broth is thick and full of pork and seafood flavor, the thin broth here is more reminiscent of burnt soy sauce. There’s some fish powder provided on the side to add some fishy flavor to the broth, but sadly, it doesn’t help. Stick to the ramen, in my opinion.
The one great thing about Hayatemaru (besides not having to wait like at Tsujita) is that they offer half sizes of their ramen. That’s a good thing, because you can make a meal of a half-order of ramen and one of the sides, which they arguably do better than the competition. There’s the gyoza, the two types of karrage, the chashu bowl, and the fried rice, all of which are highly regarded by fellow diners (I personally haven’t gotten around to all of them yet). In fact, the strength of the sides might just be what separates Hayatemaru from the others. But the ramen here is good, and does nothing to dilute the pool of ramen shops here in West LA. In fact, don’t even bother with Ramenya anymore at dinner (if you were gullible enough to go to begin with) – walk the extra couple of blocks west…until Tsujita Annex opens later this month.