11901 Santa Monica Blvd, Ste 111
Los Angeles, CA 90025
That ramen – it’s so hot right now. Noodle slurpers are more than patient waiting an hour long for the opportunity to score a seat at Daikokuya in Little Tokyo, while like-minded peers brave the lunch crowd for their ramen and tsukemen at Tsujita on Sawtelle Blvd. It’s been years since the golden age of ramen began in LA, but there are no sign of the boom slowing down, and it’s most evident here in West LA, where new imports of various ramen shops from Japan are opening up. While the arrival of these openings are closely tracked and eagerly anticipated by scores of ramen “diggers,” Kotoya opened with little noise and fanfare last summer.
I had read about Kotoya on ChowHound, where initial reports were positive, but few in number. But it remained on my radar because of its proximity to my apartment (walking distance!). So I walked down one random night a few months ago, and arrived at an empty restaurant. But when I made my return trip a couple of months later, I arrived to a full house. Between the two visits, I tried the shoyu and miso ramen. The soup base was…solid. It had a nice flavor and wasn’t heavy-handed with the salt, but there wasn’t much of that tonkotsu depth that I was looking for (think Daikokuya, non-kotteri version – at least IMO). The chashu had a nice balance of fat and lean, but texture on my return visit was somewhat like overcooked brisket. And the egg, while on the hard-boiled side (looked like a tea egg), had a nice soy-marinated flavor. On my second visit, however, they were out of the egg…at 8pm.
Kotoya is certainly a solid entry in the vast ramen market, but unfortunately doesn’t do much to distinguish itself in such a crowded (and ever-expanding) field. It’s very nice to have a ramen shop that’s within walking distance, but it’s hard to say no to Tsujita or Santouka just a little further. And now with Ramen Hayatemaru opening (somewhat) within walking distance, Kotoya finds itself playing catch-up so soon after its opening. But to their credit, it took a while for them to get everything settled, as they were extremely inconsistent with regards to their hours and operation status, partially due to quality control. As they are more of a mom-and-pop operation compared to all the big boys, here’s hoping they will find their place :)