Ramen Iroha Gardena, Calif.
It’s not surprising that when this award-winning Tokyo ramen chain opened shop in the United States, it chose to do so in the food court of a Japanese supermarket, said Jonathan Gold in the Los Angeles Times. Though these supermarkets typically offer few customer frills—other than occasional guest appearances by celebrity noodle chefs—“they’re frequented by customers who know how Japanese food is supposed to taste”; quality is expected and appreciated. At the Ramen Iroha stall, the short menu includes a fragrant white ramen and a spicier red ramen. But the award-winning black ramen is the reason to make the journey. The “dense, chewy” ramen noodles come in a chicken broth that “gets its tar-like hue from soy sauce, fermented black beans, and a slug of black pepper.” The broth is “much subtler than it looks”—enriched with roast pork, made slightly briny by seaweed bits, and “edged with a slight bitterness that you realize is probably one of the dominant flavors in soy sauce.” It’s perhaps futile to try to place all the flavors: “Before you know it, the ramen is done, the bottom of the bowl shining white through the dregs.” Marukai Market, 1740 W. Artesia Blvd., (310) 660-6300
Dassara features what may be “the most transgressive ramen menu” in New York, said Robert Sietsema in The Village Voice. This ramen shop in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood has its own cocktail lounge, which “serves some pretty good mixed drinks” to its hipster clientele. But you might wish that the kitchen didn’t play quite so “fast and loose” with ramen tradition. Dassara’s “most notable” menu option is the “deli ramen,” a whimsical commingling of noodles, matzo balls, and slices of Montreal-style smoked meat that float limply on top. Skip it for the lamb ramen, which provides a showcase for “chunks of fatty belly and a science-chef egg.” Still, the appetizers might be more worthy of attention. Be sure to try the miso-eggplant dip, which is served with seaweed crisps and tastes like a supercharged baba ghanoush. And throw in an order for the ssams. Here, the Korean-style burritos are stuffed with—“hold your breath”—fried chicken. 271 Smith St., Brooklyn, (718) 643-0781
Ramen Tatsu-Ya Austin
Given how picky foodies can be about ramen, “the outpouring of admiration” for Austin’s first dedicated ramen shop has been “astounding,” said Jessi Cape in The Austin Chronicle. Since Ramen Tatsu-Ya’s September opening, lines for its 38 seats have spilled out the door. But the instant you slurp one of the broths here you’ll understand why. The original tonkotsu features an “addicting” creamy pork broth that’s loaded with “delightfully al dente noodles” plus a slice of tender pork belly. The soy-based broth of the tonkotsu shoyu is less creamy but “entirely on par.” Appetizers offer terrific complements to the main event. My favorite is the spicy edamame—tossed with citrus, jalapeños, shichimi spice, and sea salt. But don’t miss the katsu slider, a juicy deep-fried burger served on a sweet Hawaiian roll with slaw and a tangy sauce. 8557 Research Blvd., #126, ramen-tatsuya.com