99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Ramen Iroha

photo by Amy Scattergood

Of all the many excellent reasons to head to Gardena, the South Bay city with an extremely high percentage of Japanese-American residents, the best may be inside a tiny food court in the Marukai market on Artesia Boulevard. Because after you fill your shopping cart with uni and baumkuchen, you’ll need to stow your purchases and order a bowl of ramen from Ramen Iroha, the tiny stand just inside the market’s front doors. When the popular, Tokyo-based chain opened this outpost in 2012, it was viewed as a temporary spot, a precursor to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. We’re unreasonably grateful that it’s still there, selling cash-only bowls of three types of ramen: a white chicken version; a spicy red version; and the outstanding black shoyu ramen, the inky broth covering terrific, chewy noodles, which has won repeat awards at the Tokyo Ramen Show. Sure, they could open a fancy shop, but this little stand, with tables both inside and out in an enclosed patio close to your car, is more fun than any high-altar ramen-ya bar. Now if only they’d install a ticket machine next to the shopping carts.

-- Amy Scattergood