Let’s talk for a second about how deprived Santa Monica has been when it comes to really damn good asian food. I’ve worked there on-and-off for the past five years. While there’s no shortage of green juices, if you get bit by the noodle bug, you’re shit out of luck. Better make the drive out to Sawtelle or Venice because there’s no ramen here for you my friend.
However, in the past year, SM’s finally got its act together and opened not one, but two new ramen spots right off the main promenade.
Silverlake Ramen is a chain hailing from (yup, you guessed it) Silverlake, CA! From the chain itself:
“Silverlake embodies the free-spirit & casual vibe of Los Angeles. An unpretentious, original way of thinking. Similar to the environment in which ramen was invented. Now, we are taking that vibe and serving up bowls of it in locations across California.”
I haven’t tried the regular ramen because I will honestly always choose the thick noodles and rich broth of a tseukemen first if it’s on the menu. That being said, the tseukemen is delicious! Tsujita is the gold-standard in my book, but Silverlake Ramen comes pretty damn close. The broth is deep with flavor and tastes amazing with the huge slab of fried pork belly it comes with. I always ask for a side order of spicy paste to mix in, too. Fair warning, you’re in for a heavy, salty AF lunch with this one.
Just a five minute walk away, you’ll find Ippudo Ramen tucked into a non-descript alleyway on second street. Look for the small square sign with the squiggles, that’s your cue that ramen time is near. This Japanese chain made the big move to the States in 2008 with its New York location, shortly followed by its San Francisco one.
Their ramen is more Hakata style. While there are slight variations (vegan, spicy, etc), they’re all more or less the same. Expect thin noodles, a somewhat lighter broth, but no less in flavor or oil. They do appetizers too, but honestly, skip the buns. They’re not worth the money and your tummy space is better spent on Kaedama (extra noodles). My personal favorite is the Akamaru Modern.
Which is better? Honestly, it’s impossible to decide. They’re different styles and both hit the ramen spot perfectly! I’m so sad I don’t work right on that corner anymore. Maybe it’s better for my blood pressure anyways.