A few years back, when Torihei was putting out some of the best Yakitori and Oden in the city, and they had a steady stream of clientele, the Chef-Owners decided to branch out and open up Jidaiya, a Ramen shop.
Helmed by Chef-Owner Masakazu Sasaki, when we asked him about the reason for Jidaiya, he mentioned it felt like Ramen was a good opportunity (this was before the recent Ramen boom, so there was far less competition).
We’ve been to Jidaiya a few times during their Grand Opening period and first year of operation, when Sasaki-san was still cooking and running things. He admitted that he was still tweaking and fine-tuning his Ramen recipes (he’s not a Ramen specialist by trade or training, but just enjoys it). Our impressions were that it was fine for the neighborhood, dependable and solid.
Recently, with some claims that Jidaiya makes great Shoyu Ramen, we decided to go back to see how things have progressed.
Walking into Jidaiya, it’s like going back in time: They have some cool retro decor, and it’s a lot of fun, feeling like you got thrown into a time warp to an earlier era.
Speaking with the manager, it turns out Chef Sasaki has gone back to Japan (for a while now) (sad, because he was really affable), but like Torihei these days, it’s left in the hands of new staff.
Tokyo Yatai (Shoyu) Ramen:
Back when Sasaki-san was still cooking, he told us quietly that the Ramen to try was his Tonkotsu Ramen. He didn’t really recommend the Shoyu Ramen for us, saying he was still working on the recipe.
Taking a sip, it’s a light Torigara (Chicken Bone) Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Broth. But it tastes pretty flat and basic. There’s nothing in the Broth that makes the Ramen sing. We brought along a friend who’s the biggest Ramen fiend we know (he goes to Japan just to eat Ramen (and take in the sights as a secondary hobby)).
After taking a sip, he looked pretty disappointed and concurred with our feelings. He then simply said, “It’s time to book a trip to Tokyo.”
The Noodles are a thin, curly type and it’s fine in this Broth, but there’s nothing outstanding about it either.
The Chasu is downright awful. This is some of the worst Chashu we’ve had outside of Shin Sen Gumi’s mess. Clearly Sasaki-san leaving the kitchen has resulted in cut corners: When he was cooking in Year 1, the Chasu was thicker, tender, soft and fresh. Now? It’s a super thin piece, tastes really old, like leftovers and bland.
The Egg is also pretty bland, semi-overcooked (partly hard-boiled with only a portion of the center yolk still slightly soft).
To compare this to Mensho Tokyo’s Shoyu Ramen is ridiculous, Mensho is leagues better. But your mileage may vary.
Neo-Tokyo Kai-Shio Shellfish Ramen:
Jidaiya’s more unique offering is their Kai Shio Ramen, which is a Salt-based Shellfish Ramen. Taking a sip, it’s very briny, tasting heavily of Shellfish and a backnote of Chicken Broth.
They add chopped up bits of Turban Shell, Abalone, Asari Clam, Scallop, and Flying Fish Roe, so if you’re in the mood for a Seafood Ramen, give this one a try.
They used a thicker Noodle for this Ramen and it seemed to match the broth well.
Tori Soboro Don (Ground Chicken Bowl):
Their Ground Chicken Bowl was delicious! It shouldn’t be a surprise since Torihei has been serving it for years, and it makes sense that they brought it over as a nice side dish for this restaurant as well.
On another visit, we start with…
Yokohama Jidaiya (Tonkotsu) Ramen:
This was the bowl of Ramen Sasaki-san was most proud of when we first visited the shop back in the day. It is a very thick, salty, porky Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Broth. It’s respectable, but pretty average as well.
These days, if you want bowls of super porky goodness there are many places that just do it with more excess, more verve, and just more flavor. It’s not bad, and it’ll scratch that itch, but it’s not a place that makes us want to drive across town for.
Their Egg and Chashu are just as bad as the last visit: The Egg is partially overcooked / hard boiled, and the Chashu tastes just as bad / old as the last visit. It’s pretty sad how far this place has fallen since Sasaki-san left in this regard.
They use a thick Noodle for this offering, and it feels a bit excessive, and it’s also slightly overcooked (a touch soft).
Sapporo Spicy Miso Ramen:
One thing I like about Jidaiya is their menu organization (by region), and while it seems ambitious for the Jidaiya staff to try and offer and master so many different styles, surprisingly, their Sapporo Spicy Miso Ramen is by far the best bowl.
They use an Aka Miso (Red Miso) base with Chicken and Pork Bones in the Broth. It’s got some noticeable immediate heat as well, and the result is a funky, earthy bowl that might be one of the better bowls of Miso Ramen locally.
Their Chashu was sadly still terrible, old, chewy, and somewhat tasteless. The Noodles were the thick variety, and seemed to match this bowl better.
UFO Gyoza Dumplings:
Their UFO Gyoza Dumplings are a nice side to have: I like the slurry cooked down to a “latticework-like bottom crust,” giving each Gyoza Dumpling a bit of a crunchy texture.
Chicken Cutlet Curry:
In a surprising offering, it looks like Jidaiya is offering a Chicken Katsu Curry! It is a Housemade Recipe, and while a touch salty, it’s not too gloppy, nor overly thick, and definitely better than mass-produced stuff like Curry House or Hurry Curry.
The Chicken Katsu (Cutlet) itself is decently fried. If you didn’t feel like driving, this would be a perfectly fine dish to order, but if you care more about the Chicken Cutlet itself, with Kagura about 10 minutes away, definitely drive the extra 10 minutes for Kagura. There’s no comparison here.
Otherwise, curry fans might give this a try.
Overall, Jidaiya is a decent neighborhood Ramen shop. Their Tonkotsu Ramen was our favorite bowl during their early years, but with Sasaki-san gone these days, their Kai Shio (Seafood) Ramen is probably the standout for unique flavors, as well as the more savory and enjoyable Spicy Miso Ramen. Skip the mediocre Shoyu Ramen and Tonkotsu Ramen. There are so many choices these days, it’s hard to stand out unless you’re really excelling and offer something really special. We hope they can rebound and improve their quality over time, but for now, it’s an OK neighborhood spot to consider if you’re in the area.
18537 S. Western Ave.
Gardena, CA 90248
Tel: (310) 532-0999