Saiya Ramen: Cursebreaker?

Cheap Japanese restaurants in Koreatown sure do see a lot of turnover. The Wilshire/Vermont location of Wasabi Japanese Noodle House shuttered a few months ago, to be replaced by the equally mediocre (though considerably more slick-looking) Roll Call.

Meanwhile, the inside-corner spot of the plaza that houses the fantastic Kobawoo House has seen the rapid turnover of Sheng Ramen, into Kimuro Sushi, and now into Saiya Ramen. I’ve mostly stopped eating out for lunch, but I saw the change and decided to check it out. Thankfully Saiya Ramen is a sharp improvement over its predecessors.

The menu is compact, featuring a small selection of strangely bar-food-inflected appetizers, a few donburi, and, of course, the ramen.


I opted for the combination to try a few different things, knowing it was going to be too much food. (The sacrifices one makes for the cause!)

Salad

The salad listed in the combination ended up being the daikon/apple salad in the appetizers section. I am not a big fan of raw onion, but it is an appropriate pairing here. In a surprisingly pleasant twist of events, the “yuzu sesame” dressing did indeed carry a noticeable trace of real yuzu. So often you see so-called “yuzu dressing” that really bears no relation to its namesake; thankfully that was not the case here. Crunchy, sweet, nutty - nice.

Fatty Beef Brisket Donburi

Also a pleasant surprise was the beef brisket. Lightly torched, the beef itself was juicy and tender. The fat was rendered appropriately and it was well-spiced. A couple pieces were a touch too salty, but on the whole, very good. The juices seeped into the rice, which was also decent.

Tonkotsu Ramen (with Chashu)

This ramen came from the “rich and heavy” school of tonkotsu broths. Could use a bit more depth, but pretty decent. Noodles were a bit softer than I like them but by no means undercooked. The chashu was slick and soft with well-rendered fat, and lightly torched for a smoky flavor. Truth be told this was a pretty good bowl of ramen - it only suffers in comparison to the “greats” - but in ktown you take what you can get. As far as I’m aware, there’s no other place in ktown that comes even close.

Service was friendly; pacing of the dishes was atrocious but I’ll forgive them on account of this being their first week of operation.

As for the title: this spot has seen so much turnover it almost seems cursed, and yet people keep trying. Compared to the previous few attempts, Saiya Ramen seems to have hit the mark (on food, at least) - hopefully it sticks around.

Seems like Koreans still haven’t really figured out how to make anything that isn’t a super heavy tonkotsu (not tonkatsu)…

This reminds me of that mediocre Korean ramen place called kopan, that just had heavy generic tonkotsu “broth” n throwing random toppings on without reason.

But who knows, kopan is always packed, maybe this place could do well also.

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Thanks for the correction :slight_smile:

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