Chin-Ma-Ya is one of my favourite places for spicy ramen. The soup is so amazing, I always drink it up and never leave a drop. For noodle consistency I actually like Shinsen Gumi.
The place is located in the astronaut plaza in Little Tokyo, not Japantown, that’s what they call theirs in the Bay Area. To get there, drive around Little Tokyo for an hour to find parking. Enter the plaza at the front where it says Weller Court and there’s a giant friendship knot monument as well as a plaster space shuttle. The entrance is on your left. Go up a flight of stairs or take the elevator to the 2nd floor. It’s the only restaurant on the left side of the plaza. If you see a book store or Curry House you just need to go to the other side. Also, Orochon is right upstairs so it’s not the ramen place on the 3rd floor.
There isn’t a shortage of ramen places in Little Tokyo either. The better ones are Daikokuya which has waits that make it not worth it though they have the best porky rice, Orochan right above Chin-Ma-Ya which has the best msg saturated fried rice, and Koraku which I’m told is good for clear broth, but I hesitate to return because the ramen there is flavourless to me.
A bit of backstory, this place is actually an extension of a chain from Tokyo. Tan Tan Men is also based on the popular spicy tofu dish from Sichuan province of China but made into a noodle dish without the tofu. So this is kind of a Japanese Ramen with a Chinese style flavour.
The menu there is tiny, I had the Tan Tan Men w/ Chin Ma Han(Mapo Dofu) last time, but their mapo dofu wasn’t that good. So this time I opted for Tan Tan Men and ordered a side of Niku Soboro Gohan (rice with marinated pork and beef) My friends all got their own bowls of Tan Tan Men and an order of gyoza (pot stickers).
The Gyoza was cooked well. It’s light and not so oily, pretty decent dipped in soy but nothing to write home about.
The Niku Sobaoafl;ksjfail;rja was quite good. It tastes less dilluted than their version of mapo dofu and is maybe a one step below Daikokuya’s porky rice in flavour and texture.
This is what I came here for. The broth is rich and flavourful, but not too fatty. You can taste the beef in the broth, not just the pork and beef topping. I always get the medium spiciness since I want to taste the actual fewd. Despite that, finishing this bowl will always make me just break a sweat. The noodles are nice and al dente. To me one of the major sins in ramen is soggy noodles. Basically this ramen has been balanced to give us a feeling of mapo dofu w/ a bit more of the meaty taste. The broth is unbelievably good.
So if you’re in Little Tokyo and want to get some ramen, I would try this place, then work your way through the list of places I mentioned. Oh, and Shinsen Gumi is Gardena or San Gabriel Valley, none that I know of in Little Tokyo yet.
This is a must try place if you like Ramen.