Although Laguna Beach is home to a few Japanese restaurants, there isn’t one dedicated exclusively to ramen. While Gu Ramen Taps & Tapas has “ramen” in its name, the little place on the corner of PCH and Thalia, also offers a tapas menu on top of other things, should you be dining with friends who are not interested in eating a bowl of noodles.
We arrive in the late afternoon around 4.30pm. The restaurant is empty as expected, however, by the time we leave, it was 75% full. Some people are here for the beer, while others, like us, are here for the food. Parking can be problematic like everywhere in Laguna, but we are lucky enough to find a spot outside.
Since everyone else is ordering ramen, I decide to switch it up a bit and select Japanese Style Filet Mignon Steak, a special I see advertised on the table. The dish arrives with Japanese rice topped with sauteed beef seasoned with a soy based sauce, onions and carrots. A drizzle of sweet mirinyaki sauce — a slightly sweet soy sauce seasoned with mirin — and crispy fried garlic chips add an elevated touch. It isn’t outstanding, but it is an option for those not wanting noodles.
Spicy Poke Salad ($10) consists of ahi tuna chunks on a bed of greens. The fish is tossed in a lovely marinade and has a little kick, but not too spicy.
Fried Togarashi Green Beans ($6) is a nice appetizer perfect with beer. These crunchy green beans are enveloped with a coating possessing togarashi, a Japanese seasoned salt, however, the flavor is subtle. I would have liked a little sprinkling of the togarashi over the finished product as an added touch. The dipping sauce helps add flavor to the beans.
Definitely order the Senbei Ahi Tartare ($8) which is a great appetizer with varying textures. Senbei is Japanese rice crackers, and these are topped with ahi tartare and pickled seaweed, then drizzled with an aioli of sorts and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
But we are here for the ramen, and they keep it pretty simple. The Gu Ramen ($9.95) is a bowl of noodles immersed in a tonkotsu broth — pork bone broth simmered for eight hours. The noodles come with green onion, mayu (sesame oil), naruto (kamaboku or fish cake) and roasted sesame seeds. You choose the toppings according to taste.
There is a choice of chashu, spicy ground pork or crispy lollipop chicken (also offered as an appetizer). Next, choose your spice level. Additional toppings range from 75 cents to $3 and there is a host of them including bamboo, mushrooms, bean sprouts and more.
If you’re ordering ramen, there is also an option of adding Hibachi Fried Rice for a mere $3.95. I recommend you order it even if you can’t finish. Why? Take it to go! It is quite delicious and it is something you can enjoy later at home.
I know my friends who live in Laguna Beach are happy Gu Ramen is here. The ramen is good — though not fantastic — but it suffices when that ramen craving hits and they don’t want to drive far to get a decent bowl.
Gu Ramen Taps & Tapas
907 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651