Why is it so hard to find a decent bowl of ramen in Orange County? It’s very frustrating, but my schedule doesn’t allow for a drive to the Torrance/Gardena area whenever I’m hankering for a bowl of ramen.
When my friend Cynthia flew in from Toronto — Canada that is — I took this as an opportunity to detour from LAX to home for a bowl of piping hot ramen.
Two other friends arranged to meet us at Yamadaya, a very small, cramped ramen joint with only a few tables. Parking sucked and I finally had to park across the street at the McDonald’s parking lot and dashed across the street before all the tables were taken up.
It didn’t take long after ordering before the food arrived. We started off with gyoza ($3.80), pork and vegetable potstickers. The filling was moist and flavorful and although it was predominantly pork, it was dotted with a few vegetables here and there. They were a little greasy but the dipping sauce was slightly acidic, helping to cut the oily taste.
Chicken kaarage ($5), or Japanese fried chicken, is perfectly golden brown, and surprisingly, very moist and tender. Traditionally, mayo is used as a dipping accompaniment and that is what you get here. The coleslaw is nice and refreshing and gives a nice crunchy and palate-cleansing contrast to the chicken.
Our ramen arrived piping hot. I had ordered my Spicy Ramen ($7.95) at a #2 spice level because the server told me #3 would be too much. I wasn’t able to detect any spiciness so asked for more chili paste. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t spicy enough for me, however, the broth was hearty and I could taste the richness from the hours of simmering. I ordered mine with an additional seasoned egg ($1) and chashu ($2).
Yamadaya ($9.95) is the house specialty, using the same soup base as the Spicy Ramen, just without the chili paste.You pretty much get the same toppings: half an egg, chashu, scallions, but the Yamadaya also comes with a big piece of nori (toasted seaweed, some kelp and a small piece of fatty pork.
Cynthia and Tim ordered the Kakuni Ramen ($10.95) and this bowl frightened me with its huge chunks of fatty pork belly. I’m not a fan of fatty meat but those who love it relish it with vigor. I watched as Tim savored his piece of kakuni, sending shivers down my spine, and as I make a face at him, he smiles and takes his time taking one bite after another in pure enjoyment.
I hope it doesn’t take Cynthia’s next trip for me to visit Yamadaya again, but it is unfortunate that I’m not close enough to make it a more frequent lunching spot. At least I know that when I’m in the area, I can make it my once in a while special ramen treat.
3118 W 182nd Street
Torrance, CA 90504