Best noodles in Little Tokyo: Guide to the best ramen, udon and more

Find the best noodles in Little Tokyo from bowls of ramen and udon to fusion plates of pasta.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Blue crab noodles at Spice Table

The best noodles in Little Tokyo are as varied and numerous as the shops that serve them. In this neighborhood, it's not hard to find a modern version of Southeast Asian dishes (from a Mozza alum, no less), the best ramen bowls from tsukeme to tonkatsu, or a tasty plate of noodles. Check out our top eight picks and slurp your way through the neighborhood's top noodle dishes.

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Men Oh Tokushima Ramen

Critics' pick

While Little Tokyo hasn’t seen the same influx of new ramen shops that other parts of the city have, you'll still find a new place or two if you look hard enough. Case in point: Men Oh Ramen, tucked away in Honda Plaza. A small shop with a handful of tables and a long bar, Men Oh hails from the Tokushima region of Japan, where the dominant industry is pig farming. Thus, the signature item, the Tokushima Ramen ($8.95), is an unctuous, deeply pork-flavored bowl with toppings that include lovely slices of tender chashu and strips of stir-fried butabara pork. Those additions, plus the pork bone and soy sauce-based broth, make this bowl one of the more complex ones in town.  —Tien Nguyen

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Downtown

Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself fighting back the urge to say, "Oishii" upon tasting the ramen at this Little Tokyo joint. Chewy noodles are soaked in a rich layer of tonkotsu broth for a rich, comforting bowl with its own cult following. Make sure to grab a seat at the chef’s bar to watch all the noodle-slinging in action.

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Downtown

The Spice Table

Chef Bryan Ng has perfected Southeast Asian street food at the Spice Table, where casual charm meets delicious plates of satays and grilled small plates. While the Saturday brunch menu offers a killer crab wonton soup ($11) with surf-and-turf toppings of char siu pork and fish roe, our top pick for dinner is an order of crab bee hoon ($28),  channeling flavors of Ng's ancestral roots of Singapore. The result: thin vermicelli noodles topped with blue and Dungeness crab—home never tasted so good.

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Downtown

Marugame Monzo

Maybe the most exciting restaurant in Little Tokyo at the moment is Marugame Monzo, which recently relocated and is now showcasing its freshly made udon. Ask for seats at the counter so you can watch the noodle-making action up close: Behind a large glass, the udon master will roll out the dough and cut strands and strands of the thick, chewy noodles for each order. The traditional bowls are great here; try the hot kitsune udon ($7.95) topped with fried tofu or the cold plum shiso bukkake udon ($8.95). Or, for a fun mash up of Japanese and Italian cuisines, go for the very popular miso carbonara udon ($12.50). —Tien Nguyen

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Downtown

Manichi Ramen

Critics' pick

If the lines are too long at other old-school ramen restaurants in Little Tokyo (we're looking at you, Daikokuya), head over to Manichi Ramen, the Los Angeles installment from one of Japan's best ramen spots. The #1 Manichi Special is a rich, fragrant bowl of tonkotsu, which you can order extra spicy if you can take the heat (add an extra egg, too—they're exceptional here). Manichi Ramen also claims to have one of the best plates of gyoza in the world—we can't verify that, of course, but for LA this dish is pretty tops.

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Little Tokyo

Aburiya Toranoko

For another Japanese-Italian noodle rendition, stop into this sleek, modern izakaya for a comforting bowl of tarako pasta ($11) coated with a cod roe cream sauce. If fish eggs aren't your thing, order a meaty wafuu pasta ($11) with a medley of mushrooms and bacon. Traditionlists can also seek out hot and cold udon and soba with ($12) or without ($7) tempura.

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Downtown

Kagaya

Kagaya is the shabu-shabu destination in town. The cook-your-own beef—or wagyu ($138), plus seafood ($65 regular, $128 live)—is an experience in exquisite quality and subtle gastronomic appreciation. But this DIY dining is perfected and finished off with your choice of rice or udon—needless to say, you should choose the latter—that's cooked in the umami-rich beef broth.

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Downtown

Daikokuya

Critics' pick

This buzzy Little Tokyo spot is a ramen mecca (four locations in Los Angeles have a devoted following). A wrap-around counter faces the open kitchen, providing a social atmosphere as you dig into piping hot bowls of flavorful (porky) broth and chewy noodles—we love the specialty Daikoku Ramen ($8.50). Chijire-style egg noodles served in varying firmness sit in a rich tonkotsu soup topped with slices of kurobuta pork belly—pork fans can amp it up with fatty kotteri-style—boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and green onions. Add an order of pan-fried pork gyoza ($5.95) or crispy tonkatsu (pork cutlet) ($6.50) to make the line worthwhile.  —Tien Nguyen

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Downtown

Ikemen

Ikemen's slogan is "No ramen, no life," which pretty much sums up the slightly punk-ish atmosphere of this ramen joint. Just as it is at the original location in Hollywood, the specialty here is tsukemen ($9), or dipping ramen. Though tsukemen purists will want to stick with the wonderful bowls at Tsujita on Sawtelle, Ikemen's will satisfy this side of the 405. Try the more creative bowls like the Johnny Dip ($9.00) where the tonkotsu broth is mixed with green onions and Italian basil and your choice of chashu pork or grilled chicken. —Tien Nguyen

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Downtown

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