After many failed attempts to get together, Keizo, Rameniac, and I finally found time in our oh-so-busy schedules to gather for our 1st Ramen Summit (Well, Keizo called it a Ramen Round Table, but I prefer the “the fate of the ramen world is at stake”-sounding “Ramen Summit”.) I’ve already met Keizo several times, and he’s every bit the friendly ramen fiend you would think he is. This was the first time I’ve met Rameniac, and, while I don’t remember how I started associating “rock star” with “rameniac,” that is exactly the sort of vibe he projects, but in a friendly way. And me, I’m “just me,” as you can tell by my “ramen name” of edjusted. (Creative readers might be able to come up with something for a “ramen name”…take the name of your first pet, and the street you lived on…no, no…maybe not…)
No, we didn’t go around trashing hotel rooms, throwing bowls of ramen against the wall and downing bottles of shoyu and tonkotsu soup until we passed out. We simply got together at Umemura and plotted our domination of the ramen world–I mean, got to know each other. Actually, this happened a short while ago, but a conspiracy of events (the Bently that tried to run me off the freeway several times on my way home (you’d think someone who could afford a Bently could afford driving lessons), and the subsequent 3+ hour neighborhood-wide blackout that same night) provided a convenient excuse to put off writing this review until now.
Umemura has been around for decades, having expanded to several stores, and finally contracting back to just one location in an old Taco Bell building in Gardena. The recently-remodeled interior is sparsely decorated but clean and well lit. Keizo and Rameniac, both Umemura veterans, were able to decide on their ramen immediately while I found it hard to choose among the 17 different ramen offerings. I finally settled on the much acclaimed Umani ramen.
The surprisingly large bowl of Umani ramen is a shoyu-base ramen with an oyster sauce glaze on top for added depth. The soup is rich and satisfying, almost more a thick ramen gravy than soup. The gravy-ness of the soup was both a strength and weakness. The concoction was flavorful and clung to the noodles and toppings, giving every slurp an extra-savory kick. On the other hand, it was a too bit much, and the more I slurped, the more I wished for just a bit less glaze. Maybe I’m a bit too simple and traditional when it comes to ramen. Give me a nice shoyu, tonkotsu, or miso, or even one of those new-fangled shoyu-tonkotsu hybrids, and I’ll be as happy as…well, a good bowl of ramen (and are clams really that happy?).
The noodles were average: mostly-straight ramen noodles that neither enhanced nor detracted from the rest of the bowl. They were a bit on the soft side, and didn’t really leave an impression on me. The toppings were decent: stir-fried veggies with pork, menma, and half of a unmarinated hard-boiled egg.
I enjoyed my Umani ramen, but I was more impressed with the miso ramen that Keizo ordered or Rameniac’s yakiniku shoyu ramen. One of the more interesting things I got out of the “Ramen Summit” was a greater appreciation for the diversity of ramen in Southern California as well as an appreciation for the diversity of everyone’s tastes. While Keizo swears by the Umani ramen, Rameniac won’t touch anything but the yakiniku shoyu. Me, I enjoyed the Umani ramen, but will be back to try the chashu ramen or maybe the more adventurous Kanitama ramen (crab flavored fish cake & bamboo omelette on a sweet & sour glazed shoyu ramen). I had a great time at the “summit,” and I thank Keizo and Rameniac for taking the time to get together.
Umemura’s Umani ramen gets a 7 out of 10 in my book.
1724 W. Redondo Beach Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90274
Mon-Sun: 11:30am to 3pm, 5pm to 9pm
(Geographically, the three of us form a neat little triangle covering most of the ramen-bearing Southern California area. Coincidence?)