We came in at about 9:30pm on a Monday and so it was a breeze walking right in & sitting down around a table that fit 7 people. The space at Yamada~ya is small so it is not good for large groups especially during peak dining hours.
I ordered the Tonkotsu Sho-yu Ra-men which included chopped green onions to add a green herbal smokiness, Memma/Shinachiku or lightly fermented Sho-yu braised bamboo shoots, small sheet of black Nori (Japanese seaweed), an egg sliced in half to show the almost custard-like soft bright yellow yolk against the surrounding white, & a slice of cha- shu-. Raw cloves of garlic with press is included to add even more funk to the Tonkotsu soup.
The Tonkotsu soup was colored white, rich with calcium having been boiled for many hours in a pot full of pork bones, but there was a low fat content which made the soup seem lighter and almost refreshing unlike the Tonkotsu soup at Daikokuya or Tsujita Annex which is heavy with fat. (I do admit some people like the richness that can be tasted in soups with a higher fat content.)
BTW you have a choice of getting a thicker Ra-men noodle comparable in diameter to the standard spaghetti or a thin Ra-men noodle akin to Capelli d’Angeli. I chose the thick since I like “Hagotae” or al dente in mouthfeel. The thicker noodle allows it to be in the soup longer & not get too mushy, while the thin noodles must be eaten right away or the noodles soak up the soup and become soggy & soft.
All the ingredients worked with each other with every element distinct yet adding to the whole. This is a great Ra-men……so deeply satisfying…..so comforting. Sort of like a baby whose mother’s breast is so near. At $7.95, this Ra-men is a deal, and the total effect is so worth it.
I can’t say the same for the pan-fried Gyo-za. It didn’t have the combination of crispy on one side, but softer in texture on the opposite. The minced ingredients inside such as cabbage, onions, ground pork did not have the distinctive flavours of a bit of garlic, white pepper, porkiness that I found to be represented in the Gyo-za at Ra-men Jinya. They are still the rulers of the Gyo-za world at least in traditional Japanese style Ra-men~ya in the greater LA area.
The Ra-men at Yamada~ya & Santo-ka are definitely worth the trouble to sample although I may like Tokushima Men O- in Little Tokyo, downtown LA a bit better.