Menya Musashi – Sawtelle

Menya Musashi, the latest Japanese ramen chain to branch out to the US, just opened their first US restaurant on Sawtelle Blvd. Famed for their kakuni (braised pork belly), Menya Musashi took over the spot recently vacated by chicken ramen specialist Tentenyu.

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Named after the sword master Musashi Miyamoto, known for his double-bladed swordsmanship, Menya Musashi incorporates samurai imagery into their artwork, as well as on their dishes and table tops.

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The menu is focused on noodles and tonkatsu, with a few curry dishes thrown in for good measure. Their signature dishes are the Niten Ichiryu tsukemen (dipping noodles) and ramen, which come with two pieces each of pork belly and tonkatsu. At a heart-stopping $19.50 for the tsukemen and $18.00 for the ramen, it’s pretty expensive for noodles, though they do offer smaller versions at a more budget-friendly price.

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For those who may not want to partake in the pork-intensive menu items, there’s a vegetable ramen, with thick noodles, vegetable broth, napa cabbage, asparagus, carrot, pumpkin, tomato, pea sprouts, fried kale and veggie ball (made of beans and mushrooms). It was somewhat bland and needed a kick from the chili garlic paste that was on the table.

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The regular size ramen at $12 was a scaled down version of the Niten Ichiryu. Instead of two pieces of pork belly and tonkotsu, this only had one piece of the braised pork and no tonkotsu.  The noodles came in a pork and fish broth, with seaweed, green onion and bamboo shoots.

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One of the more unusual features of Menya Musashi is that they use a very thick noodle, much thicker than other ramen places. Thin noodles are available on request, should that be your preference.

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The regular tsukemen at $13.50 likewise only gave you one piece of braised pork and no tonkotsu. You can choose either regular or rich for dipping – as our waitress put it, the rich was “more creamy,” though I know that meant that it was even more fat-intensive. Wanting to live a little longer, I chose the regular pork and fish broth, which had green onions and bamboo shoots, along with some spare cubes of pork.

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The noodles portions are fairly generous, which is pretty rare. The tsukemen was fine, less pork-intensive as the one down the street at Tsujita, though it’s an unfair comparison as I didn’t get the rich version (probably a good thing as the regular presented a challenge to my digestive system). The fruit-infused vinegar did help to cut through the grease, though in retrospect, some hot tea would have been good.

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The best part of the dish (and the ramen, too) was the braised pork belly. It was rich, flavorful and oh-so-fatty. It was a good thing I only had one piece. If I ate two, plus two pieces of tonkotsu, I would probably have keeled over walking out of the restaurant.

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I had high expectations for Menya Musashi, maybe too high. At those prices, Menya Musashi will have a challenge, competing with other ramen places. Luckily, they’ve got that pork in their flavor, er, favor.

Location – 2012 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles 90025
Website – http://menyamusashi-la.us
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Vegetarian/Vegan Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes

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