TATSU RAMEN (Melrose branch)
Address: 711 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Telephone: (310) 747-1388
Hours: Sun – Wed 11:00 – 02:00 | Thurs – Sat 11:00 – 03:00
Price: $15 – 20 /person
Cuisine: Japanese – Ramen
Ready for ramen?
After a long haul flight back to my hometown of Los Angeles, I had cravings for all kinds of food. Although I was anxious to take a break from my heavier Asian noodle habits and go for a more healthy Southern Cali kale and avocado based diet, I couldn’t refrain from jumping into a bowl of noodles. Since I had a spin class and hike lined up, I figured it all evens out. Right?
I had seen and heard a lot about the ramen joint Tatsu. They opened in 2012 shortly after I moved from LA to Shanghai and I’ve never had a chance to try it, but there was hype. They have two locations, one on Sawtelle where Asian restaurants fill the street from end to end (a few ramen spots there as well!) and Melrose where Asian food is harder to find. We tried the Melrose location but both have high ratings on Yelp.
The exterior is clean and bright with a big Tatsu sign and their tagline “ramen with a soul”. I particularly like the additional sign on the side of the building which reads “EAT RAMEN!”, a phrase I would encourage people to do as well. As with most LA eateries they have an outdoor seating area so you can eat and enjoy the sunny blue skies…something I truly miss. Why did I leave again?
When you walk in there’s clear signage for dining in and ordering / picking up to go. In the narrow walkway there are windows into a small room where all Tatsu noodles are made and cut fresh. A machine has huge roll of dough which gets rolled through and sliced into delicious strands. I personally love when you can see ingredients and preparation being done fresh on site. The view of cases full of freshly cut ramen is a beautiful thing.
This place kind of reminds me of the restaurant Moian Noodle in Shanghai because they also have a whole iPad ordering system. This is a simple and efficient dining process…perhaps the future of dining? Tatsu offers a lot of customization and alternatives for those with dietary restrictions. I mean, it’s LA so vegan, gluten free ramen is a must. Apparently.
They offer seven ramen dishes with kitchy names like Old Skool Ramen and Naked Ramen but their homemade Tonkotsu broth based dishes are the ones to try. Other fun sides like Wagyu Ramen Burger or Juicy Pork Bun could make for a fun addition if you’re extra hungry.
We opted for their classic Bold Ramen and Soul Ramen along with the Advanced Purified Water, aka filtered water with a fancy name.
Bold Ramen | $13.50 (base price, additional add ons are $2-3)
The homemade Tonkotsu broth is definitely good. It has a thick, rich pork flavor without being too fatty or rich. I’ve had some elsewhere that have too many fat particles floating around. We opted for the spice level ‘Quite a kick’ which was just the right amount of spice (for me at least). The Kurobuta Pork was tender and tasty, but they also offer other protein options like chicken or tofu. I’m down with green onion but you can go without if preferred or ‘Like the Hulk’ if you want it piled on! I also included the seasoned free-range egg for some extra richness. Strongly recommended.
Soul Ramen | $14.50 (base price, additional add ons are $2-3)
This ramen has the same Tonkotsu broth, but with added black garlic oil and sweet umami sauce. However, despite the additional rich flavor profiles, this dish seems lighter and more brothy. There was a strong seaweed flavor which was interested, but lacks some kick that the Bold Ramen has (spice level was the same). The Kurobuta pork is recommended for the bowl and the wood ear mushrooms give it a nice earthiness. Recommended.
Tatsu definitely satisfies a ramen craving, but I would say it is a slightly more modern, Western take. With all the customization and very strong flavors it’s a little bolder than most Japanese ramen. But, with the variety of ramen that’s out there, it’s very much a personal preference. I recommend it and see how it fares up to the other ramen spots you’ve tried in LA! Happy slurping.
- Don’t expect particularly good service, since most everything is done on the iPad, the staff just brings you the items. We had a staff spill a tray of soda behind us and was very unapologetic for the splash!
- There didn’t seem to be a big lunch rush, but better to call ahead and check.
- Limited parking in front! Try for a meter on the street.