Once diners add their names to the waiting list clipboard at the entrance of Tsujita Annex, ramen fanatics have accepted the challenge -- to stare down others as they wait for one of the coveted 11 seats at West L.A.’s newest ramen-only restaurant.
Thursday's grand opening of Annex on busy Sawtelle Boulevard, right across the street from its nearly 2-year-old sibling, Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle (which serves ramen only at lunch), garnered a diverse crowd of twentysomethings. Many had requested exclusive invites on Facebook. (To ensure that its faithful followers would have an opportunity to dine during the first weekend, the restaurant gave electronic invitations to those who "liked" the Annex Facebook page.)
Once patrons were seated inside, overflowing bowls of golden, rich pork broth smothering chewy thick noodles and thick slices of robustly seasoned pork rushed from the kitchen. Extremely attentive and cordial waiters encouraged diners to personalize and boost the flavor of their ramen by adding in some table spices, including crushed garlic, a ground pepper medley, ramen sauce (a sweet and salty soy blend) and ground dried red chile (onikasu). Our spice tolerance was challenged by a friendly waitress who suggested we add in two to three scoops of the onikasu — noses may have been running and ice water flowing after gladly obliging.
Japanese classical music playing prominently in the small space made one diner feel like he had traveled to the birthplace of ramen. "I like the music, I feel like I'm a warrior and this is an eating competition."
Opening night featured only the original soy sauce ramen with the option of adding char-siu pork and a soft-boiled egg. Future menu offerings will include miso tonkotsu ramen and pork, tuna or salmon caviar rice bowls. The challenge will then be to fight the urge to order everything on the menu.
Tsujita Annex, 2500 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A., (310) 231-0222. Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner 5 to 11 p.m. Cash only.