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The Find: Ramen Yamadaya in Torrance

Tonkotsu

is the heart of the matter at Ramen Yamadaya, an unassuming little ramen shop in Torrance squeezed between a skate shop and the 405 Freeway. Proper

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tonkotsu

broth is made by simmering pork bones for the better part of the day, and the result is a lush, intensified, liquefied pork. A good

tonkotsu

broth feels like a crushed velvet smoothie.

Yamadaya's

tonkotsu

broth looks promising: cloudy, dense with porky particulate. A first sip doesn't disappoint, revealing a sensuous version of

tonkotsu

broth — almost fuzzy, like drinking a pork Snuggie.

A newbie to hard-core pork ramen should certainly begin with the broth in its most elemental form: Order

tonkotsu

ramen with thin noodles for an unadulterated experience of the long-simmered-bone broth. The more pig-lusting among you should order

chashumen

, which adds a few extra slices of luscious pork belly. Close your eyes, focus your mind and sip the broth as if it were a glass of fine red.

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Ramen Yamadaya offers a subtler version of

tonkotsu

broth than some of its competitors. If Los Angeles' famed Santouka Ramen gives you the James Brown dirty funk version of

tonkotsu

, then Ramen Yamadaya offers a more meditative broth flavor, a Bach cello suite in the key of pork.

But unlike some of the other

tonkotsu

vendors in Los Angeles, Ramen Yamadaya might be at its best when it strays from the formula. The classic

tonkotsu

style comes from Kyushu, a southern island of Japan, but

tonkotsu

has become a favorite in

Tokyo

, where the style has gone through a number of mutations. Ramen Yamadaya offers some of the popular Tokyo variants, including

tonkotsu shoyu

ramen:

tonkotsu

broth cut with soy sauce and flavored with black sesame paste.

The best bowl here might be Yamadaya ramen, which is your choice of classic

tonkotsu

ramen or Tokyo-style

tonkotsu shoyu

ramen, with a bunch of extra toppings: a seasoned egg, fermented bamboo shoots and a square of dried seaweed. Get it with

shoyu

. The saltiness and brine of the seaweed leaches out into the broth and combines with the fermented funk of quality soy and triggers some mysterious, wild alchemy. It is one of Los Angeles' definitive liquid experiences.

Jin Yamada, owner of Ramen Yamadaya, is most excited about his

tsukemen

: thick, chewy noodles served with a side of a

tonkotsu

-based dipping sauce.

Tsukemen

is a popular style of ramen in Tokyo, says Yamada, but it's rare in Los Angeles.

Ramen Yamadaya's version of

tsukemen

features cold noodles with your choice of toppings and a bowl of warm dipping sauce, for added contrast. The dipping sauce is made from a concentrate of the

tonkotsu

pork broth, with fish powder for extra zest. The sauce is charmingly, puckeringly salty.

Tsukemen

is also, by far, the lightest ramen experience at Yamadaya. It's a useful counteragent to

kakuni

ramen, which is

tonkotsu

ramen with the addition of a massive slab of steamed pork belly. The

kakuni

is so powerfully and beautifully soporific, you may need a designated driver.

RAMEN YAMADAYA

LOCATION:

3118 W. 182nd St., Torrance; (310) 380-5555

PRICES:

Ramen, $8 to $13; other entrees, $6 to $10; sides $2 to $5

DETAILS:

Open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight Monday to Friday; noon to midnight Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. Soft drinks, tea. Cash only. Lot parking.

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