Menya Musashi - Grand Opening
We were curious and excited about Menya Musashi Niten Ichiryu opening up on Sawtelle ever since Eater LA had mentioned it was moving in (replacing the rather short-lived Tentenyu Ramen). Then reading @J_L’s soft opening report made us even more excited to give it a try.
With its pedigree from Japan (originally founded in 1996 in Shinjuku, Tokyo), there were high hopes it might deliver some more excellent Ramen and Tsukemen and contribute another worthy contender for Best Ramen & Tsukemen in the city.
Walking in, it is indeed as @J_L mentioned, the decor making it feel like an old school Jidaigeki-like eatery, complete with Samurai murals all over the restaurant.
Our server described Menya Musashi as Tokyo-style Ramen & Tsukemen, and their offerings were basically variations on Tsukemen (Dipping Ramen Noodles), and Ramen Soup Noodles, along with a few Rice Bowls.
Niten Ichiryu Tsukemen - Regular Size (Pork & Fish Broth, Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly), Pork Cutlet, Ajitama (Marinated Soft Boiled Egg), Seaweed, Green Onion, Menma (Bamboo Shoots)):
Their claim to fame is serving both their Tsukemen and Ramen with massive chunks of Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly), instead of the regular Chashu Pork slices, and with some Tonkatsu (Deep Fried Pork Cutlets) thrown in for good measure).
Taking a sip, the Tsukemen Broth is definitely a potent Tokyo-style Tonkotsu-Gyokai Broth, made of long-stewed Pork Bones, along with a nice briny punch from Urume Sardines, Saba (Mackerel), and Katsuo (Bonito).
It is thankfully less fatty than Tsujita Ramen’s infamous heart-attack-inducing broth of Pork Fat, Pork and more Pork Fat. (@Ns1 you can feel a bit more at ease.) But it’s still very porky and briny.
The Noodles are wide, flat noodles almost like a Fettuccine. They are manufactured from Sun Noodles for the restaurant. They were cooked rather firm (a good thing), with a nice bite and chew to them. I’m not sure they matched the Tonkotsu-Gyokai Broth, however. It didn’t clash, but it didn’t seem to fit as well as Tsujita’s Noodle does for their Tsukemen.
Their Buta no Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly) is impressive and scary looking. It’s a lot of Pork! The good news is that it tasted fresh. There were chunks on this visit that were soft and tender, but there were some bites that were chewy and too firm (not stewed long enough). It wasn’t bad, but if they were cooked long enough and tender enough, this would be amazing. As it is, it’s a mixed bag.
The Tonkatsu (Deep Fried Pork Cutlet) that comes with the bowl? It’s OK. It’s sufficiently crispy, but it’s nowhere close to the excellence of the Tonkatsu at Kagura, or Kimukatsu down the street.
Towards the latter half of your bowl, you can add some of their Fruit / Berry-Infused Vinegar (as @J_L mentioned), and it transforms the broth and taste into something different; neat.
The Spicy Fried Garlic Chips (a.k.a. not for @Bookwich - stay away!) were a nice addition to the Broth, giving it a massive Garlic punch with each sip if you like Spicy Garlic.
Finally the Ajitama (Soft Boiled Egg) was almost perfectly cooked, still a gorgeous orange-red liquidy center. However, flavor-wise, it was only very lightly seasoned, but with how potent the Broth was, that’s probably fine.
From the Rice Bowls section, the only noteworthy one that caught our eye was something not offered in their Noodles:
Pork Katsu Curry Don (Pork Cutlet, Shredded Cabbage, Curry Sauce, Tonkatsu Sauce):
Speaking with the server, she confirmed that they it’s a Housemade Curry (not using mass manufactured Curry)! Nice! We couldn’t wait to try this…
It captures the familiar taste you expect in a Japanese Curry, but it’s far less gloppy and thick like the mass-produced, MSG-laden Curry House Curry. It’s fragrant, lightly aromatic, and not too salty either. It was a pretty good Housemade Japanese Curry! (Paging @bulavinaka @Dommy @J_L @PorkyBelly @paranoidgarliclover and all Japanese Curry lovers.)
Ramen (Served with Thick Noodles, Pork & Fish Broth, Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly), Seaweed, Green Onion, Menma (Bamboo Shoots)):
Their other main offering (taking the other half of the menu (page 2)) is Ramen Noodles. Taking a sip, it’s less salty, and definitely more Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) focused than their Tsukemen. While it is still a Tonkotsu-Gyokai (Pork Bone & Fish) Broth, you hardly taste the Urume, Katsuo and Saba.
We liked their Ramen Soup more than Tsujita’s Ramen in this case. The Noodles also matched the Broth better (not as wide and flat and eggy like the Tsukemen Noodles were).
The Kakuni Pork Belly in this bowl was softer and more tender than in the Tsukemen (so it’s inconsistent). Both were very fresh (tasting like it was cooked that day (great)), but one bowl had chewy / very firm bites, while other pieces were quite tender.
Service was very good as it was the Grand Opening and they were checking on everyone constantly, so it’s a huge plus from Tsujita down the street.
While Menya Musashi Niten Ichiryu delivers a very solid, respectable bowl of Tokyo-style Tonkotsu-Gyokai Tsukemen and Ramen, there is the million dollar question (or rather in this case the $25 question):
- How comfortable are you paying $25.00 for a bowl of Noodles?
@Ns1 @paranoidgarliclover @Sgee @beefnoguy and all FTC’ers who care about QPR, that’s Menya Musashi’s issue right now: Is it overpriced or fairly priced that you’re paying $25.00 for their Tsukemen?
@beefnoguy and I were recently discussing this on the Ippudo SF thread, where you’re ending up paying about $20 for a bowl of Ramen. Now Musashi ups the ante with their offering. To be fair it’s a lot of food. I couldn’t finish this bowl (we split this meal between 3 of us), but it’s still $25 ($20 + tax & tip).
And while it’s a lot of food, their Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly) isn’t outstanding: It ranged from too firm & chewy, to some pieces being tender enough, but flavor-wise, honestly, it doesn’t compare to the best Izakaya Kakuni offerings. And Tsujita’s Chashu is way more tender and flavorful, as are offerings from Kitakata Ramen Bannai, or Mensho Tokyo’s amazing Chashu.
And their Tonkatsu (Deep Fried Pork Cutlet) are fine and a different / interesting addition to the Noodles that you might not expect usually, but they are nowhere near as good as great Tonkatsu at places like Kagura or Kimukatsu.
That’s not to say this is a “bad” bowl of Noodles at all - far from it - but the cost might be prohibitive for some, and the star of the Tsukemen is the less fatty, more oceanic (in a good way) Tonkotsu-Gyokai Broth that folks might like more than Tsujita’s version, but the other components are fine, but not outstanding.
You can dial back all of the additions and just get a bowl of Tsukemen with only Noodles and the Broth (and 1 piece of Pork Belly) for ~$17, which is more reasonable, but it’s still a bit on the pricey side.
However, ultimately, Menya Musashi delivers some other noteworthy items like their Housemade Japanese Curry Bowl (tasty!) , and their regular Ramen (Soup Noodles) is a much more enjoyable bowl for us compared to Tsujita’s (not Tsujita Annex) regular Ramen. It’s a more flavorful, savory, but not too salty Pork Bone-focused Broth with just a tiny hint of Fish to elevate it.
And as @ogawak mentioned, this place takes credit cards and has much less wait than Tsujita, so that’s another plus for now. While it might sound like I’m down on Musashi, we liked it well enough. If they can improve on their Kakuni Pork Belly cooking techniques (and not give in to the typical fall-off in quality where they batch make an entire week’s worth of Pork in 1 day and serve you reheated, old-tasting Pork in your Ramen), and refine the Tonkatsu Cutlet quality, this place would be worth a drive from anywhere in the city. Here’s hoping they continue to improve.
Menya Musashi Niten Ichiryu
2012 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tel: (310) 231-7188