Protocol Snow

Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen – Rosemead, CA

with 12 comments

The area of Los Angeles that I’m from is called the San Gabriel Valley. One of its claims to fame is that we have the largest Chinese community in the U.S. That equals the best Chinese food in the country, not just in terms of quality but also sheer breadth of variety. The Atlantic Monthly had a great article on this phenomenon — even though it was written a decade ago, everything in the report still holds true. Perhaps our unique situation is even more exaggerated these days, since the community has only grown larger over the past decade.

Shin-sen-gumi hakata ramen noodles rosemead sgv japanese food california socal

My point in bringing this up is that despite the amazing Chinese food, our Japanese restaurants in the area are comparatively lacking. We have our fair share of good places, but most would agree that the standouts are located in the Gardena / Torrance area or near Little Tokyo in downtown L.A., both quite substantial drives from the SGV. The Shin-Sen-Gumi restaurant empire, known for its authentic Japanese cuisine, operates mostly in Gardena. I only recently learned that they had opened a hakata ramen shop in Rosemead, CA (quite a bit closer to home) so I jumped at the chance to try out their ramen.

Hakata ramen features a milky pork bone broth with very rich flavors as well as thin, white noodles. This is a departure from the ramen I’ve had more exposure to, with the typical curly yellow noodles and shio / shoyu / miso soup bases. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first bowl of pork-based ramen I’ve ever eaten (the Nanchatte tonkotsu ramen at Foo Foo Tei was a playful interpretation that did not actually use pork ingredients). I loved the delicious Hakata soup with its undeniably porky taste and was immediately captivated. More please!

Shin-Sen-Gumi only sells this one type of ramen, but every aspect is customizable. In fact, when you place the order, you have to specify the intensity of the soup (mild / normal / strong), the amount of soup oil (light / normal / thick), and the firmness of noodles (soft / normal / hard). A variety of toppings including bamboo, corn, and eggs are also available for additional fees. The photo I took above shows the default toppings that come with the ramen at no additional charge.

Shin-sen-gumi hakata ramen noodles rosemead sgv japanese food california socal

As much as I enjoyed the ramen, this bowl of fried rice was the highlight of the meal. It came as part of a lunch set so I wasn’t expecting much from it. I’ve never tasted fried rice quite like this though. I was first charmed by the sweet and light, buttery flavor which was then tempered with a lingering herbal, almost earthly essence. Superb. The rice itself was unique as well, I would guess a wild grain with nice texture. I’m ordering this for sure the next time I return.

Shin-sen-gumi hakata ramen noodles rosemead sgv japanese food california socal

We had a couple other appetizers accompanying the ramen. The spam-musubi was another treat. After a bowl of rich, almost creamy broth, the saltiness of the spam and salted rice was intensified, cutting right through and awakening my taste buds from their post-pork slumber. The gyoza were hilariously tiny and filled with the typical pork and green onion. Decent, but nothing compared to the gyoza at Foo Foo Tei.

Shin-sen-gumi hakata ramen noodles rosemead sgv japanese food california socal

Shin-Sen-Gumi seems to be perpetually busy so a twenty minute wait on average is to be expected. Guests have to register their parties on a clipboard and then hang around outside since there is no room inside the tiny restaurant. Service is frenetic and they could clearly use one more waitress to help shoulder the workload. That means sometimes you might have to wait a few more minutes than expected to get your food and the check, but it’s not a big deal. For my favorite bowl of ramen thus far, the waiting is worth it!

8450 E. Valley Blvd, #103
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 572-8646
Visit: 9.1.2009

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Written by Protocol Snow

March 7th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Food

  • Dave -nibbleanibble

    Ah, to be honest… “Best Chinese food in the country” is a bit exaggerated. Even though I live in the SGV and I love everything about it here I think that claim is just way too much. Especially because most Chinese restaurants in the area just offers inexpensive food. (1.29 for dim sum? OMG!)

    Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen has been on top of my to go list for a while but the lines are always too long. Maybe one of these days.

  • Protocol Snow

    I suppose when I say “best Chinese food in the country”, I’m not referring to individual elite-class Chinese restaurants, but to the food culture as a whole. Can you offer another area in the country that can match the quality, variety and sheer volume of Chinese food in SGV? I’ve been around the country quite a bit and have lived outside L.A. for the past 7 years. Only place I can think of that comes close to SGV is NorCal, maybe around Cupertino, but even they can’t compare from my experience.

    Looking at your blog, you seem to be well-traveled so I’m interested in your opinion. But I think that most SGV residents tend to take their food options for granted =D

    Nice blog by the way, I’ve subscribed.

  • Dave -nibbleanibble

    Well, first of all I would like to thank you for taking the time and interest in reading my blog. I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time but I am not one of those that posts just to post.

    I will not argue with you in saying that there is no other place in the country that matches the sheer quantity that we have in the SGV.(There is almost every kind of Chinese food here…everything from Cantonese to Hakka)

    However, quality is a tricky issue. There are simply way too many restaurants out there that I haven’t tried. It wouldn’t be fair for me to say a restaurant is the best unless I have throughly tasted them all. I will say that some of the better Chinese meals I’ve eaten are in places that are not as well known.(For example, I remember having one of the better beef brisket in a middle of nowhere town in Idaho)
    Sometimes gems can be found in lesser known areas especially because Chinese restaurants are everywhere.

    • Protocol Snow

      Yeah I agree, saying something “is the best” is typically unjustified. I try to sidestep that problem by claiming that it's “my favorite” instead =D

      Anyway, I think we're quibbling about semantics. SGV has great Chinese food, we can rest easy with that fact.

  • Eat. Travel. Eat!

    Looking good :). Best Chinese food in the country it may or may not be but it is very good to leave it at that. Actually some people are starting to like Chinese food in the SGV rather than in China due to the quality of food we serve here. I’ve certainly had some very so-so meals in China that were worse than here.

    Haven’t been to Shin-sen-gumi but I’ve always seen a line for it after passing by 888. It sounds like fried rice at ramen places are good after hearing your good report and Wandering Chopstick’s report on the good fried rice at Daikoya (sp?).

    • Protocol Snow

      Interesting you should mention that point about China. The Atlantic Monthly article briefly discussed that same idea. It's a well-researched article that is well worth reading, especially for residents of the SGV

  • SinoSoul

    Best Chinese food in THIS country wouldn't be TOO hard. Let's look at the top 5 cities in the US. NYC: full of Chaozhou, Fuzhou new immigrants, Old Cantonese. Unfortunately, a lot further from China than LA, so products hit NYC slower. Also further from West Coast markets growing Chinese produces, also stunted by battle for turf in Little Italy, as well as in Flushing (versus Indian and Koreans). Chicago, #3 city. I have eaten most of Chinatown in Chicago after living there for over 3 years. I said it before on LTHForum and I'll say it again: there is no good Chinese food in Chicago. Then there's Houston… Don't know much, but safe to assume there's no major Chinese food “scene”? I hate using the “B” word as much as anyone, but I have no problem saying LA has “B”etter Chinese food than anywhere in US.

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  • BeefNoGuy

    While your claim may seem snobbish to many, I actually believe that SGV has a superior density, as well as a boatload of variety of Chinese, particularly regional Chinese and arguably even bits of regional Taiwanese. Cupertino might have half decent Chinese like Sichuan, Islamic Chinese, pseudo Taiwanese, and a few scattered northerns, but it's nowhere near SGV/MP. Our Cupertino branch of Sinbala sizzucks the dilsnick….the ones closer to you are vastly superior. There's still the belief that MP/SGV area dim sum outsmokes Northern California's, except maybe Koi Palace (although some argue your Elite is better, I dunno), but I guess everyone's thinking is different. But yeah I'd love Shin Sen Gumi to open up a yakitori and ramen (separate joints) in NorCal, because our ramen is overall slacking so bad that we had to import a Santouka (and even that seems to be not doing so well!)

    • Protocol Snow

      Very good points, you have no arguments from me.

      On a side note, here are stats on U.S. cities with the largest populations of Taiwanese and Chinese-born residents. SGV dominates the list in both. I'd be very interested to see if and how this data changes once Census 2010 results are published.

  • sophia

    Can I just say how lucky you are to live in San Gabriel? Gosh, please eat more dim sum for me, I miss them SO much!!! And all the lovely Asian meals….
    I live in downtown USC area, where the norm is Taco Bell and McD's. Boo hoooo…

  • QA

    新撰組 is badass. Just wanna give credit where it's due. This place has some epic ramen – hands-down some of the best I've had in the U.S.