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Tsujita LA

PHOTOS: Holly Liss

The transformation of Sawtelle from glorified service road to Japanese culinary enclave is well-documented. Walking around here is like punching a ticket to the Willy Wonka Drunk Food Factory of Your Dreams. Sweet potato-stuffed pretzels? Cutlets made of 25 layers of pork? Snow cream?? Right this way! There’s something for everyone in this little town within a town, but there’s also a king of the castle.

And that’s Tsujita LA.

A Tokyo import, Tsujita LA has as close to a cult following as exists for hot noodles in a bowl. If you aren’t waiting outside the door at 11 a.m., it’s time for a Candy Crush relapse because you're going to be there a while. And the people in that line are waiting for one thing: tsukemen.

A very specific type of ramen eaten in a very specific way, the tsukemen served at Tsujita might be the best rendition this side of the Pacific. The server explains that the flavors will subtly change as you eat it, and silently in your mind you call bullsh*t. But the joke's on you. This is what they call "dip ramen," and as you slowly dip the cold noodles into the separate bowl of hot broth, the flavors do change, and we don’t know why. Just trust the sorcery.

Tsujita's space is sharp, clean, and modern. Well aware of the line outside, the staff moves at an efficient pace without rushing. If you can get inside before the masses, Tsujita is lunchtime paradise – affordable, quick, and to-the-point. Sit in one of the small booths with a co-worker or at the bar by yourself, and you’re in and out in half an hour. Tsujita is also open till 2 a.m. every day, providing a MUCH needed late-night spot to the always-sleepy Westside.

If you live in LA and aren’t eating at Tsujita, you’re doing it wrong. This is the type of place you can brag to your Brooklyn friends about without bracing for a violent rebuttal. Because they don’t have one. Finally.

What has your service road done for you lately?

Food Rundown

Char Siu Tsukemen

Tender pieces of BBQ pork canopied over those famous cold noodles. For anyone who has eaten Tsukemen before, the broth is served separately as a dipping sauce until about ⅔ of the noodles remain. At that point, you can combine everything into one if you so choose. It’s hearty, bold, and one of the more unique ramen experiences in town.

Original Tsukemen

Identical to the char siu just sans pork. This is the vegetarian's holy grail.

Tonkotsu Ramen

The more familiar version seen in the States at the moment, Tsujita’s version is mighty delicious, but probably not quite as special at the tsukemen.

Spicy Tuna Don

A delicious palette-cleanser for the bold flavors in the tsukemen. A hearty chunk of fresh tuna on top of perfectly cooked rice is an easily shared dish on the table.

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