Bright, Citrusy Yuzu Ramen (But Not Much Else) - Afuri Ramen L.A. [Thoughts + Pics]

It’s hard to believe at one time, finding legit, great Japanese Ramen was limited to just a handful of places. In fact, for awhile it was really Santouka, Shin Sen Gumi (OG days) and little else. Flash forward a few years and news of a new Japanese Ramen shop opening up is blasé; not newsworthy at all. But reading on Eater about Afuri Ramen making their own Noodles in-house was quite unique and the style of Broth sounded promising, so off we went for a visit.


Afuri Ramen L.A. is the first branch of the Japan-based Afuri Ramen franchise to open in Southern California. Their initial foray into the U.S. started with a branch in Oregon. Their claim to fame is a Yuzu (Japanese citrus)-based Ramen Broth, which sounded lovely.

As we walked in, the space is massive for a Ramen shop. We counted 18+ employees visible for their opening weekend(!). You order at the very front, via a touchscreen computer, take a number and find an open table / seats.

There’s a full bar (with hard liquor (Japanese Whisky, Scotch, etc.), as well as Japanese Sake and Beer on Tap). Interesting.

Noodle Making Room:

And through a glass window, you can peer into their Noodle making room. We confirmed that they did indeed make their own Ramen Noodles in-house, every day. This sounded promising.

Kaiso Seaweed Salad (Mixed Seaweed, Sesame Dressing, Green Onion, Lemon):

This was decent. Refreshingly chilled for this hot Summer’s day, the Mixed Seaweed was marinated in a House Sesame Dressing that was a touch too sweet, but still decent overall.

Karaage (Marinated Fried Chicken Thigh, Yuzu Kosho Egg Salad, Fried Shishito Pepper, Lemon):

Decent frying results in Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) that’s s not really crunchy nor crispy, but with a clean enough fry. The 4 small pieces per order feels a bit precious, though.

Buta Gyoza (Pork, Green Onion, Ginger, Garlic, Cabbage, Sesame Oil, Soy):

Their Housemade Gyoza (Pan Fried Dumplings) are probably the best non-Ramen item on the menu. They serve it flipped upside down on the pan, with a bit of slurry forming a translucent “web”, tying up all of the Gyoza together.

The Dumpling skin is thinnish, the Ground Pork filling tastes fine, making this just a solid, pleasing Appetizer to the meal. :slight_smile:

Yuzu Shoyu Ramen (Shoyu Tare, Chicken Broth, Yuzu, Bamboo, Egg, Chashu Pork, Endive, Fried Garlic, Nori, Yuzu Ratan):

The Yuzu Shoyu (Soy Sauce-based) Broth is refreshing on first sip: The addition of Yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit) to the Shoyu Ramen Broth works very well. It’s not just “squeezed on top” or something like that, but it’s well-integrated, resulting in a pleasing light, umami-laden Ramen Soup that you can drink most of without feeling like you ingested an entire liquid pig (a la most Tonkotsu (Pork Bone)-based Ramen Broths locally). :wink:


Their Tamago (Egg) is slightly overcooked, but mostly liquid center, but there’s not much marinated flavor.

The Housemade Ramen Noodles, turned out to be too soft. :frowning:

Yuzu Shio Ramen (Shio Tare, Chicken Broth, Yuzu, Bamboo, Egg, Chashu Pork, Endive, Fried Garlic, Nori):

Their signature Yuzu Shio (Salt-based) Ramen Broth is truly the star of the menu. Here the Yuzu citrus flavors shine brightest, with the Shio (Salt)-based Broth of Chicken and Tilefish perfectly accentuated by the Yuzu. It’s really refreshing, light, delicate, and quite a standout Ramen Broth in L.A. / O.C. :heart:

Chashu Pork:


The Pork Chashu is a bit meager: Afuri offers only 1 slice of Chashu per bowl of Ramen. :expressionless: It feels like they’re nickel-and-diming you, as you have to then add a side order of Chashu if you want any more.

The actual taste? Decent. It tastes fresh, cooked that day (a big plus, instead of many Ramen places locally that cut corners by making large batches of Chashu, refrigerating it and slicing some over the course of days as orders come in). But there’s not enough flavor in the Pork meat itself, tasting a bit bland.

Tamago (Egg):

Unlike our bowl of Shoyu Ramen, here, the half-slice of Egg is almost completely overcooked (as seen above). :cry: Disappointing.

Finally, just like the Shoyu Ramen, the Handmade Noodles in their Yuzu Shio Ramen are overcooked. They are too soft, almost bordering on mushy. :sob: It doesn’t matter if you make your Ramen Noodles in-house, if your staff overcooks the Noodles.

We brought up our feedback to the manager, who strangely seemed indifferent and offered excuses. He mentioned that the Noodles cooking time are controlled by an electronic timer, to ensure that new staff don’t mess up the cooking, so it’s always cooked at the same number of minutes. (It could be argued that their current time setting is too much.) It seems baffling that a place claiming artisinal and quality this and that can’t offer a Katamen (Firm Noodles) option, found at many legit Ramen-ya.

Still we chalked it up to opening week jitters, and wanted to give them another try.

2nd Visit:

By this 2nd visit, the staff and service seemed more lax and inattentive. Whereas during the opening weekend, the staff were friendly greeting everyone and walking you through the order and even escorting you to a table you liked, by just the 2nd weekend, the staff weren’t doing anything like that (mainly just controlling # of people entering). Tables were piled with dishes from previous customers, uncleaned. :frowning:

Kakuni Pork Bun (Kakuni Pork, Sweet Chili Soy Sauce, Green Onion, Cucumber, Pickled Ginger):

Capitalizing on the seemingly ubiquitous trend of Pork Belly (or other Protein) in a soft Steamed Bun (I believe first popularized by Momofuku NY), here Afuri’s version of it takes 2 slices of Pork Belly that’s deep fried, tops it with some Sweet Sauce and calls it a day.

The result is dry, chewy Pork Belly, :sob: lacking any real unctuous depth that you’d expect, and the thick Sauce they slather on top is too sweet, making it even worse. :frowning: Avoid.

Yuzu Ratan Ramen (Ratan Tare, Chicken Broth, Yuzu, Bamboo, Egg, Chashu Pork, Sesame, Sansho Pepper, Lemon Peel, Korean Chili Powder):

While this might seem a little gimmicky, their Yuzu Ratan Ramen uses a slightly different Ramen Broth than their Yuzu Shio (Salt) and Yuzu Shoyu (Soy Sauce). Here, there’s no seafood in the Broth, so Chicken only, with a variety of lightly spicy Chili Peppers (Sansho Pepper, Korean Chili Powder), and the Yuzu citrus again is quite well integrated.

This is legitimately a refreshing, lightly spicy Ramen Broth that stands out from other Spicy Ramen options in the city as well, with the Yuzu really making a mark here. :slight_smile:

Unfortunately that’s all this bowl has going for it, similar to the previous 2 bowls we tried: The Tamago (Egg) is now completely overcooked (see above), even worse on this 2nd visit than our 1st visit. :frowning:

The Pork Chashu is still just 1 slice per bowl, and it tastes the same as last time: Decent, fresh, but not much flavor in the actual Pork meat itself.

The worst offender was their Housemade Ramen Noodles:

Unlike the 1st visit, now the staff don’t even bother to properly cook the Noodles properly: They were clumped together in multiple places in the bowl, so you’d get a bite of dense, playdough-like clumpiness and then you’d get overly mushy, overcooked Noodles where it was separated. :sob:

(Side Order) Extra Chashu:

One of the most laughable moments came when our “Side Order” of Chashu arrived: It was 1 slice of Chashu Pork (above)(!). What?! :confused: :sweat: :frowning:

That’s just really nickel-and-diming at this point. I didn’t get an itemized receipt, but thinking back on it, it might’ve been $2 for the Chashu Side Order. Little did we realize it meant 1 slice, and even at $2 it feels expensive.

Yuzu Tsuyu Tsukemen (Cold Noodles, Chashu Pork, Egg, Bamboo, Yuzu Juice, Endive, Green Onion, Nori, Yuzu Soy Tsuyu):

For those not familiar with Tsukemen, it’s a popular variant of Ramen in Japan where the Ramen Noodles are served separately from the Soup, and you dip the Noodles as you are about to eat. Sort of like a Ramen version of Cold Soba Noodles.

We were hopeful Afuri’s version would be standout.

First, the chunks of Chashu bits on top of the Tsukemen were dry and chewy. :frowning: Perhaps they are the same Chashu used for the Ramen (probably to save time and money), but without any Ramen Soup for the Chashu to sit in, you’re seeing what the Chashu must be like in its pre-prepared state (dryish).

The Egg is laughable. It’s like we’re watching a time lapse of how to overcook your Egg: By this 4th bowl from Afuri the Egg is completely overcooked and chalky. :frowning:

The Tsukemen Noodles are also made in-house, and they are thicker (aligning with many Tsukemen places), but sadly, like their Ramen Noodles, it is overcooked! :frowning: If you look carefully (above) you can see the Noodles are already getting mushy, nearly melting / losing its shape. :frowning:

They are served cold (which is the traditional method at various Tsukemen shops in Japan), but the menu gave you a choice of having them served hot as well. We chose “hot” just to see what that was like. It didn’t matter: They screwed up and served it cold, which I actually like more anyways, so that’s fine.

Until we dipped it in the accompanying Tsukemen Soup (above): Afuri Ramen serves their Tsukemen Soup cold as well! Uhm… :confused: :cry: So you get Cold Noodles and Cold Broth. No thanks.

The actual taste of the Tsukemen Broth? It tasted exactly like their Yuzu Shio (Salt) Ramen Broth. Normally Tsukemen’s Soup is supposed to be more concentrated, and some chefs like to tweak the recipe to make it stand out even more (Ramen vs. Tsukemen offerings at their restaurant). Here it tastes just like the exact same flavors of the Yuzu Shio Ramen, and it’s served cold.

Afuri Ramen LA is unfortunately all glitz and hype with poor execution from the get-go. Their signature usage of Yuzu (Japanese citrus) in some of their Ramen offerings is truly standout: You can leave Afuri feeling like you didn’t ingest a whole pig (in liquid form), not weighed down. I really enjoyed the Yuzu Shio (Salt) Ramen Broth the most and would be having it in my regular rotation, but sadly everything else about Afuri ruins the experience:

They completely overcook their Ramen Noodles and there is no option to ask for Firm Noodles (like other places). Soft, borderline mushy Noodles are not the backbone of a good Ramen. Their Chashu Pork is meager (you get 1 slice) and bordering on bland. And they can’t cook a proper Aji Tamago / Soft Boiled Ramen Egg to save their life.

The full bar is interesting, but I’m not sure how many people want a potent, spicy Whisky to go with their bowl of hot Ramen? Add in the fact that Garlic, Onions, etc., can mess with your taste buds for appreciating a great Whisky, and it sort of doesn’t make sense to have numerous bottles of Whisky to pair with this menu? Draft Beer? Sure. Japanese Sake? Maybe. But their Sake offerings are meager compared to the extensive list at Ippudo San Francisco (where they had over 48 bottles(!) on the menu, including baller offering Dassai Beyond for $1,200 to go with your Ramen). (@ipsedixit @ColinMorey @hyperbowler @sck)

Add in the fact that by the 2nd visit everything was getting worse (not better), and unless Afuri’s management wakes up, this will be yet another trendy, mediocre Ramen experience plaguing L.A.'s landscape right now.

Afuri Ramen LA
688 Mateo St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Tel: (213) 221-7206


Nothing wrecks a bowl of ramen like an overcooked egg.

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Yeah, I could’ve forgiven the sub-par 1st visit b/c I think there’s so much new hiring going on right now that staff simply needs time to get trained. But that 2nd visit just seemed pretty bad. :frowning: And I don’t get the expensive alcohol + mediocre ramen combo…

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