The biggest concentration of Japanese and Japanese Americans in the United States is in Gardena and Torrance, so you have to be a good restaurant to survive up in here.
As of the 2010 census, the largest population of Japanese in the United States is in:
- California 272,528
- Hawaii 185,502
- New York 37,780
- Washington 35,008
- Illinois 17,542
- Ohio 16,995
In California, Torrance holds the densest Japanese American population in the 48 contiguous states (thanks Wikipedia).
Prior to Zabon was Ramen Hayatemaru.
I think Hayatemaru started around 2012, along with a second location in West Los Angeles in 2013 although unfortunately both locations are long gone, but with their demise came Zabon.
I had never tried Hayatemaru even though I passed by it a number of times, but the dismal reviews kept me away when Santouka is located only a couple blocks away.
There is only small handful of places I like in Torrance and Gardena, and Zabon is one of them.
Maybe I just have a thing for deep-fried scallions and cabbage, but I doubt it is just me since Zabon is a 4+ star joint on Yelp, Facebook, to Google Places.
Yes, they are active on social media.
Unlike a lot of Japanese businesses, Zabon is one of the few that actively tries to promote itself via social media, and you gotta respect that. So I highly suggest you check out, or even better yet, “like” and “follow” their active social media pages:
I have seen Japanese ramen restaurants of all sorts closed down because they refuse to engage the greater community, and they only focus on the Japanese communities in Torrance and Gardena, but a lot of non-Japanese from all over Los Angeles drive out of their way to come to the area to eat.
Who is Zabon up against in (ramen near) Gardena and Torrance.
I have been to almost every ramen-ya listed, but the ones I have not been to I will denote with a “*.”
- Asa Ramen* 4.3, 198 reviews – this spot has been around for a while, and I never went because it doesn’t open till 6pm.
- Ikkousha 4.6, 604 reviews – one of the best, and you can’t go wrong coming here.
- Jidaiya Ramen 4.5, 421 reviews – another solid spot that has been around for a while and I would say it is in the top 5.
- Josui Ramen* 4.7, 110 reviews – never heard of it, and I have never been, but I want to try it.
- Ko-Ryu 4.5, 174 reviews – I wonder if there is any relation to the Koryu in Costa Mesa, I mean they do have the same name.
- Ramen Izakaya Ajido 4.5, 229 reviews – yea, I was quite disappointed and one time is good enough for me.
- Ramen Shack Takumiya 4.6, 120 reviews – the other craving I have is for their miso ramen which the owner also swears by too.
- Santouka Ramen 4.5, 265 reviews – Santouka has reigned supreme for a reason, and they are solid AF.
- Shin Sen Gumi Gardena 4.7, 1,423 reviews – I stay far away from SSG’s ramen, but for everything else, I’m there, especially their yakitori.
- Umemura* 4.5, 203 reviews – they’re inside an old Taco Bell building, and it is an old school ramen ya.
- Umenoya Ramen Company 4.2, 330 reviews – the biggest highlight is their Russian roulette gyoza which has one that is loading with a spy-saaaaaay chili for the lucky recipient.
- Yamadaya 4.5, 561 reviews – another shop that opened up early in the ramen boom, but I don’t think they’re a standout even though I have been a at least 50+ times.
- Zabon Ramen 4.3, 304 reviews – I have only been a couple times, but this is one of the few spots that I want to make an effort to go back again to.
My top 5 (in no particular order).
Regardless what order this is in, Zabon is in good company.
- Ramen Shack
Just look at those slabs, mmmhh, thick.
It does look slightly different from the previous tenants and from the outside, I always thought this venue was bigger, but it is quite small and on the bougie side most likely due to one of the previous tenants building out a tatami room.
In their words “About Us.”
“I want to make delicious ramen noodles! It was this single-minded aspiration that led our founder Tetsuro Ishino to research carefully every day before establishing a restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo in 1978.
Zabon Ramen originates in Kagoshima, Japan. It is distinctive for its richly flavored soup made using bone broth—which is currently popular in the US—from pork bones, together with seafood. Thirty eight years since the business was established, all branches are doing well.
Always pursuing new flavors, we deliver a truly unique taste that you won’t find anywhere else with our zabon ramen noodles. It is this passion that allows us to continue serving up ramen noodles with confidence and pride each day. Please give them a try” – Zabon Ramen
I reached out to Zabon to clear up a couple things I was wondering about.
I can not tell you how poorly managed most Japanese companies are with their efforts in the U.S., but Zabon is an exception because I was able to get a number of things cleared up, and they were extremely prompt about it to (I’m impressed).
- When I Google “Zabon Ramen” a Pasadena location pops-up, did that location go out of business? Their Pasadena location did not go out of business, and they just moved from Pasadena to Torrance.
- Is Zabon franchised, independently owned, or ??? The most impressive part, is that the Torrance location is a direct offshoot of their Tokyo operations (no wonder it’s good).