The sign read “Always $2 unless otherwise marked.” “Couldn’t that be like any other store?” I asked Zay. We were all crammed into the crowded Japanese market Daiso while we waited for our table at Tsujita. And wait there was. Line curled around the block. Other ramen joints on Sawtelle, but none had a line. You want the one with the line.
It was the night before New Years Eve, so we stocked up on Japanese candy at Daiso then headed next-door to Beard Papa’s so Zay could show me this dessert concept. Trying to give donuts a run for their money? Also packed. We split a cream puff then headed back to check on our table.
We watched the primarily asian crowd as they waited with us, huddled together, looking at their phones, laughing. UCLA students? They were mostly college age and we were in close proximity to campus. I was impressed with their style. The latest, the hard to find, these kids were rocking the newest Yeezy’s, ‘Off White’ kicks, Alessandro Michele’s latest whimsical Gucci bag. This crowd was in. I was taking notes.
We were up. As per usual, due to the apparent thriving fertility of our family, there were too many of us to fit at one table. Matt and Zaya, sacrificial lambs, sat with the kids. Mom, Maria and I sat alone, at a table behind them, ordered hot sake and relished a table without kids crawling on it.
The menu was funny and courteous. A photo illustration of what and how to order. We all got the same, the famous dipping style tsukemen noodles. Pork broth straight up boiled for 60 hours creates a dense, rich broth that one friend who dined there described as “tasting like morning breath.” Is that a bad thing?
Eating Tsukemen creates a dining ritual. I appreciate a method. A learned approach to eating. Cracking crab legs, de splintering chop sticks, fondu, smores on a campfire, the skinning of an animal…slowing down the shoveling of food into our mouths. Eating dipping noodles does just that.
While our server was an incredibly hospitable Japanese woman, many young westerners working there, practicing their Japanese, seemingly doing what they could do to immerse themselves into this capsule of an enviably elegant culture. The music whaled in the small space and caught our ears. Matt asked the host, who was thrilled to introduce us to ‘Yoshida Brothers.’ Our soundtrack for the ride home and on new rotation in our Spotify mix.
This soup soothed the overindulgence of the holidays. We all agreed it was somehow just what we needed. The last supper of a pretty tumultuous year.