Three years ago just before the 4th of July, Gu Ramen Taps and Tapas quietly opened its doors in Laguna Beach. Well … they tried to be quiet. They didn’t even have a sign up. But, their predictions that Laguna Beach needed a noodle shop proved true. In a matter of hours, it seems, they had people lining up for the steamy, giant bowls of broth-and-Ramen-noodle goodness.
Three years later, the three chef/owners – Wicha Thossansin, Nat Pispratuang and Kitiphong (Kiti) Thongdetsakul – are still rocking the Ramen. They’ve still never bothered with a website. Gu Ramen has, however, expanded its hours (10 am – 11:00 pm daily), and has added even more Ramen bowl options and 20-plus tapas (whose reasonable pricing dips down even further during Monday through Friday happy hours, 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
A Perfect Ramen Bowl is All About the Broth
With a very successful Thai restaurant in Whittier (Gu Thai Uptown) and a second Thai/Sushi restaurant in Tustin (Kitajima), Sous Chef Nat had turned to perfecting his Ramen recipe, always a closely protected recipe only shared through a lineage of family members.
Admitting to initial stock of “pork bone, chicken bone, vegetables and spices,” Nat says he began simmering the broth at much longer stints than what is normally done. “I decided the 18-hour mark was the sweet spot. I don’t know of anyone simmering their broth for anywhere close to that length of time.”
Nat seems to be on to something as this is an incredibly rich and deep broth. When an order is placed, only then is the broth combined with freshly made ramen egg noodles or special request udon noodles, a more thick noodle made of rice.
Twelve ounces of broth and at least six ounce of noodles, and that’s just the beginning of this simmering bowl of crazy goodness. Choose your spice level and then a toping option of pork belly, spicy ground pork, or curry lollipop chicken. Additional toppings can be ordered on the side and vary between bamboo shoots, egg, corn, bean sprouts, spinach, naruto (fish cakes) and more.
Your steaming order arrives in a bowl the size of a mixing bowl. Let me assure you, my friends, this is no Top Ramen that you and I both survived on as college kids. This is so good you feel almost … well … gleeful. While I watched several high schoolers and hungry surfers slurp down the entire bowl, I managed to scoop through about two cups before I had to call it a day.
Inventive Tapas You Can’t Miss
The Gu Ramen’s Japanese Tapas are a round up of truly inventive small plates. These range in style and spice, from Firecracker Shrimp to Pork Pot Stickers, Deviled Eggs, Thai Spicy Hot Wings, Soft Shell Crab, Fried Green Beans and more. It’s a cornucopia of Japanese and Thai goodness.
Congrats to Gu Ramen for flying past the 3-year mark in this fickle town. Turns out, we can’t imagine how we lived without noodles prior to their arrival, either. Thanks for changing up our world, chefs.
Gu Ramen Taps & Tapas is at 907 S. Coast Highway, 949-715-0825
Hours are 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. 7 days a week