By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Restaurateur Sarah Kim calls her latest venture, Moto Ramen in Culver City, a trip back home.
She grew up in the city, feels comfortable with her neighbors and loves feeding them. Kim, who has spent two decades in the industry, said the location just made sense.
“I see the neighborhood changing,” she says. “There are a lot of old and new faces. I want to be part of that growth. We’ve grown with the customers we’ve had for the 10-plus years expanding between the restaurants. We want to grow with other families and people we know.”
An LA native, Kim opened Moto Ramen in June 2020 with chef Yuki Nakamoto, with whom she has worked since 2004.
Moto Ramen is driven by the flavors and traditions of Okinawa and serves ramen, bento and small plates with an extensive sake list.
“Our ramen is not the usual rib-sticking fatty broth, rather it’s a lighter style, which I like to consider more LA friendly,” she says.
“However, the chicken karaage—the fried Japanese chicken—seems to have stolen the spotlight. We do it a little differently. It’s a little bigger than what people are used to—juicier inside, crispy on the outside. We have our own special marinade that we use.”
Tan Tan Men ($16.50) is another signature dish, with its rich bone soup with spicy, sesame and nutty flavors. It’s topped with ground pork, soft boiled egg, bok choy and bean sprouts.
“It’s a little different from the traditional ramen that we find,” she says. “A lot of people are used to the classic ramen. It’s like pizza, depending on where you go it’s made a little differently. Our Tan Tan Men brings a little more nuances with spicy and sweet.”
The menu also boasts small plates ranging from garlic edamame ($5) to Okinawa chashu, pork belly marinated in Okinawan sweet soy sauce. Rice bowls bring a bit of carbs to the fold, with options like beef, chicken karaage don, albacore don, salmon don, yellowtail don and spicy tuna don ($15.50 to $20). Weekday lunch diners can enjoy bento boxes featuring tofu with yuzu mushroom sauce ($17.99); chicken karaage ($19); beef yakiniku ($20) or miso salmon ($21).
Kim, who earned an art degree at UC San Diego, says the restaurant business was a natural creative outlet for her.
“I love that I get to meet people,” Kim says. “We have people who I’ve worked with for over 10 years. There’s really that sense of family at home and at work, which I really appreciate.”