There is no understating Southern California’s culinary influence on the Las Vegas Valley, a logical phenomenon further crystallized by the recent opening of SLS and its multitude of hip, LA-born restaurants. The development continues off the Strip, too; one of the tastiest transplants arrived in July at the restaurant-heavy intersection of Decatur and Flamingo.
Jinya is more than just another entry into the expanding world of ramen bars; it may be the most complete and comfortable version of this style of restaurant we have, and the food is devastatingly delicious. LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold called it “the best ramen Los Angeles had ever seen” last year, particularly praising the intense Tokyo-style ramen currently on the Las Vegas menu as a special ($9.50). Its milky-rich pork broth is umamified with a dose of dried fish dashi, topped with slices of chashu pork, seasoned soft-cooked egg, green onion, bonito flakes and kikurage mushroom.
Jinya’s fantastic flavors have also invaded New York, Texas, Seattle and Canada, and the Vegas landing has converted a former fast-food joint into a stylish space ideal for lunchtime escape, happy-hour revelry or lively dinner. Most local ramen spots don’t have the balanced menu or crisp service to pull off that last one. There’s a small bar and a huge, square, communal table in the middle of the room, making for an overall interesting environment.
In addition to standard appetizers and small bites like pork gyoza ($4.80) and crispy morsels of fried chicken—splendid stuff available in orders of five, 10 or 15 pieces—Jinya offers pork belly buns ($3.80), crispy rice topped with spicy tuna ($5.80) and addictively crunchy tempura Brussels sprouts ($5.80). There are a few sushi rolls, just for fun, plus crispy takoyaki balls ($4.80) studded with bits of octopus and a pleasant salad of kale, broccoli, quinoa, tomato and corn dressed in slightly sweet sesame. It’s a perfectly fresh counterpoint to the rich noodle soup.
Jinya has ramen to suit every taste. If that crazy-rich tonkotsu is too much for you, the vegetarian option ($9.55) is beautifully flavored and stacked with thin noodles, baby lettuce, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, asparagus and more. You can also do soupless ramen. Tan tan men ($8.55) adds a spicy sauce to ground pork, vegetables and thicker, chewier noodles, or there’s a cold version called hiyashi with lots of red ginger, bean sprouts and slices of chashu.
There’s chicken ramen, hybrid chicken-pork ramen, wonton ramen and spicy ramen, all satisfying, and then there’s Jinya’s tonkotsu black ($10.55) with black garlic oil, fried onions and garlic chips and seaweed. For those looking for the most savory slurpage, this is the place to begin, and possibly the only ramen shop you’ll need.
Jinya 4860 W. Flamingo Road, 702-868-8877. Daily, 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m.