Welcome to my ramen dream... Currently being interpreted in Ramen Burger Land... Looking for a good slurp? Email me ! - Keizo

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ajisen Ramen - Temple City, CA

9202 Las Tunas Dr.,
Temple City, CA 91780

When you enter a japanese ramen house and are greeted by "Isharmase" (a butchered version of irashaimase--hello), that's usually a prompt to bolt out the back door...fast! Although they try to mask it with j-pop in the background and an overall japanese feel, there's no mistaking that this restaurant is owned and operated by Chinese. Not that I have anything against this, but it just felt awkward and unexpected as I first walked in. The menu had plenty of photos and it took me about 5 minutes of scanning to realize that they don't have any of the traditional ramens like shoyu. I take that back. They might have them but with untraditional toppings. After looking at pictures of 'Tenderous Ribs Ramen", "Pork Cutlet Curry Ramen", "Beef Ramen", and "Premium Pork Ramen", I finally settled on the Premium Pork Ramen. I held off on the gyoza this time since I couldn't find a combination that I liked and I sure enough wasn't gonna eat 8 pieces by myself.

Premium Pork Ramen: The ramen arrived within minutes of ordering but I thought the bowl looked unusually small. Fortunately it was still packed with enough noodles to fulfill my starvation. This ramen was very flavorful and I enjoyed it very much (at the time I was eating it) but before I go any further I have to mention that the MSG content was insane!! When I got home I filled my bathtub full of water and my tongue sucked it up within seconds! Okay that's a slight exaggeration but more than just an estimation of how my tongue feels. If you have a high MSG tolerance, then you should check this place out but be aware! If you can't stand MSG, then don't even bother. On a side note, this ramen was also very garlicky and the soup base was tonkotsu. Excuse me waiter, more water please!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ebisu Ramen - Fountain Valley, CA

18942-A Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

"World's Best Noodle House" - website.

Hmm...they must be in their own world. Although quite tasty and worth the price, "world's best" is a stretch. Located around the way from Ebisu Market, this restaurant and shopping center holds a place in my childhood. So much so that I can still visualize the history of events related to their evolution as far back to Takeda-san's (owner) market truck. I won't go into it here but you can ask me to elaborate in the comments if you like.

I tend not to mention prices but this was too good a deal not to. The lunch special I ordered came with shoyu-ramen, chahan, 2 pieces of gyoza, a salad, and a drink all for under $10! Go hungry and you'll leave satisfied.

Shoyu-ramen: After getting over how the taste kept invoking past memories, the shoyu-ramen tasted average and not very impressive. The noodles actually ruined it for me. Perhaps it was because I was the first person in there, but parts of my noodles were stuck together and clumpy. The texture was fine but we all know that ramen needs to be continuously stirred when cooking! The soup base was the best part of it. No overly aggressive flavors tugging at your taste buds. Just a nice balance of crisp subtlety. The toppings were nothing fancy but complemented the ramen very well.

Chahan & Gyoza: This chahan was delicious and reminded me of home. It wasn't greasy or mushy and had plenty of flavor. And dipping it into the ramen soup made it 100x better! It was almost better than...okay I won't go there. The gyoza was also delicious but not in the top 10. You can't go wrong with this combination! (p.s. I couldn't finish all my chahan. Perhaps a little less chahan with one more gyoza would have been better.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ramen Nippon - Reseda, CA

6900 Reseda Blvd. Ste. B
Reseda, CA 91335

The best ramen in LA?? Please! The best ramen in the valley? Perhaps.

Located on Reseda slightly north of Vanowen, Ramen Nippon is a welcome surprise in a city where ramen is relatively scarce. If you're not looking for it, you'll easily just drive right by. If you do find it, parking will be the worst of it. But trust me, it'll be worth it.

Shoyu-ramen: If this is your first time at Ramen Nippon, you can't go wrong with the shoyu! The noodles are consistently firm and fantastic for slurping. The soup base borders on the strong side, so if you're looking for a lighter taste I recommend the shio. As for the toppings, any time a ramen contains my favorite vegetable, baby bok choy, I tend to favor it, but this ramen has more than just a good vegetable to favor. The chashu is moist and tender and the menma is its usual role player. But possibly the best thing about this ramen is the ajitsuke tamago (flavored egg). Get it with some gyoza and you won't be disappointed.

Shio-ramen: The shio-ramen is elegantly refreshing and arguably the best ramen at Ramen Nippon. The lightly flavored soup base is a favorite of many and with one taste you will surely know why. The toppings are the same as the shoyu and no different in quality or taste.

Miso-ramen: I really can't find anything bad to say about the miso-ramen either. The extra chashu in the pic below is a plus. Maybe it's not as good as the shio but that can just be a matter of personal preference. The toppings, once again, are sensational.

Gyoza: Vampires beware! Ordered as an add-on to my ramen, this gyoza was the perfect complement. Never mushy and always full of flavor, do not hesitate in adding them to yours.

Chahan (Fried Rice): With everything being delicious and satisfying, the chahan was the only disappointment. Without much flavor and taste, the only way to finish it is to dip it in your ramen soup. I wouldn't recommend it but if you must try it, you've been warned.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mentatsu - Costa Mesa, CA

688 Baker Street #7
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Located behind Wahoo's on the corner of Baker and Bristol, Mentatsu is slightly hidden and often overlooked by shoppers heading to the neighboring japanese market, Mitsuwa. It seems like every time I come here this restaurant has a new name. In my opinion, it has the highest ownership turnover of all the ramen-ya's in Orange County, but I could be wrong. Perhaps it's the location--the small parking lot and hostess bar next door--or maybe it's just the food. As I walked in, I noticed that the interior had been nicely remodeled as opposed to the hole-in-the-wall that it used to look like. Could this be a good sign or just the attractive lure that holds our stomachs hostage?

Shoyu-ramen: Similar to the interior design of the restaurant, the shoyu-ramen looked better than it actually tasted. I wasn't impressed at all. The soup base was light and crisp, but after a few sips I began to notice an influx of pepper going down my throat. Not a delight. The noodles were equally bad. They had that freeze-dried-feel you get from packaged ramen at the market. You know, with the permanent crinkles. I felt like I could reconstruct the square block without using a wizard. The toppings even tasted artificial. If you like chashu made from an egyptian mummified pig then this is surely the ramen for you. The egg was just an egg, the menma was just menma, and the kamaboko was just fish cake. I could've eaten this at home.

Gyoza: The gyoza looked great as well, but what is it with this place? They must have got their hands on the business plan for the hostess bar next door! I'm surprised that they just haven't hired all the hostesses to sit with you while you eat this crap--I still wouldn't go back. Okay, now back to the gyoza. Once again it tasted like something you can buy from the freezer section of Mitsuwa and cook at home. The garlic content was so minimal it could probably be classified as a pro-oxidant. I bet if a vampire was sitting next to me I would be one by now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shinsengumi Hakata Ramen - Fountain Valley, CA

18315 Brookhurst St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Located across the street from my favorite izaka-ya, Kappo Honda, Shinsengumi comes close to that japanese compact-hustle-and-bustle-busy-ramen-house feel and is best known for their "Hakata Ramen", a tonkotsu (pork bone) flavored ramen originating from Japan's southernmost island, Kyushu. If you go for lunch, go early. They tend to get crowded right before noon so going at 11:30am might be the best time. Service is quick and you can probably get in and out within half an hour.

Hakata Ramen (Tonkotsu): I've never exposed my taste buds to a really bad tonkotsu ramen and luckily I can still make that claim. Unfortunately, I can't say it was the best but overall it was still very good. The menu here is simple. They have several combinations to choose from and when you are ready you just write it all down on a piece of paper and hand it off to the waitress--I chose the A-set (Hakata ramen and gyoza). For the ramen, you get to choose the texture of your noodles (hard, normal, soft), the oil used for the soup (less, normal, more), and the density of the soup base (less, normal, more). I chose normal for all the questions just to get an idea of what normal actually was. I suppose you can't necessarily complain too much about the soup or noodle texture since you have the option of changing it to your liking. I for one felt that normal tasted great and most likely won't change a thing the next time I go there. The soup is definitely what makes this ramen. It is very flavorful and surprisingly light for tonkotsu. The chashu was also better than most places and along with the ginger and green onion, they all complemented the ramen deliciously. If you've never been to Shinsengumi and you're in town, I recommend that you stop by for a refreshing noodle soup. They also have locations in Rosemead and Gardena.

Gyoza: The gyoza that accompanied the A-set were smaller than normal but don't be fooled. These mini-gyoza had some major taste. You get six of them to go with your ramen and they are a must-get if you ask me. Unless of course you are on a date and plan on getting close at the end of the night. In that case you may want to stay away because the garlic breath that results will fend off vampires for several hours, which is usually the effect of a great gyoza.

Chahan: The chahan was just mediocre. A distinct seaweed flavor surrounded this half-sphere and it probably could have used more salt.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tampopo Ramen- Rowland Heights, CA


1388 S. Fullerton Rd., #125
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

Hidden in the predominately chinese center known as Diamond Plaza in Rowland Heights, I was surprised to see a ramen-ya that was actually being operated by native japanese speakers. Nevertheless, this restaurant with a familiar name, Tampopo, was a must try for the ramen lover in me. I didn't expect too much at first, especially due to the reputations of "other" Tampopo restaurants in Southern California with below average ramen. Not to mention that this place is new and located in an odd food court style room where all five restaurants are separated by four-foot tall barriers. Service was great considering I was only one of five other customers. It will be interesting to see how service changes once they become busier. Anyway, on to why we are here--the ramen!

Shoyu-ramen (soy sauce flavored)
: Since shoyu-ramen is typically the most popular, it is generally the best to use in determining ramen quality. I typically like to judge a ramen by the texture of the noodle, flavor of the base, and the union of toppings with the overall ramen. In this case, the noodles were very good (almost perfect...almost), the soup base was average, and the toppings did not impress me at all. But I did enjoy being there and I will definitely be coming back soon.

Tonkotsu-ramen (pork flavored): The tonkotsu-ramen was better than the shoyu. Although noodle texture was the same, the base was much more flavorful. Perhaps because the pork bone is usually fattier than shoyu.

Mabo-ramen: By far the best ramen (see pic below) that I have tasted to date from this place. The noodles were consistently great once again but the major difference was the flavor of the mabo sauce. I've tasted watery mabo ramen in the past from other restaurants that were either too spicy or not spicy enough. This was very different. The ground pork, tofu, and mabo sauce all blended with the soy sauce base perfectly. I definitely recommend this to everyone. I think I just might even have to order mabo ramen from now on!

Gyoza: Okay, it is hard to find a decent gyoza these days and this was no exception. It is only worth mentioning the gyoza to tell you NOT to order it. Don't waste your money or taste buds on this one! You can even see the unworthiness in the pic below.

Special Hiyashi: I didn't try this myself but from what I hear it was pretty good. Compared to the traditional Hiyashi-chuuka (summer ramen), this one does not include ham and is noted as a vegetarian dish. With tofu replacing the ham, this is a vegetarian delight on a hot summer day. The only complaint that I heard was the plate being too small and awkwardly shaped to mix up all the ingredients.

Friday, June 15, 2007

About Me

I'm just a ramen addict that can slurp 24-7. I created this blog to promote ramen eating. I hate seeing all the good ramen shops disappear when they don't deserve to. Let's try to keep them all in business. GO RAMEN!