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

Friday, August 31, 2007

Umemura - Gardena, CA

1724 W. Redondo Beach Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90274
(310) 217-0970

Umemura has been around for as long as I can remember. My parents first took me here when I was too young to even hold chopsticks. I still remember how my mom would roll up the chopstick wrapper, place it between the chopsticks, and use a rubber band on one end to create elasticity. Those were the days. Umemura is located in an old taco bell building and as you can see from the pic above, they haven't bothered to change the sign since its opening. I even joke with friends that the bowls we eat out of now are the same bowls I ate out of when I was 6 years old. BTW does anyone remember Kotan?

Wonton-men (shoyu based): It's been years since I've been back here and with one sip of the soup, all the memories came rushing back. Natsukashii!! This ramen is exactly how I remember it. The shoyu based soup is probably one of the best I've ever had. The noodles have a perfect, crimped texture and each slurp was like traveling back into time. The toppings (wontons, spinach, and negi) complemented well. Perhaps I'm biased since I have a long history with Umemura, but this is a great ramen-ya with an extraordinary ramen!

Tan Tan-men (miso based): Full of flavor with a hint of spice that gives you a little kick. A great way to revive your senses. It's available in both shoyu and miso.

Gyoza: It's not the best I've ever had but it still pleased the taste buds. The garlic taste is not overwhelming which allows the other flavors to emerge with clarity. A must order with any ramen!

Chahan: You may want to starve yourself before you go because the chahan is also a "must order." Do not pass on this one or you will definitely regret it!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Takaraya - Irvine, CA

5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 654-1221

I've passed by this place many times on my way to the soft tofu restaurant a few doors down and never knew that they had ramen until now. I always thought it was just a non-authentic japanese fast-food hole-in-the-wall with a non-japanese owner. Well, I was half correct. They are japanese owned. The name also sounds familiar. There used to be a Takaraya in Costa Mesa where Mentatsu is now located. Considering the Costa Mesa one was a full-fledged ramen-ya, this Irvine joint doesn't appear to be its predecessor.

Shoyu-ramen: Unimpressive. The noodles were way too soft. The worst buzz kill. The soup on the other hand was decent. The mushroom smell was surprisingly bearable and very light tasting. And for the toppings (chashu, menma, seaweed, negi, and a piece of nori)...did this ramen have toppings? Enough said. Perhaps I would have noticed them if the noodles weren't cooked so long. I think I'll continue to pass by this place for the soft tofu.

Gyoza: Plenty of garlic and that's about it. I think if I closed my eyes while biting in, I might of thought it was a roasted garlic. I recommend soaking them in shoyu for at least 10 seconds.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Honda Ya - Los Angeles, CA

333 S Alameda St, 3rd floor
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 635-1184

While out running around town eating ramen one day, I happened to notice a "Honda Ya Opening Soon" sign in the Mitsuwa shopping center in Little Tokyo. After hearing that it was the same owner as Honda-Ya in Tustin and Kappo Honda in Fountain Valley (my fav izakaya), I had to give the new LA location a try! Surprisingly, this new LA location was just as good as the others, if not better--and it's only the 2nd day since opening. But being as we are Go Ramen, I'll only be reviewing the ramen. Don't get me wrong, the food there is great. So great that this may just turn out to be my new izakaya hangout.

Chashu-ramen: Not the best but this isn't really a ramen joint to begin with. The soup was refreshingly satisfying and light with a good amount of flavor. The noodles were the average crinkled probably-ordered-from-one-of-those-factories kind. The toppings (chashu, menma, negi, and moyashi) were decent but the chashu was a little dry. I also may have been a bit buzzed tonight so I'm not sure if I remember the exact taste of it. Anyway, everything else was great!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ramenya - Los Angeles, CA

11555 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 575-9337

Hmm...what should I name my ramen-ya? That's it! Ramenya!! I wonder if that's how the owner came up with the name. It's not very creative but it works. Let's just hope the ramen works too. After a 20 minute wait in the hot, dry LA summer heat, we were finally seated and greeted with an ice-cold glass of mugicha, a welcome sensation that felt like jumping from the boiling jacuzzi to the unheated pool. I instantly became coherent and free of all heat-stroking effects. I was ready to try this ramen-ya called Ramenya!

Shoyu-ramen: Simple but serious and well worth the wait. Nothing fancy here but the flavor was enjoyable and a welcome change from the oily soups that I've been tasting. The soup had a nice crisp, refreshing feel with a boring yet sensational kick. The noodles were your basic crinkled kind but just cooked better. The toppings (chashu, moyashi, menma, and negi) almost went unnoticed, but that doesn't mean they were bad. A good ramen shouldn't be overshadowed by the toppings anyway. The chashu was actually pretty good. And this shoyu-ramen is not to be taken lightly.

Shio-ramen: The shio-ramen on the other hand was missing something. It was definitely more bland than the shoyu. It tasted like a plain, clear, salty soup. A dash of vinegar helped to make it bearable but I would still prefer the shoyu over shio every time.

Tenshin-men: Described as a shrimp omelet with gravy on ramen, this tenshin-men looked more like a Martian delicacy. If you are craving intense, amazing flavor, this is the way to go. The gravy just adds tons of it to the normal ramen. The shrimp omelet also adds a delightful twist to the otherwise boring ramen. The tenshin-men even seems to contain a different type of noodle. One that is straighter and firmer, but I could just be imagining things.

Gyoza: The gyoza was very average without much of an identity. Feel free to pass on these to save room for the chahan.

Chahan (Fried Rice): Quite possibly the best chahan I've ever tasted at any ramen-ya! Seriously! Not too dry and not at all greasy. It was also full of flavor. No need to dip this in the ramen soup. It's a generous portion so if you feel like you won't be able to eat it all, order it anyway and take what you don't eat home.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kokekokko - Hacienda Heights, CA

1611A South Azusa Ave.
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
(626) 810-2918

Auspiciously guided by the peak of this weekend's meteor shower, a young rooster cries "kokekokko" (cock-a-doodle-doo) in hopes of awaking the city of Hacienda Heights. Although it's lacking the famous yakitori grill from its popular Little Tokyo parent, this Kokekokko still shines, relying on ramen and rice bowls to keep the chicken coop restless--a definite plus for us ramen-enthusiasts. Did I also mention that ordering a large soboro just to try the ramen is NOT required here? Several different types of ramen are on the menu with an option of combining various chicken bowls. A superb restaurant for anyone that loves chicken!

Shoyu-ramen: Chicken soup for the ramen lover's soul! If I ever get the flu, I'll order gallons of this stuff to go. Not surprisingly, chicken is the main ingredient here. The soup tasted like Campbell's chicken soup with a dash of shoyu. Light in taste, I found myself licking the bowl towards the end. The thin, blonde, crimped noodle reminded me of instant ramen (not yet sure which one), but it meshed well with everything else. The main topping was three pieces of succulent grilled chicken that had me screaming kokekokko! The rest of the toppings (menma, egg, naruto, nori, and negi) co-starred with admirable serenity.

Miso-ramen: Similar to the shoyu-ramen with an additional hint of miso. The miso made the soup very sweet but the rest was identical to the shoyu. I'm not much of a fan of sweet ramen so I'd have to pass on this one. But if you like sweet, by all means give it a try.

Chicken gyoza: A welcome change to the traditional pork-filled gyoza. I could probably eat fifty of these without feeling sick. They have a light, crisp taste that doesn't weigh you down. I highly recommend them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Shinsengumi Hakata Ramen - Rosemead, CA

8450 E. Valley Blvd. #103
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 572-8646

After going a few days without ramen since last week's ramen intoxication tour, I woke up this morning from an intense spiritual dream, yearning for that metaphysical noodle. And then I had to go to work. Yes it's true, I finally found some "paying" contract work to do other than drive around aimlessly in search of ramen-ya's. Unfortunately, it's still in the mortgage industry so I could be back to my ramen ways in a couple of weeks...

Anyhow, since I got a chance to visit Daikokuya last week and finally form my own opinion about the Shinsengumi versus Daikokuya battle, I decided to head out to the new SSG in Rosemead with hopes of proving myself wrong.

(Sorry, no pics today because of a mishap with my camera, but you can check out my previous post from the Shinsengumi in Fountain Valley or their website or sites of fellow bloggers.)

The Rosemead Shinsengumi is definitely louder and more vibrant than the others. Perhaps it's because they just opened and are still eager to instill the ramen enthusiasm in their newfound customers. The ramen on the other hand could use some work. I was extremely disappointed with its flavor and its failure to satisfy in comparison to the other branches. If this is what they give me to work with, Daikokuya wins hands down! No comparison!

I honestly recommend visiting Shinsengumi, but I'm not so sure about the Rosemead location. You might have to give it a couple more months to get it right. And if you can't wait that long, luckily you can visit the Fountain Valley or Gardena locations today. You won't be disappointed.

I almost forgot. The SSG Summer Charity Event is Sunday, August 26th in Gardena! All the money raised on the date of the event is donated to the Foundation of Kagoshima (Japan), and the Japanese Education Resource (Torrance, CA). Let's Go! I'll see you there!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hanaichimonme - Los Angeles, CA

333 S. Alameda St. #303
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 626-3514

I miss the Yaohan plaza of the 80's! It's just not the same anymore. I feel sorry for Hanaichimonme, but at least they still serve a pretty decent ramen.

Sagano Set: Hanaichi ramen (shoyu), torimeshi gohan (chicken steamed rice), and gyoza.

Hanaichi ramen: The thin soumen-like noodles have to be the best part of this ramen. The soup was very simple yet satisfying. I was reminded of being at a ramen-ya in Narita airport. The toppings were decent but I'm not complaining.

Torimeshi gohan: I liked it because it was different. You don't normally see torimeshi gohan at a ramen-ya. But personally I would have liked to see some takenoko in there.

Gyoza: Very average. Possibly below. Having the salad dressing touch the gyoza resulted in an eyebrow-crinkling taste and not in a good way.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Shin-Mama Ramen - Torrance, CA

24631 Crenshaw Blvd. #K
Torrance, CA 90505
(310) 517-9099

After waking up with a ramen hangover, my body yearned for at least a one day break. But when I received a call from my mom in Torrance asking if I wanted to eat ramen for lunch, I couldn't resist. Perhaps it wasn't the ramen giving me a hangover after all. I bet it was all that downtown smog I'd been inhaling. Anyway, I'll take any chance I get to eat ramen in Torrance! I hear that Shin-Mama Ramen place has more than just a ma~ma~ (average) ramen. Let's go!

Shoyu-ramen: As the shoyu-ramen arrived, its garlic aroma intensely attacked my senses with breathtaking clarity. I enjoyed the unexpected arousal. The soup was astoundingly rich and flavorful with plenty of oil to lubricate my engine. It was possibly the best part of the ramen! The abundance of oil also helped to lubricate the eloquently crimped noodle as I savagely slurped it down my throat. The toppings (chashu, menma, egg, negi, and a piece of nori) supported the ramen in oscar-nominating fashion (not quite the winner). I guess they were right! Shin-Mama ramen is more than just ma~ma~.

Hachimoku chahan & Gyoza: The chahan was flavorless and may have been missing a key ingredient. It tasted slightly better when I dipped it into the ramen soup but still needed something more. The gyoza was crispy and chewy with a slight kick. Not much to rave about here. Both were just ma~ma~.