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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hanashima - Rowland Heights, CA

1738 1/4 Nogales St.
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 839-5906

Literally translated, Hanashima means Flower Island. A strange name for a ramen-ya, but thank goodness names don't make the ramen. Sandwiched between a Korean restaurant and a laundromat, could Hanashima be that ramen rose which grows from concrete? Early signs say no, but I've been wrong about first impressions before. Plus, the Chinese waiter/manager speaks fluent Japanese and claims to have been born in Japan.

Shoyu-ramen: I honestly expected worse. This shoyu-ramen wasn't quite bland, but it's definitely on the lighter side as far as taste goes. The soup also had a minor sweetness to it that made it stand out. The crinkled noodles were much like the ones you'll find at most ramen-ya's. Not original but they still tasted good. The toppings (chashu, baby bok choy, menma, negi, naruto, and nori) all tasted very normal and unimpressive.

Mabo-ramen: This mabo-ramen was created by injecting the shoyu-ramen with anthrocytes. I think I've found the world's first bionic ramen! Ten times better than the shoyu, this spicy specimen took me through a full spectrum of emotions. I highly recommend it if you're in the mood for mabo. The only negative for me was the size of the tofu. Bigger chunks would have been better.

Gyoza: A little too much meat, but otherwise delicious. Plenty of garlic, but not too overwhelming. A good companion to the ramen.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Men-Bei - Torrance, CA

21605 S. Western Ave.
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 320 7730

I was driving down the 405 freeway this afternoon when suddenly a huge ramen craving came over me. It must have been the Torrance air because as soon as a glanced up at the freeway sign, Western Avenue was only a mile away. That's when I knew I was destined to exit. I've been wanting to check out Men-Bei for quite a while now and this was the perfect opportunity. Located in the same shopping center as Musha, Men-Bei has a similar ambiance to most ramen-ya's you'll find around Southern California, including that loud-mouth Japanese business man who thinks the restaurant should revolve around him.

Shoyu-ramen: At first sip, I frowned. At second sip, I crinkled my forehead. From then on, I was happy. I guess it just caught me off guard. I'm not sure why, but I ended up really enjoying the flavor of the soup. The noodles were also very good. Cooked slightly too long, I still savored the straight, chewy texture. The toppings (egg, spinach, moyashi, chashu, and negi) were just average. The chashu had an interesting sweetness, but this didn't overcome its dryness. Nonetheless, I can't wait to go back and try the dozen other ramen on the menu!

Chahan: It's a good thing I'm not a presentation freak. Otherwise this chahan would have made me go ballistic. Despite the orange tint and the someone-took-everyone's-leftovers-and-put-them-on-my-plate look, this chahan was surprisingly tasty. I wouldn't call it the best (not even close), but it still did the trick and satisfied my hunger.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Teri Cafe - Oceanside, CA

2249 S El Camino Real
Oceanside, CA 92054
(760) 722-8399

I woke up this morning to the sound of pounding rain and the sight of thick gray clouds. A perfect day to drive down to Oceanside and eat ramen at Teri Cafe I thought. Man...what was I thinking! I didn't realize that traffic from LA to Oceanside would be so bad on this let's-just-stay-home-because-it's-raining day. After close to two hours of driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic, we finally arrived with huge expectations desperately hoping that the drive would be worth it. I've often heard whispers of how great Teri Cafe's ramen is, but being more than just a stone's-throw from LA, I never took them seriously. After all, the Hawaiian-esque nature of the place made me think that it would be more like saimin than ramen. As we approached and entered the cafe, it reminded me a lot like those other hawaiian bbq restaurants (L&L, The Loft, Ono). Strictly here just for the ramen, I found it hard not to salivate after seeing the teriyaki chicken, beef, and fried shrimp. Perhaps I'll just take some of that home to go. Anyway, on to the ramen. We swiftly ordered and sat down, patiently waiting for what could be a huge disappointment or a surprising relief.

Shoyu-ramen: It looked good. It smelled good. It tasted...great! Whew, I'm so glad that we weren't leaving disappointed. No saimin here. This shoyu-ramen would rival many of the top ramen-ya's in LA and OC but I'm still not sure if it's worth the drive just to eat and go home. But if I ever need to go to San Diego, I'm definitely stopping by Teri Cafe every time! The soup was refreshing and perfect for this semi-chilly day. It was full of flavor without the overbearing taste of too much shoyu. The toppings (super moist chashu, egg, moyashi, negi, and seaweed) were delicious. The chashu was melty and worth asking for more. And for the tasty egg noodles...did I mention that they have their own factory? I bet they sell them to most of the ramen-ya's in LA. They taste eerily familiar. Overall, the trip was worth it and I can't wait to go back for more.

Gyoza: The gyoza was really good, but I just wish they weren't fried. They could have been ten times better. I'll probably get the chahan next time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Igosi Ramen - Rowland Heights, CA

18333 Colima Rd.
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 913-9974

Sometimes it's nice to have a little spice. Korean owned and operated, Igosi ramen is not your typical Japanese ramen-ya. They serve the more traditional Korean ramyun so don't be fooled (like I was) when your google search for ramen turns up Igosi. Located a few doors down from DoReMi market in a small Korean shopping center, I soon parked and realized that I wasn't going to have a normal ramen lunch. But since there's ramen in their name, I might as well go and get it over with. I guess I could use the practice for Orochon's "Special 2" ramen.

Regular ramen: Regular ramen? Regular to whom? I didn't see anything regular about this ramen. If I were to name it, I'd call it Irregular! But then again, I'm sort of out of my element here. This ramen reminded me of those college days when my Korean friend's would bring over cases of Nong Shim Shin Ramyun and we would live off of it for days. The noodle texture was practically identical to the Shin Ramyun. The only differences were that this soup was a tad spicier and the toppings were unusual--at least to me. The toppings consisted of sliced mochi (I think), green onions, egg, a sliced pepper, and seaweed. It actually wasn't bad. If I'm ever in the mood for spicy, I may just have to go back. But next time I'll be sure to bring a headband.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tamaya - Hacienda Heights, CA

17142 Colima Rd
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
(626) 581-3223

On the heels of my thirtieth ramen post in less than three months, I happened to stumble upon a true hidden gem in Hacienda Heights while visiting the bank. Surprised by this unexpected discovery, I had to put my football plans on hold and run in for a quick slurp. Tamaya is a small ramen and donburi restaurant that's been serving the neighborhood locals for more than four years. It's friendly family-owned atmosphere makes this restaurant that much more enjoyable. Some say that this is their back up ramen-ya when the line at Foo Foo Tei is too long, but don't underestimate Tamaya. Although they don't pop-up when googling for "ramen in LA", Tamaya's ramen can definitely hold its own and compete on a high level! Their menu even contains 24 different types of ramen to choose from. I can't wait to go back and try the Kaarage-ramen.

Shoyu-ramen: Not knowing what to expect from the unexpected, this shoyu-ramen was surprisingly delicious! It even seemed to get better with every slurp. I couldn't believe what my taste buds were experiencing. The soup was sensational with no regrets. The noodles were cooked perfectly and blended a great relationship with the soup. The toppings (chashu, egg, menma, nori, and negi) were also outstanding. Mostly because the kurobuta chashu was amazingly tender and moist! I'd never thought I'd say this, but this chashu quite possibly could give Daikokuya a run for its money. There's nothing more to say...

Gyoza: Foo Foo Tei's gyoza is hand's down the winner in this battle. Tamaya's gyoza was less exciting than their ramen and oddly tasted like they came out of the freezer.

Chahan: If you do order the ramen combo, you'll be better off combining the chahan instead of the gyoza. The chahan rivals most of the top ramen-ya's in LA and OC.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Gardena Ramen - Torrance, CA

1840 W. 182nd St.
Torrance, CA 90504
(310) 324-6993

Gardena Ramen in Torrance? I'm not sure what the story is there but Gardena Ramen does sound better than Torrance Ramen. Intrigued by rameniac's heavy claim that "Gardena Ramen serves the best ramen in Southern California", I definitely had to check it out! Located on the corner of 182nd and Western, Gardena Ramen is a quaint little ramen-ya with a clear emphasis on simplicity. The menu consists of just a few items written on plain white paper hanging from the walls in both English and Japanese: Shoyu-ramen, Miso-ramen, Hiyashi-ramen (summer only), and Gyoza. Did I mention the weather was great today? After our recent 100+ heat waves, it finally cooled to a modest 74 degrees in Torrance. The perfect day to go eat ramen!

Shoyu-ramen: Hmm...Nakamura-san may be working too hard on his golf swing these days. This shoyu-ramen may reside in the vicinity of the upper echelon of ramen, but it is still a few nails down from hanging with the best. Albeit not the best, I still enjoyed the ramen as a whole and could almost taste the effort that Nakamura-san uses to perfect his ramen. This is absolutely a feel good ramen-ya with a feel-good ramen. The soup was more on the usui side and far from the saltiness I expected. The noodles were surprisingly the best part of the ramen. Slightly chewy yet firm, slurping these were like being lost in a lucid dream. The toppings (dry chashu, egg, negi, and menma) were just average and very unimpressive. You can definitely tell that the soup and noodles get most of the attention in preparation.

Gyoza: Great flavor, but a bit chewy. The skin is much thicker than most gyoza's I've tried. I still think that they're worth ordering though. They go perfectly with the ramen. Doh! I forgot to mention rameniac to get the free gyoza. Oh well, at least Nakamura-san gets paid for them!