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

Monday, June 30, 2008

Osaka Ramen - Dublin, CA

Ulferts Center
4288 Dublin Blvd. #118
Dublin, CA 94598
(925) 833-9918

Envision this: A Chinese owned and operated Japanese Restaurant called Osaka Ramen in a town called Dublin with a Filipino couple from Honolulu sitting at the very next table. Only in America! (I forgot to mention the geeky Japanese guy sitting alone at a 4-person table with a camera in one hand and his pda phone in the other--what a loser!..haha)

Desperate to try one more ramen-ya before I left northern cali, I stumbled upon Osaka Ramen about an hour into my drive home. I've been to Osaka once when I was very young and I'm sure my mom took me to eat ramen, but I don't remember it. Maybe this place can invoke a lost memory. But wait...I just read the funniest comment on yelp. Panda ramen, eh? I wish I would have read this before I went in. Oh well...

Shoyu Ramen: Please read their mission statement first. Hmm...I can't remember where, but I think I've seen this written someplace else. Anyway, the first thing that knocked the wind out of me was the statement "we only use specially selected Japanese noodles." Special noodles my ***! Sorry, I didn't mean to say that out loud. These were more like thin, curly Chinese-style noodles. And the soup is definitely not a ten-hour soup, unless they boil water for 9.5 hours and spend the rest of the time adding shoyu. The toppings (dried chashu, egg, seaweed, menma, kamaboko, moyashi, negi, spinach, and carrots?) were comical. Let's just say it's the best ramen in Dublin, CA and leave it at that.

Gyoza: The gyoza were served in a boat-shaped dish that had oishii (in hiragana) written on them. Uhhh...am I missing something? I seemed to have erased them from my memory.

The service was very good so I guess it's not a total loss. If I'm ever stuck in Dublin again, I may stop by. Maybe their mabo ramen will be good.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ramen House Ryowa - Berkeley, CA

2068 University Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 883-0667

A short block from UC Berkeley resides Ramen House Ryowa, a ramen-ya that claims to have Kobe Ramen. Their name rhymes with yo what, as in "YO! WHAT was I thinking?!!" I can't believe I skipped out on Fat Slice for this place. Oh well...

Ryowa Ramen: This is their signature ramen. A sesame-flavored soup base with a sweet beginning and a spicy ending. And for some reason, this soup smelled like alcohol. Ironically, there was a sign on the wall announcing a temporary suspension of their alcohol license. Could this be their way of hiding it? Anyway, the noodles were boring and the toppings (chashu, egg, negi, and moyashi) were average. Nothing special here. You would think Berkeley students deserve better.

Shoyu Ramen: Maybe I'm still hungover from Santa's visit yesterday, but this shoyu was only average at best. The soup was unimpressive, the noodles were inept and the toppings (chashu, egg, negi, wakame, and menma) were second-hand placeholders.

Chahan: Fresh, but flavorless. Nothing to write home about.

Gyoza: A good texture and crispness, but the filling was overwhelmed with the taste of cabbage. I could barely taste the pork.

Today is my last day in SF since I'll be leaving early tomorrow morning. Hopefully I'll be able to run to one more ramen-ya tonight, but in case I don't I'll see you back down in socal!

Santa Ramen - San Mateo, CA

1944 S El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA

(650) 344-5918

Apparently, I've been a good boy this year because Santa Ramen has just delivered some of the best presents a ramen lover can ask for. About 10 minutes south of SFO, Santa Ramen (in their new location) is a must-eat-on-a-regular-basis ramen-ya that will leave you speechless. I already can't wait to return.

Shoyu Ramen: Heaven. Pure kotteri heaven! It's been awhile since I've tasted something so good--and I'm not even in Japan! The only thing missing were the tempura chips like you get at Musashi, but who really cares--I didn't. If you're looking for something assari, then you're better off ordering the tonkotsu (ya you read that right). This soup is very rich and contains the perfect amount of shoyu. The toppings (mouthwatering chashu, menma, negi, and a piece of roasted seaweed) were almost perfect and the firm, chewy noodles were amazing. But the soup definitely played the starring role.

Tonkotsu Ramen: A creamy broth that also soothes your soul. Surprisingly light tasting, some might even call it dreamy. The toppings (savory chashu, sliced kikurage, and negi) rested peacefully atop a milky sea. The noodles were the same as above and performed magnificently once again.

Miso Ramen: Mi-so good. A sweet miso flavor with a hint of spice. If you don't like miso, then you must give this one a try. It may not be straight from Hokkaido, but it does a great job of acting like it. The toppings were like above with the addition of bean sprouts. And the noodles were once again amazing.

I doubt the noodles are home-made, but even spaghetti noodles would taste good in this broth.

If you ever visit SF and only have enough time for one ramen-ya, then definitely go kick it with Santa. You won't be disappointed!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ramen Halu - San Jose, CA

375-M Saratoga Ave.
San Jose, CA 95129
(408) 246-3933

Believe it or not, I've never been to San Jose's Japantown until today. And although Ramen Halu is still 15 minutes from there, its popularity on CH convinced me to stop by. Luckily for me, Thursday is the first day of the week that they're open for lunch. I'm glad I didn't stop by yesterday on my way to the city! Ramen Halu (or haru) is just a few blocks from the 280 freeway and on the same street as Mitsuwa. As we arrived at 11:15, a line began to form that was easily 20 deep by the time they opened at 11:30. A long line is always a good sign and I was ready to hang ten at this surfer-themed ramenya.

HALU Ramen: "Our original chewy thick noodle is served in a cheerful and wealthy nutritious 2 kind of rich and clear soup broth blended. The rich soup broth is made from pork, its born, whole chicken & seaweed. The other clear soup broth is made from plenty fresh & dried vegetables, dried bonito, mackerel, anchovy, seaweed, chicken & pork. For making special taste, traditional Japanese fish broth & our original soy sauce are also blended. Home made seasoned tender pork;Cha-shu, ear mushroom;kikulage, seasoned bamboo;Menma, spinach;HO-rensou, Green onion;Negi, & seaweed; Nori on noodle in this soup broth." states the menu.

This Halu specialty was very unique with many different flavors. The broth was incredibly strong and surprisingly sour. It sort of reminded me of Taishoken's mori soba. The noodles were nice and thick like hiyamugi. I really enjoyed these noodles and the toppings were also top notch.

Syo-yu Ramen: "Original silky thin noodle is served in gently traditional plain soup broth is made from plenty fresh & dried vegetables, dried bonito, mackeral, anchovy, seaweed, chicken & pork. For making special taste, traditional Japanese fish broth & our original soy sauce are also blended. Home made seasoned tender pork;Cha-shu, Fish cake;Naruto, seasoned bamboo;Menma, spinach;HO-rensou, Green onion;Negi, & seaweed;Nori on noodle in this soup broth." states the menu.

Assari-shoyu just the way I like it. Far from being bland, this shoyu ramen hit the spot. The toppings were supreme and the super thin noodles were also quite satisfying. But I think next time I'll try to get this shoyu ramen with the thick noodles.

Afterwards, I made it down to Japantown and bought manju from Shuei-Do. They have the best tasting strawberry chichidango. I also thought about eating another bowl at Kumako ramen two doors down, but I chose to just walk around and burn some calories instead.

Suzu - San Francisco, CA

1825 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 346-5083

I've finally made it to San Francisco! It's been a couple years since my last visit and I've yet to blog about any of the ramen-ya's up here, so for the next four days I'll be staying at my brother's house in the city and spending my time slurping frantically in search of a good bowl. Luckily, the weather is about 20 degrees cooler than LA so I won't have to worry about slurping in triple-digit heat. Nice!

After the long drive up, my first stop (recommended by my brother) turned out to be Suzu, a popular ramen house in San Francisco's Japan Town. [I won't get into how much Japan Town has changed since I was a kid, but let's just say it's definitely not the same.] Anyhow, Suzu doesn't seem like it's Japanese-owned, but if my brother likes it...then...let's go!

"Tokyo" Ramen: I love shoyu ramen. So if you name a ramen "Tokyo" ramen, it better be a damn good shoyu ramen. Well...unfortunately this wasn't. The soup was supposed to be a mixture of chicken and pork broth, but the chicken stood out and for the most part masked the pork flavor. And I wasn't sure if it even contained any shoyu. The toppings (chashu, egg, menma, seaweed, and a single bok choy leaf) were nothing to brag about. The chashu was overly salty and didn't really taste like pork. The noodles were also mushy and overcooked. Overall, Suzu didn't live up to my expectations--sorry bro.

Shio Ramen (New Special): "Sublimely tart and zestful, 'Shio' is an invigorating sea-salt Ramen blended with chicken broth and pork broth" states the description on the menu. Uuh...I got none of that. It was more like a salty chicken soup. The toppings were the same as above and the noodles...nevermind. Let's just say my brother's vegetable udon used the same broth.

Gyoza: The gyoza was clearly a disappointment. The skin was too pasty-tasting and ruined the rest of the flavors. I probably wouldn't order these again.

Okay, so it's only the first night. Tomorrow, it's off to San Jose!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Yidu Ramen 伊都拉面 Instant Ramen

About a month ago, I received an email from a reader in Singapore asking if I would review a brand of packet ramen that is currently one of the top brands in China. Unsure if I could trust food sent to me from a complete stranger, I politely hesitated. But after a few more email exchanges, I realized I was being a bit paranoid. After all, who would pay to send something 8,500+ miles overseas in an attempt to poison me?! I don't think I've pissed anyone off enough to get that kind of special treatment...haha.

Anyway, her name is Debbie W. and she recently started her own business that imports select food items into Singapore. Her current mission is to import Yidu Ramen--an instant ramen being produced in Shenzhen, China--and claims it to be "delicious and comparable to those selling at restaurants." And since I've only featured instant ramen that cannot be found in the States (all from Japan), I agreed to review this instant ramen from China.

Pork Flavor: Debbie sent me two flavors of ramen with the first being Pork. After eating several great instant ramen from Japan, it may be hard to give Yidu a fair review, but I will try my best.

The contents include two servings of noodles, powder soup, and seasoning oil. The directions say to add 1 cup (8 oz.) of water to the soup. Hmm...1 cup seemed scarce so I decided to prepare both servings in one bowl (except for the noodles, I kept those to one serving).

Pork Flavor Ingredients
  • Noodles: Fine Wheat Flour, Water, Cooking Wine, Sodium Hydroxide.
  • Powder Soup: Pork Extract, Salt, Water, Maltodextrin.
  • Seasoning Oil: Pork Flavor Soup, Sesame Oil, Scallion, Garlic, Pepper Powder, VE, VC.

The soup was...well to be honest it didn't impress me much at all. It looked like tonkotsu and smelled slightly familiar, but the flavor was a little weak. I may have been expecting too much, but I would have liked to taste more garlic and pork. The spaghetti-like noodles were also quite disappointing. They failed to soak up any of the soup and didn't really taste like anything. I really, really wanted to like this ramen since Debbie went so far out of her way to send it to me. But unfortunately, I have to tell it like it is. Hopefully the chicken flavor tastes better.

Chicken Flavor: The second flavor was Chicken. But not to mislead you, this soup also contained some Pork.

The contents were the same as Pork flavor above with the exception of the powder soup. Hmm...there's also some soybean sauce in the soup. Could this be like a chicken flavored miso ramen?

Chicken Flavor Ingredients
  • Noodles: Fine Wheat Flour, Water, Cooking Wine, Sodium Hydroxide.
  • Powder Soup: Chicken Extract, Salt, Kelp, Soybean Sauce.
  • Seasoning Oil: Pork Flavor Soup, Sesame Oil, Scallion, Garlic, Pepper Powder, VE, VC.

I actually enjoyed this Chicken flavor more than the Pork. It had an interesting taste that was distinctly Chinese (if that makes any sense), which made it quite unique and satisfying. The noodles even soaked up this soup a little better, but that still couldn't cure their spaghetti-like texture.

Overall, I'm very thankful for being able to try these two flavors of ramen. I may not have enjoyed them as much as I would have liked, but they are still good quality instant ramen. Best of luck to Debbie on having these imported to Singapore. I hope Yidu can improve and become a success. If possible, you may want to try and import some of the instant ramen I've already featured on this blog. There are also quite a few great instant nama ramen selling here in the States that could probably be easily imported from Japan if they aren't already. A couple of my favorites are pictured below. Maybe I can send you them sometime. Thanks again Debbie!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Maruyu - Santa Ana, CA

3748 W. Warner Ave
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 549-8121

After hearing about this new ramen-ya in the OC from edjusted over at the ramen blog, I immediately began to rearrange my weekend plans to fit MaRuYu in. When I arrived, I was greeted by a friendly Japanese lady who turned out to be the owner--Mayumi-san. According to Mayumi-san, the name Maruyu is based on her name. I didn't quite get her explanation but whatever. Mayumi-san was really, really nice! I don't normally interact and make conversation with owners, but she was just willing to divulge her complete history in 30 minutes, including the soup recipe. Although you may not be interested with all this, here is what I learned.

Years ago, Mayumi-san (the sole owner and former equestrian) was thrown off of a horse and suffered a broken back, which resulted in chronic pain that permanently plagued her spine. Miraculously, once she moved to California the pain had subsided and she was able to live normally. She opened Maruyu 3 months ago using the recipe's and techniques she learned from her mother. Her mother had two restaurants in Tokyo--one in Ginza and one in Shinjuku's Kabukicho. Although she was no more than just a greeter (irashaimase!) at those restaurants, her mission at Maruyu is to perfect her mother's recipe and share it with all of us. With her cousin as the chef and herself as the waitress, Mayumi-san told me not to hold back and tell her exactly how I felt (bad or good) about the ramen. So here we go...

Black Sesame Ramen 黒ごまラーメン: This ramen is supposedly the shop's specialty. After initially ordering the shoyu ramen, Mayumi-san convinced me to try this. Why not, I thought. Uuh...and then it arrived. My first thought was a sensation of weirdness. The soup wasn't bad, but it just tasted awkward and unfamiliar. If I could compare it to anything, its sweetness reminded me of miso ramen, but I couldn't quite comprehend the other flavors. The grittiness of the grated black goma was similar to the kogashi miso ramen I ate at Gogyo, but the essence was completely different. The extremely curly noodles were decent and uncomfortably matched this ramen. The toppings (negi, chashu, black goma, and egg) were also a bit confused. First of all, the chashu was chopped up into little bits (I'll tell you about it later) and the egg was marinated way too long. And yes!, extra toppings were definitely expensive (menma for $1.50). Mayumi-san justified her prices by claiming that every ingredient she used was from Japan (plus no MSG). I'm not one to complain about prices so I believe her. Overall, this ramen was too sweet for me.

Shoyu Ramen: I tend to favor shoyu ramen, so it's not surprising that I like the shoyu better than the black sesame. Mayumi-san was nice enough to share the recipe of the soup base which consists of the following: にぼし (dried sardine), かつおぼし (bonita flakes), 玉ねぎ (onion), ねぎ (green onion), とりがら (chicken stock), とりほね (chicken bones), ぶたほね (pork bones), しいたけ (shiitake mushroom), and a type of fruit that will remain a secret. I may have forgotten something so be sure to ask Mayumi-san if you go. She'll be more than happy to share it with you. This shoyu was a little on the salty-side, but since I prefer saltier soups it was not bad at all. I detected a strange sour taste that crinkled my eyebrows and wasn't sure where it came from. Perhaps it's that mystery fruit. I guess I'll never know. The toppings were the same as above with the addition of naruto. The noodles were also the same.

Supposedly, the place was packed the night before and they had run out of chashu. So instead of the normal-looking round slices, the ramen contained these chopped thingy's. I didn't even want to know where they came from. Were they chopped up leftovers? I didn't care. Hopefully next time I'll get to try the real stuff.

Gyoza: This homemade gyoza was fresh and delicious. The only reason I know it was homemade is because Mayumi-san kept apologizing for them taking so long. Her cousin in the back was busy making ramen and wrapping the gyoza and cooking them.

One more thing. Since Maruyu is in such a bad location, I asked Mayumi-san why she chose it. She agreed that this was a bad location and that she was somehow conned into taking it. Originally, she wanted to lease the space behind San Shi Go Restaurant in Newport Beach, but the landlords kept increasing the price on her. But overall she was happy with the location. It's still close to Marukai and the parking lot is big.

Well, I think Maruyu needs to improve, but I also think that Mayumi-san has the right vision, which leaves no doubt that it will improve. I'll look forward to tracking Maruyu's progression. Mayumi-san ご馳走様でした!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Joy Mart Restaurant 善市場 - Los Angeles, CA

137 Japanese Village Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 680-9868

Go Lakers! Amazingly, I was fortunate enough to score a seat at the Lakers game for last night's game 3 victory over the Celtics in the NBA Finals! It pays to have GREAT friend's with season tickets sixth row behind the basket who charge you face value for tickets that would easily cost in the thousands. Okay, I apologize for gloating, but there really is a point to why I'm telling you this. According to my friend, every time they have eaten ramen at Daikokuya before attending a Lakers home game this season, it has resulted in a Lakers win. So without a doubt we planned on heading over there before the game, but since Daikokuya doesn't open until 5 and with the early start to the game (due to the east coast fans) at 6, we decided just to eat ramen somewhere else and hope that the same luck holds true. And luckily, IT DID!! So if you ever go to a Lakers game, make sure you eat a bowl of ramen in Little Tokyo beforehand (Daikokuya or elsewhere) to ensure a Lakers win!

Every time I've gone to Little Tokyo lately, whether it be buying mochi at Mikawaya, scarfing down some Imagawayaki's at Mitsuru, or just ending a night of drinking at Cefiore, I've walked by the Joy Mart Restaurant and thought "this looks like a cool place to just chill and drink sake." Well, after a quick glance at their menu and noticing that they did indeed have ramen, we thought it would be a good start to our Lakers night even though their specialty is sushi and sake. After all, I live for trying new restaurants that serve ramen regardless of their specialty.

Chashu Ramen: Their website menu shows that they have four different types of ramen (Spicy Negi, Chicken, Chashu, and Tokyo ramen), but I only remember seeing three. I didn't see a Tokyo ramen on the menu, otherwise I may have ordered that one. Anyway, I ordered the Chashu ramen. This assari shoyu based ramen was very light and refreshing. To some this ramen might seem bland, but joyous bits of garlic give the shoyu something to talk about. The toppings (chashu, negi, and moyashi) did not live up to their attractive presentation. The chashu was delicious and tasted more like pork belly. The noodles were slightly clumpy, but chewy and springy. Overall, the ramen wasn't bad. I'll go back to Joy Mart someday, but more likely to get wasted off their sake before finishing the night with a ramen.

The Lakers squeaked out a nervous win even with Gasol, Odom, and Fisher having their worst game ever. Perhaps they would play better if they all ate a bowl of ramen beforehand...haha.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

火だれ - Instant Fire

I was always told not to play with fire and this is no exception. 火だれ will kick your butt if you don't respect it! Made especially for ramen with a mixture of chili's, garlic, goma, and other spicy stuff, just a small amount will give your ramen a devilish kick. And if you dare, you can use a little more and create your own special 2 challenge!!

Friday, June 6, 2008

How to use chopsticks when you don't know how...

After having PRK performed on my eyes Tuesday, this week has literally been a blur. And since I can't drive anywhere or do any work on my computer (I probably shouldn't be blogging either but I'm really, really bored), I might as well show someone how to use chopsticks when they don't know how. This is how I learned when I was a kid, so if you're still using a fork to eat ramen PLEASE give this a try! (FYI, ramen should never be eaten with a fork.)

  1. The only two things you need to accomplish this are a rubber band and a set of chopsticks. Ramen-ya's will always provide the chopsticks, but may not always have a rubber band available so it's best if you bring your own.

  1. Start by unwrapping the chopsticks and folding the wrapper in half.

  1. Then proceed to make a tight roll out of the wrapper.

  1. Make sure the roll is cylindrical in shape.

  1. Place the wrapper roll between the pair of chopsticks about an inch from the top. Then tightly coil the rubber band around the very top, being careful not to snap the rubber band.

  1. And there you have it! Chopsticks that everyone could use!!

  • Watch the short video to see them in action.