3748 W. Warner Ave
Santa Ana, CA 92704
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!!