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

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Canned Casualty: A 5.4 from the Russian Judge

The only casualty in my home from today's 5.4 earthquake was this poor canned ramen. Normally accustomed to falling a few inches in vending machines, I guess it couldn't handle the five foot free-fall from the top of my bookshelf. Luckily, it will live to be slurped another day.

I hope everyone was okay today and didn't suffer any damage to your property. It looks like everything (aside from this can) is okay over here, considering how close I live to the epicenter. Stay safe!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Aji Man 味満 - San Gabriel, CA

821 W. Las Tunas Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 282-3478

The newest ramen-ya in LA sounds like a potential ramen superhero, but can Aji Man create enough hype to rescue the SGV ramen scene?...I didn't think so. Literally meaning flavor-full, I was disappointed to hear that Aji Man uses MSG to enhance its flavor (maybe Aji Man is short for Ajinomoto Man), but that wasn't going to deter me from giving it a try.

Shoyu Ramen: Upon ordering I asked the waitress if they use MSG and she politely said no. Perhaps the chef has since mastered its flavor without the need for it. Anyway, since shoyu has always been my preferred flavor, I had to order it and skip their signature Sapporo Miso for now. My first observation was that this soup had a lot of oil. Possibly more oil than water...okay I'm exaggerating. Aside from all the oil, it still had a good shoyu flavor that was semi-impressive. The toppings (chashu, menma, negi) were like footnotes on a page--barely noticeable. The noodles were horribly clumped and very average and unimpressive.

Shio Ramen: This shio ramen was proof that it didn't contain MSG. There was absolutely no flavor at all. It was more like oily-water ramen. Did I mistakenly order this shio ramen without salt? Hmmm...it was like a bean burrito without beans.

Gyoza: The gyoza was ma~ma~ (decent) and definitely contained Ajinomoto. If you're looking for good gyoza then go ahead and skip these.

So it appears that the SGV is still lacking a quality ramen-ya. Hopefully Aji Man will improve over time, but for now I would probably prefer to eat at Tamaya down the street.

らーめんの千草 (Chigusa) - 岩手久慈

Hailing from Iwate (a place not generally known for ramen), Chigusa takes pride in their purely original all-chicken based soup. And when I say all-chicken, that even refers to the chashu. Although this chicken chashu is not included with the instant version, this could be one of the first vegetarian-friendly ramen ever made...at least one that I know of that is actually edible.

The contents include:
  • Soup pouch
  • Noodles

Chicken stock mixed with a little salt and shoyu creates this refreshingly unique blend seen below. It was very light-tasting and quite delicious. A chicken soup with a Japanese soul.

This thin curly noodle uses less kansui than most other types (not that I could tell) and finishes off a truly original ramen.

The chicken chashu still intrigues me and may require a personal visit to Iwate soon...

六角や (Rokkakuya) - 横浜家系

One of the original tenants when the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum first opened in 1994, Rokkakuya has been serving its Tonkotsu-Shoyu ramen with Chicken Oil since 1988. The ability to customize the soup to your liking, along with a thicker-than-normal noodle has made this ramen-ya a favorite among the locals for years.

The contents include:
  • Tonkotsu-Shoyu soup
  • Chicken Oil
  • Noodles

Could it be that this ramen has spoiled? Or is this how it's supposed to taste? I may never know, but there's something fishy about this tangy poultry flavor. It's thick consistency coated the noodles like gravy, reminding me of Thanksgiving. This is one ramen I could not finish.

The noodles were also forgettable. Their spaghetti-like texture had a strange cardboard aroma that clashed with the tangy soup.

I really hope that this pack was spoiled because this ramen was not worth instantizing. I guess I'll just have to order another one or visit the honten to find out. Yokohama here I come...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Shuchan Ramen - Torrance, CA

UPDATE: They apparently have shut down again, but I have a feeling it won't be the last time we hear from Shuchan.

(Restaurant Toji)
2212 Artesia Blvd.
Torrance, CA 90504
(310) 767-1740

Shuchan Ramen is back! After reading on Yelp that a ramen-ya had recently taken residence in Toji Restaurant during the lunch hours, I had to go find out for myself before heading over to the Mitsuwa Summer Fair. I arrived 5 minutes before 11am and opened the door to an empty restaurant. There's no sign that says Shuchan so I wondered if it was actually true. Then a nice Japanese lady came out from the back and said dozo please sit anywhere (in Japanese). After being gone for a couple years, it appears that they are just renting this space for lunch until they can find their own location. So tell all your friends and head down there during your lunch hour to try this new (and old) ramen-ya. If you get there before noon, ALL ramen comes with either a half order of gyoza or chahan...FREE!

Shoyu-Tonkotsu Ramen: This ramen is their "special" and it's taped to the menu with a ripped-up piece of paper so I couldn't resist to order it. The shoyu-tonkotsu was very smooth with loads of flavor. It may be too salty for some, but I didn't mind it at all. It surprisingly tasted really good. The toppings (slightly dry yet flavorful chashu, menma, naruto, negi, and nori) were also good, but it felt like they were missing something. Something like a hanjuku egg perhaps. Yeah, I think an egg would have made it complete. The just-your-average-factory-made-noodles-that-everyone-uses were cooked perfectly and played the role of a good understudy.

Shio Ramen: A true shio ramen in the sense that it was really salty, but then again shio ramen should be salty. A refreshing choice for all you shio lovers out there. The toppings and noodles were the same as above. If you do think it's too salty, they'll be happy to mellow it out for you.

Gyoza: The gyoza was homemade, but I'm still deciding if I liked them or not. They weren't bad and I can't really complain about them since they were FREE. They contained lots of garlic (which I like), but a burnt flavor seemed to overshadow it all. Try them and let me know what you think?

大安食堂 (Tai An) Instant 生 Ramen - 喜多方ラーメン

My spoiled taste buds have finally found just an average shoyu ramen...BUT it was still pretty good! Tai An hails from Kitakata, a city known for their shoyu base and 太麺 (thick noodles).

The contents include:
  • Niboshi-shoyu soup
  • Menma
  • Thick noodles

The smell of sardines and shoyu kind of reminded me of something you can get at your local LA ramen-ya (an above-average one of course). I'm sure that would be an insult to the chef, but it wasn't earth-shaking like the others. The menma was a little too crunchy at first, but they seemed to settle down after being soaked for a few minutes.

The noodles were yes fatter than normal, but they also seemed average like the factory-made stuff that most ramen-ya's use over here. Oh well, you can't win 'em all.

For the record, I would still prefer Tai An over any instant ramen they sell in the States!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

龍上海 (Ryushanhai) Instant 生 Ramen - 山形

After having heard many stories of how ramen-ya's attain greatness, I've learned that the key component to a great original soup is simply years of experimentation. This is no different with Ryushanhai and their 赤湯からみそらーめん (Akayu Kara Miso Ramen). If you recall, I tried Ryushanhai at the Raumen Museum on Day 5 of my Japan trip earlier this year and it was a complete enlightenment on how good miso ramen could be. Could the instant stuff live up to the real thing? Let's find out!

The contents include:
  • Miso Dare
  • Lard
  • Homemade noodles
  • Nori Furikake
  • Secret Karamiso topping

The noodles felt extremely silky like the skin of a model (not that I know what that feels like). I almost didn't feel like cooking them. And as you can see from the bowl below, the lard hovers over the miso to retain the heat of this soup when the hot water is added.

Wow, that looks so good! (Sorry, I'm getting carried away by looking at the pic below.) This WAS so good! If you like it spicy, then this ramen will send you to the moon. The karamiso topping is extraordinarily hot and full of flavor. The spiciness with a hint of niboshi and the scent of nori just blew me away. And I can't even describe how good the noodles were. Let's just say I needed to change my...okay I won't go there.

I generally prefer the straight and thicker than average noodle. These are my favorite by far! If I ever open a ramen-ya (hopefully someday), I would want to copy these noodles.

It's amazing how similar the instant stuff is to the actual ramen. It may even be better...

Monday, July 14, 2008

支那そば 勝丸 (Katsumaru) Instant 生 Ramen - 東京目黒

Being a taxi driver definitely has its perks. And according to this guy, one of them is knowing where all the best ramen-ya's are. So it was with this amassment of knowledge that eventually led to Chef Goto's own creation called Katsumaru. Initially perfected in a yatai for 13 years, Chef Goto finally opened his own shop in Tokyo's Meguro ward in 1984.

The contents include:
  • Katsumaru ramen soup
  • Freshly packed noodles
  • Menma

Crafted in congruence with a local noodle factory, this original noodle is packed fresh directly from the factory. For all I know, it's the only pack of noodles that comes with its own "do not eat" freshener included in the vacuum seal.

The soup was...well let's just say I live for this kind of soup--a wonderfully blended shoyu ramen with a heavenly hint of dried sardine. Need I say more?

The thinly flattened, curly noodles are definitely one-of-a-kind. Chef Goto claims that these noodles and this soup are soul mates meant for each other and ONLY each other. I can't agree more. These noodles are the freshest I've tasted yet! The menma was also outstanding. Crunchy and soaked with flavor, it's hard to believe they came in a box.

After trying this ramen, I'm almost inclined to go to Japan to become a taxi driver...almost.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

やよいそば (Yayoi Soba) Instant 生 Ramen - 高山らーめん

From Takayama city in the Hida-Takayama area, Yayoi Soba will be the first review in my latest batch of instant ramen from Japan. Named after the Yayoi bridge in this ancient city dating back to the Jomon period, Yayoi Soba is famous for a noodle dish that tastes more like nihon-soba than ramen. But nevertheless, they still refer to it as Hida no Chuuka Soba - Takayama Ramen.

The contents include:
  • a pouch of their famous soup (x2)
  • noodles (x2)
  • sesame oil (x2)
  • menma & chashu (x2)
  • negi/green onion (x2)

It's hard to believe that this is considered "instant" when all the ingredients are so fresh. Just like Aoba's instant ramen, there's no need to add any water to the soup. Just soak the entire pouch in boiling water for 5 minutes and pour it into a bowl. This ensures that you get exactly what the shop intended...impressive. As for its flavor, the strong shoyu taste accompanied a distinct inclination of mackerel. It was very delicious and right away I could understand why they say it's more like nihon-soba.

The noodles were very thin like a curly soumen noodle and where normally you would boil noodles for 3~4 minutes, these noodles only needed 30~40 seconds. And believe me, 10 seconds too long can be disastrous.

The vacuum-sealed chashu and menma (soaked in shoyu, mirin, and sugar) were succulent and amazingly fresh.

Overall, this ramen didn't really have the ramen feel, but it was still better than most ramen-ya's. The deep shoyu flavor still resonates my taste buds...in a positive way of course!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tokyo Table presents... SAKE NIGHTS!

When I graduated from college in 2001, I never imagined that EVERY company I worked for in the next seven years would eventually be out of business. But with the announcement of IndyMac's seizure by the FDIC today, my resume now reads like a lengthy corporate obituary.

Anyway, this calls for a night of unlimited food and drink! Luckily, Tokyo Table will be hosting Sake Nights this month at both of their LA locations. And if you're asking yourself what any of this has to do with ramen, well...not much other than you can slurp unlimited bowls of their mediocre stuff, which may actually taste better once you've pounded a dozen shots of sake.

"Other Sake Night features include the Sake Tasting Challenge, where those who correctly identify two sakes win a $200 gift certificate to Tokyo Table and a bottle of the restaurant’s signature drink. $45 includes all food and drink. 7:30 pm-10:00 pm."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

麺どん Tamaya - Alhambra, CA

645 E. Main St.
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 458-8388

Located just a few short blocks from the Mitsuwa in San Gabriel and in the building that used to house Won Tin Gourmet, 麺どん Tamaya has opened another location roughly 16 miles west of its original. With the same owner, the same menu, and the same hand-painted たまや sign on the wall, there's no indication of this ramen-ya being a replicated fake.

Mabo Ramen: When I first looked at this Mabo ramen, I got worried. It didn't have the customary thick, droopy top layer that I've known to love about Mabo. It just looked like someone threw tofu and ground pork into a shoyu ramen. But luckily, my first impression was wrong. It still had a decent flavor that satisfied my craving. The noodles weren't spectacular, but they didn't make things worse either. I would definitely order it again.

Chahan: The chahan on the other hand was entirely too strong and the mirin just overwhelmed everything. I ended up soaking most of it in my mabo soup just to neutralize its strength. That actually turned out to be a good idea because it made the chahan taste so much better.

Tamaya will probably never be the best ramen-ya, but its decent soup and friendly staff will be enough to bring you back. If you're in the area and craving a good bowl of ramen, then Tamaya is your best option.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

B Diddy Loves Ramen!!

Okay...I don't really know if Baron Davis loves ramen or not (probably not), but as an avid Clipper fan for most of my life (beginning back when Danny Manning, Ron Harper, Charles Smith, and Benoit Benjamin were playing) and as a graduate of UCLA in 2001--what would've been B Diddy's senior year--I'd like to welcome him back to socal where he belongs! And Baron if you're reading this, holla! I might even make some money off my season tickets this year...but it's not about the money...it's about the Clippers finally winning!!!

(I still think he signed with the Clippers cause he got sick of the ramen near Oakland.)