I wanted to cover three locations, the Costa Mesa, Torrance, and of course the San Diego Mitsuwa but alas my cold caught up to me on Sunday and I never made it to the SD party. The last day of the fair was yesterday and I'm only posting this tonight. So yet again you can never count on my blog for timely information.. :P
Well I sort of blame SD Mitsuwa for not offering a limited time ramen to entice me like Costa Mesa and Torrance did. SD Santouka had participated in the past with their Awase Aji and Toromi Shoyu but hasn't since in subsequent fairs. I know I'm just whining..
Well I'm not trying to kid myself that it comes down to smart business. I'm guessing Ippudo's motive in being at Mitsuwa Costa Mesa was sort of a teaser to promote their store opening somewhere in Los Angeles (or maybe it was OC). At least I've been hearing rumors and sorry I'm either too tired, lazy or can't remember where I first read to give proper credit. The proprietor Shigemi Kawahara himself was present (he's somewhere in the blurry background in the photo above..).
The oddest memory I have of Kawahara-san on television is when he b*tch slapped Debitto (David) Itoh (of former comedy group trio B21 Special) on a Japanese ramen reality show back in the 90's (very unfortunately couldn't find a YouTube clip). Of all the things to remember, haha. But I guess he didn't think the pseudo celebrity comedian was taking his ramen training serious enough and the meister didn't want his time wasted.. or something like it in the all so contrived "reality show" drama kind of way. I didn't follow through to the end but you can find a few Debitto chains throughout Tokyo so I guess the (ex)comedian passed the rigorous training. I have no clue how good or average the bowl is. Sorry for the tangency.
Ippudo's Shiromaru Motoaji Ramen was offered at $9.80. Not cheap for a small sampling but one can say a small styrofoam window of experience to the otherwise distant Japan or location in New York..
The pork bone tonkotsu soup expectedly had a very light pleasant creaminess. To be honest for me the first few sips weren't exactly mind blowing but very solid in flavor and served at a nice piping hotness. The chashu pork topping had great flavor where you can almost see a smoke ring type coloration around the outer. The kikurage wood ear mushrooms were large with a substantial crunch (wish there were more of it). The benishoga pickled ginger, fresh ground sesame seeds, a proprietary spicy miso paste and crushed fresh garlic that I picked up at the condiments counter would later slowly transform my small bowl into one subtle kaleidoscope of flavor to another.
So I thought it was really the totality of the bowl that really made it great. A (piping hot) solid soup, the yummy toppings, condiments, and of course the (*ehem) FIRM white thin noodles (the texture the closest thing I could think of to Chinese/Vietnamese Mi noodles but straight and without any egg flavor).
Was very fun if anything and I definitely look forward to an Ippudo opening here in Southern California. :)
On the way out I noticed the speedy hands of Takoyaki Meister (never knew such title exisited!) Mr. K. Sakaguchi of Kukuru. Didn't sample one thinking I'd get a chance when back in San Diego..
Next stop was Mitsuwa Torrance for Chibakiya's Gyutan (Beef Tongue) Shio Ramen..
I had to experience a bit longer line since I arrived closer to noon, but since each shop is serving up a single style the wait is fairly swift.
While Ippudo's is the creamy (ever so popular) tonkotsu style, I really loved the very delicate clear Shio here, I think mainly chicken based but unique with hints of a mineral-ey flavor of beef tongue seeping into the soup.
And is it just me or did the flavors remind me of this:
Negi-Tan-Shio (sliced beef tongue with finely chopped onions served at Japanese/Korean BBQ joints). Genius. And I might even be curious to try it with a squeeze of lemon next time.. ;)
Damn you horrible food court lighting! Anyway, I wondered if the beef tongue was marinated in milk since it tasted well, very milky. :) I know liver is often marinated in it. Anyway it was quite tender and tasted very good.
The Gyutan Onigiri rice ball was a $1.30. A bit high for what it was but still good. :)
So also were the Takoyaki stalls, chirashi sushi rice bentos, fish cakes, gourmet apple pies that I can remember. Was planning to cover them in SD.. I hope to be more timely (and feeling better) next year.. :) Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend!
Mitsuwa Market (Torrance), 21515 Western Avenue, Torrance, CA 90501
Mitsuwa Market (Costa Mesa), 665 Paularino Avenue, Costa Mesa, CA 92626