Another episode of sharing two recent consecutive meals, so far lunches and dinners but one of these days it'll be a breakfast and lunch, or a brunch and supper.. Anyhow dropped by Sakura (again) curious to see where the Tonkotsu based Sakuramen settled at. The first few although all good were a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in personality. The last couple iterations were a surprisingly rich Mr. Hydes.(!)
According to the waitress the recipe was tweaked yet again. Version 4, 5, 6.0? I love the kitchen's attitude of constantly trying to improve a dish, not to mention giving it a pretty clever original name.
My personal humble take as a self proclaimed non-expert at ramen (but love them all) goes as follows:
- This is a bona fide made-from-scratch tonkotsu broth (BTW often mistakenly pronounced tonkAtsu.. TonkAtsu is Pork Cutlet! TonkOtsu means pork [ton] bone [kotsu].)
- This is an extra rich kotteri version, the soup a noticeably thicker viscosity and full of collagen and whatever else bones will exude after many many hours of rapid boiling.. The richness is perhaps not for everyone and as much as I love a kotteri-style I'll admit in not being able to have a bowl as such everyday.
- The hanjyuku soft boiled egg was near perfect. The Chashu pork's fat this day though I thought could've been better rendered. The fat still had a rather opaque white appearance and this added to the heaviness. My first Sakuramen experience had excellent Chashu.
- The par cooked beansprout topping was nice but overall the bowl definitely needed something more to cut through the richness. The Benishoga pickled ginger that was left out in this version should definitely come back. The amount of shoga-jiru liquid just needs to be monitored so you don't end up with a pink colored broth like my first quiet (Dr. Jekyll) bowl. Kikurage wood ear mushrooms would be a great addition or even some Takana pickled mustard greens. Shirogoma white sesame seeds I think are also traditional with tonkotsu and will add a nice nuttiness.
- Again this is an extra hearty kotteri style, very admirable because no one else offers such in San Diego. But offering two - a regular and kotteri, may attract a wider range of eaters.
- Lastly, the noodles are not the thin straight typically seen in Hakata Tonkotsu (but then again this isn't trying to be one, hence the name Sakuramen..) but the wavy noodles definitely is better with some tooth left (kata-me) like I had asked for this day. Soft noodles in a rich creamy broth gets lost and lacks contrast, again just my humble opinion.
The handmade Japanese Gyozas here were always more substantial and plump than typically seen in SD but never seemed executed very well in the frying pan. But it seemed to improve every time I ordered it so gave it another try.
These were the best I've had yet at Sakura with a nice crispy single side and moist fillings, which I also think was updated as well with now a better balance of veggies (in the past I thought it was pork heavy). Still $6 for five pieces seem a bit steep for a side even with a small mound of Asian potato salad (which is missing here but usually comes with).
As for the Sakuramen will there be a Ver. 7, 8, 9.0?? I'm totally game in trying them so I hope they keep 'em coming! I know the Sakuramen has potential in becoming a bowl not just good but great. :)
Izakaya Sakura, 3904 Convoy St #121, San Diego, CA 92111
Dinner was at Yakitori Yakyudori in Hillcrest with a friend. Long time customer of YY but somehow first to post. Monday night was pretty mellow and walked right in. But if later in the week forgetaboutit.. Would've been an hour and a half wait. Highly recommend making reservations.
They grill with binchotan here and their background is rather interesting but I'll save it for another dedicated post. Started with beef tongue.. Yumm. (Btw, instructions for the chopstick rest here, it's my first ever post!)
A few negima..
This is chicken (usually dark meat) with Japanese leeks, a classic combo.
I love tsukune (chicken meatball). The version here is minced very fine and soft, almost fluffy. The tare sauce was smokier than I remember but good as usual.
The amazing tsukune I had at Tori Masa can be read about here!
Asparagus wrapped bacon. No brainer good stuff.
Didn't order anything too funky this night. But of course did a few of these babies.. :)
Yakitori Yakyudori, 3739 6th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103