Yet another ramen post in this sweltering heat??
Well it's not so much that I've been so craving the bowl of hot noodle soup weekend after weekend as much as I've been inspired to explore Gardena a lot. BTW I'm also introducing a new label tag here, The Warm Fuzzies.. The super sentimental guy I already am though, I hope to be very prudent with its use. ;)
So during my first run to Ramen Mottainai and same day visit to Gardena Ramen I had the opportunity to circle this part of Gardena town three times due to vague GPS inaccuracy. At the time an inconvenient and frustrating experience, but later to turn out a wonderful seed that would fruit many good things. Funny how that happens..
Umemura was a spot I passed (twice) that at first had a bit odd presence where it looked as though the place had taken residence in a former fast food Mexican joint. But it also seemed to have a hard to describe positive aura of distinction and a beyond than well rooted comfort. A more simple way of putting it, I noticed there were a lot of people inside.. ;) I took mental note to google them later. Results from the night were two from GoRamen!, one from Rameniac, The Ramen Blog, Gogo Noodles and the somewhat inactive SoCal Ramen.
Well the place has some history (I think used to have multiple locations at one time) and while I'm not too capable of diving into that at the moment, I did dive into their tasty Chashu Ramen the day.. :) Sort of a default choice when I get overwhelmed with a menu which here was fairly extensive. A more than a slew of interesting topped ramen (Hoi Koh Ro Ramen!?) with also most of your mainstay Chuka dishes.
Umemura's Chashu Ramen ($8).
To start the bowl was quite massive (look how tiny the renge spoon looks!).. At first seeming mostly flooded with steamy hot soup but later to find there were a good portion of noodles beneath as well.
The darker shoyu soup I found was interesting. While the stock was decently robust in making, a good portion of the soup's flavor to me seemed to come from the shoyu dare. The front line sweet/savory from (I would guess) the concentrated chashu marinade liquid. The oil beads on the surface of the bowl were micronized and light while any dried fish component of the soup were either too subtle for me to detect or non existent.
The noodles were cooked a nice medium firm. The strands a bit unsmooth and rather porous on the outer surface taking in some of the soup's color and flavor. It had enough spine for me though to be actually quite enjoyable where it gradually continued to get darker still as time passed.
The four slices of Chashu were to me the classic tectonic version how smaller meaty continents were held together in suspension by rendered fatty buffers. The flavor naturally echoed that of the shoyu soup. Other toppings were the hard boiled egg, poached spinach, and a generous amount of menma bamboo shoots. When I thought I had eaten the last, it seemed I'd always managed to find another piece somewhere.. :)
The hanchan is a half portioned fried rice, affordably priced at $3.50. It looked as though they had given me the Kanitama version which was completely fine by me for all fried starch side purposes were concerned.. ;) Had in it some surimi Krab, bits of chashu pork, eggs, sweet corn, scallions.. Was a little too moist and sticky to be that perfect fluffy para-para chahan but still had good flavor and play in texture. I didn't dare try ordering the gyoza (did I mention I just had a meal at Mottainai??) as much as I'm always curious about them.
The place was quite busy, customers ranging from your car mechanic dudes in axle grease stained overalls to the Rocky Balboa Hat sporting trendy fellow and accompanied friend, family groups, and many younger couples. Umemura kindly reminded me of the concept of 庶民の味 (shomin no aji - or flavor of the everyday commoner (?)). The translation may sound strange but is not discounting in any way. By definition a segment always loved by the mass closest to it, the locals.
Unfortunately I didn't have an opportunity to take more photos of their cleverly well adapted interior. The experience as a whole was definitely great and while it's hard to say the place is a destination for folks out of their way, at least I'm still pretty certain to be back many more times. :)
Umemura Restaurant, 1724 West Redondo Beach Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247