Worked feverishly to get this posted last night like a responsible food blogger but just couldn't do it. Today (Sunday the 19th) would be the final day of Mitsuwa's Hokkaido Fair. Hope some people get to check it out. Most spelling and grammatical errors will be corrected afterward.. :P
But first wanted to get a few things out... Below a photo of one of the fantastic miso ramens offered from Sumire Ramen at the San Diego Mitsuwa food court in very early 2008. Yes prices have gone up considerably, at the time a sample was $6.90, now over 10-bucks after sales tax. To give credit portions does seem to have improved over the years.
And I've been seeing less of the styrofoam bowls.. But my biggest pet peeve these days have been that THEY WON'T LET YOU KEEP THE PAYMENT STUBS!! I'm upset and am planning to write Mitsuwa about it if they don't read it here first. I like collecting the stubs and the least they can do after you've paid a premium for the sampling experience is to let you keep the (larger) stub as a souvenir. In fact they used to give out both.
If they had serving issues (like extremely lame people claiming they have not received their meal when they actually already have) here is an idea:
• Give out the smaller stub to the customer after payment as a reminder of their order number as usual..
• But, when the number is called and the meal picked up, SIMPLY TRADE THE STUBS FROM THE SMALLER TO THE LARGER. This way the customer gets to keep the large stub as a souvenir, and their possession of this proves the delivery/transaction. Both sides are happy.
So now that's out of the way.. Just a quick Sumire Miso Ramen description for comparison.
I remember at the time, SD Santouka wouldn't open shop in the food court until another two months. While SD Santouka since had participated in one or two subsequent fairs, any special ramen showcasing has sadly become nonexistent in SD Mitsuwa. I won't go into my thoughts of why today.
This was an amazing slap in your face bowl of all that is Miso that will leave you loving for a long time. Intensely rich and every spoonful piping hot ending with a nice red miso tang goodness. If a person is a Miso fiend/lover (I mean not just ramen but in general) they would've really appreciated it I thought. It was also pretty oily as you can see by my spoon below and the few friends I did take with, it seemed too much for them but whatevs.. ;)
The bowl was partly created to survive the long cold winters of Sapporo, or so I'm told. Can easily say was probably the best Miso Ramen I've had to date. I went back for seconds the next day and the photos here are a combination of two separate visits. (GoRamen!'s post of a bowl from the original honten here.)
I did wonder if this bowl of so much of a good thing can be something I can handle all the time.. But I'd be happy to try and find out, haha. ;)
So fast forward to September 2010. At Mitsuwa Torrance, Ramen Shingen is offering their KokuMiso Ramen (Rich-Miso Ramen). The soup was described to have been simmered for over 100 hours.(!) Before I even start though I was impressed by the intense radiating heat that seemed to penetrate straight through the wall that separates kitchen to the cashier area. I hope those cooks are drinking a lot of water to prevent heat stroke!
The soup was surprisingly sweeter than I expected and the balance to it with the blended Miso's savory was really great. It looks a little reddish below but the flavor wasn't the least tangy and milder.
The soup was also lightly viscous, almost as if it were thickened with a pinch of rice flour, but I would guess the result from the four-days plus of continuous simmering. The menma marinated bamboo shoots were impressively crunchy, and with the classic par-cooked fresh beansprouts and fresh scallions, it's a delicious miso soup I would never tire of. But through personal preference I have to say I miss the impact of a more red aka-miso based lightly tangy Miso Ramen.
The yummy pork chashu wasn't in the shadows either. A single but larger slice (as for sample bowls go), a slightly leaner porky goodness that reminded me how fat can be flavor but not all flavor is fat. I liked how the flavors were more intense around the darker outer edges.
Noodles were a medium thick and curly, softer chewy, bright yellow but not too eggy.
At Mitsuwa Costa Mesa, Komaoka Ramen was serving up their Kara-Miso Ramen (Spicy Miso Ramen). Here the nice servers were kind enough to give me at least the smaller end of the pay stub.. :P
You know I'm never against a tasty bowl of Spicy Miso Ramen but truth be told I'm not a huge fan in general of them, not sure why. But I have to say I really enjoyed this one. Like anything it's the accumulation of all the smaller details that count in the end.
The first thing I noticed again was balance of sweetness to savoriness, was only mildly spicy but had a nice nutty ground sesame flavor. In fact the flavors especially with the fresh and par-crunchy chingensai (baby bok choi) and small mound of spicy flavored ground pork topping all but reminded me of the Japanified Tan Tan Men.
This would be a Miso version of course with only complementing touch of sesame. Was nice and oily but not over the top. The two smaller pork chashu pieces were fairly ordinary but good. The slightly more what I call 'tectonic' version where meaty continents are suspended by veins of rendered fatty goodness.
The piping hot soup is more evident when you disrupt it by lifting a nice serving of noodles. Something a few local SD ramen shops could improve on. The noodles were extra springy and great.
Came with three smaller mounds of rice (I forgot the name of these barrel-shaped on top of my head but it'll come to me later.. not that it's important but it's bugging me now, haha).
A few more highlights.. Ikameshi! (Squid stuffed with mochi rice.) I always loved the packaging of this famous brand.
Lots of people pointing fingers of what they want. Fried croquettes with various fillings..
The Ikura salmon roe looked wonderful each perfectly spherical in shape. Wish I tried it now. Being it the Hokkaido Fair there were lot's of seafood types of offering so some of the samples were on the expensive side more than usual. Mitsuwa San Diego is participating with many of these offerings right now. Hope some people get to check them out on this final day..
And if you did miss, another Umaimono Gourmet Fair is coming up end of October. So I better start saving up for that from now, haha.. ;)
Mitsuwa Market (Torrance), 21515 Western Avenue, Torrance, CA 90501
Mitsuwa Market (Costa Mesa), 665 Paularino Avenue, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Mitsuwa Market (San Diego) 4240 Kearny Mesa Rd, San Diego, CA 92111