Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nantsuttei And Nidaime Tsujita @ Mitsuwa's 2010 Fall Umaimono Gourmet Fair

The Pre Posting Rambling of my trip to the fair's unrelated visit to the more permanent ramenya resident in Torrance, Yamadaya, can be read here. Despite my cold I managed to check out Mitsuwa's 2010 Fall Umaimono Gourmet Fair yesterday and I have to say I was particularly glad this time that I did. Today is their last day if you happen to read this, though the ramen portion of the fair is only happening in Costa Mesa and Torrance. Aside from the ramen I think Mitsuwa San Diego is participating with similar food stalls so do check them out.

Is that a dragon I see?? ;) A zoom of the soup from the limited time Nantsuttei's Tonkotsu Ma-Yu Ramen served at Mitsuwa Torrance. The different oils on top of the bowl become a marble patterned estuary of Ma-yu and satin sheened lard.

Ma-yu is a black sesame oil often seen in Kumamoto Tonkotsu ramen usually made with a proprietary method of slowly charring garlic or sesame seeds. Ignore what you've been told about eating that burnt toast and your health. It's also not the least bitter as imagined and everything I enjoyed about burnt ends, crusts, char, smokey flavors trapped in a condiment friendly lipid form.

The man himself Ichiro Furuya was even serving each bowl with a sincere thank you and genuine gratification. It was really neat to see him there after all the years watching him on television. I refrained from taking a photo. I guess my groupie tendency towards ramen ends at the meal itself but I'm also afraid of expanding my already OCD photo-documenting habbit to other things... I've still been documenting disguised cell phone towers BTW, just haven't been posting them.. ;)

I read up on Furuya-san and Nantsuttei some in the previous weeks. A former rebellious Bousouzoku biker as a teen, then turned ramen chef/owner after many years of hard work. He admits his first few early trials were darn right bad. Then eventually was inspired by a Kumamoto-style Tonkotsu where he ended up fine tuning into something we have today which gained him his notoriety. I'm not sure if Nantsuttei or Furuya-san for that matter calls the creation an actual Kumamoto Tonkotsu as more something inspired from one but it's another star born from the constant inspiration and creativity of ramen chefs in Japan. Well I guess I'll have to do more reading... :)

The noodles are white and straight but much thicker than a Hakata-style. I prefer mine on the firmer side but it's not like they take special requests at the fair so.
The soup is smoooth and doesn't have the usually associated to pork bone tonkotsu smell that could be a little off-putting to some. It's also heavenly medium rich with a great flavor that can only be made with a time consuming boiling, attention and care.

It was a very good bowl. I don't mean this in a negative way but it had that Wolfgang Puck (yes, I ate at Spago in the mid nineties, haha) simultaneously exotic yet mainstream enough vibe that I think would be easily accepted by the masses and wouldn't have any problems gaining success here in the states if they decided to branch out.

Sorry my coverage of the rest of the fair is usually pretty shallow compared. Otafuku had their stall cooking up some Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki. Lots of tasty looking desserts which for the better of my weight watching I didn't get to check out and the usual great looking fried croquettes galore.

I think that might be Tsujita-san of Nidaime Tsujita in the black T-shirt above on break ordering an okonomiyaki. Nidaime Tsujita was at the Costa Mesa store serving up some of their Ramen and also Tsukemen. The Tsukemen was their recommendation.

The number of times I've had tsukemen I can count with one hand with my first being Ezofukuro's at the Mitsuwa - Diverse Flavor of Japanese Cuisine fair back in July. I'm sensing I'm more of a straight up ramen fan but from what I gathered Tsujita's version was something not to be missed. Since the noodles are quite thick this takes a few minutes to come out.

Crazy good. The concentrated dipping soup (made with pork bones, chicken, vegetables and fish) was extremely rich but with many dimensions of flavors stacked on one another. There was a surprising amount of acidity to it but all to help balance and cut all that richness. What I liked about it the most was the lightly fishy gyokai undertones that is more rare to see in ramen outside of Japan. Anyhow this would be one bowl that one's experience would particularly benefit from being slurped.

The soup may not look like much but the chasu pork, menma bamboo shoots, onions are all hiding under the opaqueness. Noodles are quite thick (typical of tsukemen) and quite springy rivaling some handmade udon I've had. You've probably noticed the slice of citrus in the early photos. In Japan probably a Japanese sudachi is used but here lime. Recommended to squeeze half way through for some added acidity and flavor to better complement the rich dip. The eggs were lightly flavored but excellent in execution and was a great neutral palate cleanser in between noodle dipping breaks. :)

BTW, there is a special dashi stock that can be added to thin out the left over dip and can be had in the end as a soup. I missed out since I found out about it later.. But...

..I would need the extra space in my belly since I decided to try their ramen too. Hey I wasn't sure when I'd get the chance to try them again. But I am feeling stuffed just remembering about it, haha. I was really hooked on the flavors, especially with that blended fish ending. I love that they brought their own bowls by the way.. ;)

And, Oh baby!

Noodles aren't as thick as the tsukemen version but still on the thicker side. The soup was just so wonderful. If this was a cup of tea... This definitely was my cup of tea...
I only wished I had it first since my tongue was already acclimated to the sodium levels of the previous tsukemen dip.

But still the looks are a little deceiving here. It's quite a rich bowl with no lack of oils floating on top like crinkled cellophane. The slices of pork were great and the menma was cut thick, marinated lightly but had a strong sweetness of bamboo shoot.

Well that was fun, and I think it did help some with my cold. Until next time!
(Edjusted of The Ramen Blog's take on Tsujita can be read about here.)

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


Junichi said...

I tried out both of them on Sat. I went to Costa Mesa around 2:30 and the place was packed! However, there was no line at Tsujita, so I grabbed some tsuke-men. Boy was it delicious. Loved the fish based broth. The crepe place had a crazy line though.

Torrance at 6pm was pretty mellow. The ma-yu ramen was good, but since I ate the tsuke-me first, I wasn't blown away.

I agree, more places in the states need to experiment with fish based ramen. I had a niboshi ramen in Japan before. Soo good.

Dennis K. said...

Hi Junichi.. Ah, that's too bad that Tsujita didn't have a line. It seems turnout has become unpredictable these days. Is it just me or did Mitsuwa always have this many fairs per year in the past?... Hope things were better on Sunday. I hope Tsujita did well overall and decide to come back again.

I was at Torrance first thing near opening and was pretty mellow then but figured cause it was too early. Stopped by Costa Mesa very late in the evening returning from L.A. So my day was spread out quite a bit.

I like them both a lot in different ways but Tsujita also had a one up personally because of the more rareness of this type of flavor for me. I had a niboshi ramen at Ramen California and really enjoyed it. There's supposed to be another in I think Studio City that has a good gyokai-kei. It's on Rameniac.

If our schedules agree next time we should meet up!?

edjusted said...

Dennis, happy to hear you made it to Torrance and Costa Mesa. Thanks for all the background info on Nantsuttei. It seems like there's often a bit of a "bad boy" element in a lot of ramen chefs histories ne.

I had no idea about the dashi stock for Tsujita. I just started chugging the broth after I ran out of noodles. i didn't quite manage to finish it all though. It's a bit...heavy...

Dennis K. said...

Hi Edjusted! When ordering the second round ramen at Tsujita I told them how I felt the leftover broth felt like such a waste (imagining what was labored over to create it). And that's when they told me about the broth they had in the back. I did something similar at a fancy soba house in Japan, adding hot soba water to the concentrated mentsuyu in the end. I'm not sure if I liked it but I bet I would've enjoyed ending Tsujita's meal with like that!

Junichi said...

Read on the ramen blog ( that Mr. Tsujita is looking to open shop in LA and is scoping out locations. I'm still dreaming about that tsuke-men I ate. I'm kicking myself for missing the ramen version.

CAB said...

That soft boiled egg is a thing of beauty. Just the way I like them. And as always, you provide the best ramen porn ever!

Dennis K. said...

Hi Junichi, thanks for the tip! I remember Keizo of Go Ramen mentioning that too. I've been curious where though. Haha, that's awesome. I'm still not totally convinced I'm a tsukemen type of guy as much as I enjoyed Tsujita's. The ramen was really good and I think I enjoy and prefer the soup/noodle experience more still.

Haha thanks CAB... :) Actually the lighting in both food courts are quite horrible, Costa Mesa's being the worst. Any which way or where I sit I'm casting a shadow shaped like an asterisk over my meal in four directions simultaneously..!

I always love how the English dip strips of toast into their soft boiled eggs.. :)