Sunday, May 29, 2011

Torrance Twosies - Ramen @ Kitahama Shoten (MUGF) And Horon

It's drizzling and it's cold and although that may make it perfect ramen weather I get the feeling I'm not going to make it up to Mitsuwa Costa Mesa today to try again Tatsunoya's great Tonkotsu (I've had them last year at another Mitsuwa's Explore Diverse Flavor of Japan Cuisine Fair). But if you happen to be around the area and are curious of trying out an extremely velvety smooth bowl of rich but refined tonkotsu (with properly cooked firm noodles) definitely worth checking in.

I did drop by Mitsuwa Torrance yesterday though and had a chance to sample Kitahama Shoten's white miso - Shiro Miso Ramen. These guys are from Hakodate, Hokkaido. ♫は〜るばる来たぜトーランス〜。。。

I sort of had mixed feelings because the lighter unobtrusive Shiro Miso is often used in miso ramens of mom and pop shops scattered all around So. Cal. and I personally always prefered the more sharp and tangy variety blended with some red Aka Miso.

But knowing these guys were from Hokkaido it was guaranteed to be a much heartier bowl and I was right. The creamy bowl was mellow but very pleasantly naturally sweet, just greasy enough and not over the top with the use of lard.

Noodles a paler yellow, Chu-buto yaya chijire... (中部とややちじれ: medium thick, only slightly wavy). Perfectly cooked and springy.

At one point I almost forgot I was having a miso ramen how mild the miso was and it seemed to have a lot of tonkotsu traits (though I'm not sure what animal base the soup was made with).

It was a very well executed Miso Ramen where if I encountered it anywhere in California I'd be an extremely happy guy. But I thought it lacked a little impact for being a showcase at the Umaimono Gourmet Fair. To me the highlight of the bowl could've been the delicious fall apart pork Chashu. Delicious. They also served a Hakodate Shio Ramen which I was curious to try as well but passed this time around. I had to save my appetite for another bowl elsewhere.

I came really early and had some time before 10:30AM when they'd start serving ramen so I sampled Utsunomiya Gyoza Tenou's seafood Japanese gyozas ($6.50).

Without saying they'd be best eaten right after frying and these were warm but not exactly piping or crispy. It had a nice chewy skin but the fillings weren't particularly memorable despite me eating three at a time (haha). I think these are done better justice purchasing frozen and cooked at home.

And since I was also curious of the Egg Salad Donut at Hamada-ya (Mitsuwa's in-house bakery) that I mentioned last week, here it is...

I'm not sure if the mayo evaporates in the baking process but it was rather dry inside.

It might be your cup of tea so don't want to discourage but next time I'm going for the Blue Cheese & Honey bread.

Mitsuwa Market (Torrance), 21515 Western Avenue, Torrance, CA 90501

Trying out Horon's lunch only Chou Noukou (uber rich) Tonkotsu Ramen has been on my to-try list for a while now. Kushiage Dining Horon I found was a cute and very cozy spot located in the strip along with Nijiya Torrance off 182nd Street. Lunch (11:30AM~2PM) is extremely casual where you walk up to a small table in the back set up with menu and paper box with change and pay the very friendly server like you would when purchasing girl scout cookies. Find a seat and your meal will come fairly quickly on a plastic tray (with radiused corners).

Horon is smart in naming it Horon Ramen where any pretense in authentically replicating a particular regional style would be gone. But the tonkotsu pork bone broth touted in being boiled for over 20-hrs, there is little that they are humble or meek about.

Toppings were marinated hard boiled egg, kikurage wood ear mushrooms, par-cooked moyashi bean sprouts that still had a nice crunch to them, cabbage, toasted sesame seeds, green onions, a delicious piece of pork Chashu that I'll get back to later, a very appreciated large sheet of nori, and even a Kumamoto inspired drizzle of roasty black Ma-yu oil.

I've had heftier bowls but for So. Cal standards this is as greasy as it gets rivaling Ramen Mottainai's Ie-Kei Yokohama Freakers. Suspended within the emulsified soup are tiny bits of translucent back fat. The cool sweet cabbage really ties things together and as much as I would prefer a soft boiled egg, the hard boiled yolks does seem to do a good job of cutting some of the richness with its sponge-like quality of lean protein. I really loved the pork Chashu here where it was not only melty tender but also marinated stronger, rather on the sweet side which also brought some additional character to the bowl along with the roasty flavors of the Kuro Ma-yu black char oil.

I do have to get into the subtle differences in definition of Noukou (濃厚, のうこう) vs. Kotteri (こってり) though because this isn't your clam chowder-esque bowl like the chicken/veggie creation of Tenka Ippin. Horon Ramen is more Kotteri than Noukou, but if you're in the mood for a bowl that will hit that spot in your belly like a plate of Canadian Bacon you won't have to look any further. And for only $6, a genuine bargain.

It's still not like they don't have some work cut out for them. The thicker slightly eggy noodles Horon chooses were fine by me but this day severely overcooked, and this was despite me specifically asking for Firm. Still the experience was good enough to want to come back and try their Tori Shio Ramen (Chicken/Salt) and also their Tsukemen.

I did get the Mentai Bowl for an extra two-bucks which I still easily consider a fantastic deal. And I'm all aware of what wonders a little Spicy Cod/Pollock Roe can do for a bowl of tonkotsu. But now knowing how tasty the Chasu is I may have to go for the side of Chashu Bowl next time.

I forgot to take a shot of their exterior, but here's a high res image of the lunch menu below...

See I'm not a complete food blogger failure.

Kushiage Dining Horon, 2143 182nd St, Torrance, CA 90504

And another time I'll share all the fun finds at Nijiya Torrance next door.

Like this Spaghetti (Napo) Pan! :)

Nijiya Market (Torrance), 2121 W 182nd St, Torrance, CA 90504


K and S said...

ooh blue cheese honey sounds good!

- said...

You didnt miss anything with the shio ramen.....i've had both and the shio one doesnt even come close to how good the miso one was.

btw what are you using the shoot the ramens? photos look real good or maybe i'm just hungy for more ramen lol

Dennis K. said...

Hi Kat, they've had Kinpira Pan and another filled with Chikua too. Fun place. :)

Hi Anon, thanks for the update. I somehow had that feeling of the Shio too.
I recently started using a GF1 but only when nobody is around and for certain main shots. Otherwise my compact Canon S90 has been my workhorse for a couple years now. The photos in this post are a combination taken with both cameras. I don't know about other bloggers but I almost take pride in how quick and discreet I am in public.