Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fall MUGF 2011: Nakamuraya's Shio Ramen And A Gyutan Teishoku From Tsukasa

Sharing my untimely post but the end of October was capped with a tasty visit to Mitsuwa Torrance for the 2011 Fall Umaimono Gurume Fair. Hope some made it to our San Diego store but of my three drivable Mitsuwa's I personally felt Torrance was the place to be this year for legendary Nakamuraya's Shio Ramen and also some mouthwatering grilled beef tongue from Tsukasa, both only showcased at this locale.

Nakamuraya's distinguished Shio Ramen. There are all kinds of ramen and great ones not always need be kotteri - heavy and rich. The lighter assari-kei can be equally memorable as long as the lightness is packed full of stealthy substance. Unlike Shoyu, Miso, Ie-kei or other distinct flavored, many arguably say the simplest that is the salt flavored Shio Ramen is the hardest to execute. Hardest to execute well anyway, as there's imaginably not much to mask any shortcomings being all about the chef's understanding of how the essence of each ingredient's flavors are timed to be fully extracted at their peak and maximized.

The serving started at 11AM sharp, and with only one option offered, each bowl was streamlined with precision and efficiency comparable to a modern day Lasik clinic. As I pick up my tray to carry to an open table the wonderful aroma of the soup's third gyokai fish component is easily noticed. Take an actual sip and the subtle but clean dried fish flavors makes it unmistakeably Wa-fu. The base of the refined triple stock however would mostly come from chicken and some pork.

This clear light amber soup has a feathery but noticeable body to it. Chock-full of transparent chicken collagen, if refrigerated the majority would congeal into wiggly umami concentrated gelatin. This is good stuff.

The gokuboso very thin straight noodles were nicely resilient with also good nodogoshi, pleasantly slurpable and easy down the chute. Impressive that it was produced by Hawaii based Sun Noodle, sponsor of this Nakamuraya venue within the fair. The mildly marinated Menma bamboo shoots were also sliced thinner to complement the delicate bowl.

In contrast the Pork Chashu was quite smoky, high in flavor and a good example that Chashu not always need be melting soft to be considered great. A meaty tender with a moderate amount of fat. Had an almost light cured texture and an additional smokiness that made me think that it may in fact have been smoked (and the chef known to do on occasion) but as far as I know the flavors only the results of the shop's aburi quick flame grilling before serving. I couldn't put a finger on the finely minced chips but my first guess would either be fried ginger or maybe shallots. The marinated lightly sweet hanjyuku soft boiled eggs were also near immune to criticism.

Nakamuraya's Shio was yet another reminder of how fundamentally important the collection of small details done well can add up to become something remarkably great. The concept obviously not explicit to ramen, but maybe more easily evident with the soup noodle's wide array of components ranging from complex stocks, temperamental noodles, contrasting toppings of fatty veined meats to prepared vegetables. Each thought through and individually attended to so in the end one can have that holistic experience of inhaling the bowl whole.

Since the kitchen was out of view as most stalls in Mitsuwa Torrance's food court are, we didn't get to see the Chef's renown Tenkuuotoshi. The technique said to have been crafted to efficiently cut excess water off the noodles (but as much perhaps an element of showmanship which is never a bad thing). While Torrance's more permanent fixture Ramen California has now lost ties to Nakamuraya, I'm hoping the appearance to the fair is a hint at renewed interests in establishing a So. Cal. location again in the near future.

The bowl was a decent portion but definitely still a sample size. I'd be picking up some things for the trip home but only after checking out the Gyutan beef tongue specialist stall of Tsukasa. All profits said to be going to the Sendai earthquake relief.

Available as a bento to take with for around $9 or a lunch set for ~$13. Personally just hearing the word Teishoku makes me weak at my knees... The sight of deliciously portioned plates tightly crammed together on a rectangular tray with radiused corners puts me in a specific, warm fuzzy frame of mind.

But anyway, the thick 1/4" cuts of beef tongue was quickly seared over flaming charcoal to a nice pink-in-the-middle medium. Juices flowing, the pieces ranged from a soft chew to even a few that were premium tender. All so delicious good!

The spicy miso preserve with Ao Togarashi green chili pepper I would later find out is Nanban Miso. I thought that thing was crazy delicious and I'll be looking for a jar next time I'm at one of the Japanese markets. It along with the Takana pickled mustard green tsukemono was perfect to bulldoze through the rice with some mugi barley speckled about, something also popularly offered along with Gyutan plates in Japan. The brothy soup included in the teishoku lunch set was very nice as well, the tongue pieces all fall apart tender.

Sorry I suck at covering the rest of the fair as always but there were the fresh seafood bentos from longtime Gurume Fair regular Otaru Tachiuri, delicious fish cakes galore, various fried croquettes from Maruhiro Ohta and even the famous beef party bus train Ekiben from Yamagata - Gyuniku Domannaka...

Another bonus being the last day was that Nakamuraya was selling their Pork Chashu and Ajitama flavored eggs.(!) Bought a pack each to share with friends later with also plans of putting together a Chashu-don meal early the week next. Some Menchi Katsu to become companions for my retort curries as well. :)

Getting to the end of the post but speaking of curry, a sad moment for me (and maybe my tiny reader cache of Japanese retro flavor fans) is to report that I noticed Curry Club had changed to the Takoyaki/Taiyaki producing Go Squared stall. As much as I'll miss my nostalgia inducing Curry Club (that served my self categorized style of retro amusement park curry), all in all I'll have to admit it was probably a good move as for contributing business to the court goes. They were doing brisk business the day and I'll have to check them out my next visit.

Oh times there are a-changin...

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

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