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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pre Mitsuwa Fair Post - Yumma-daya, I mean, Yamadaya..

I'm trying to get over a bad cold which almost canceled my drive up today. But I finally gathered myself as best I could and took off last minute figuring maybe some nourishment of hot tasty unctuous ramen would benefit me. With my scraggliness though I just hoped I didn't run into anyone I knew.. haha.

So I want to officially say here that I'm over the whole Mitsuwa Fair ramen ticket stub thing.. I was there today and maybe it was that I couldn't face another embarrassing rejection from the servers, I just didn't even bother asking. **But it did give me an idea while waiting in line... Like how a Ramen Stamp/Stub Rally would be so cool. Collect enough from different shops and win a T-shirt, towel, a gold plated renge spoon (haha), whatever. Obviously there'll be details to work out but I think it'll be really fun. :)

On a much more practical side (to silly stubs), portions have really come around this time to be able to say it was a good full-fledged single serving. More later.

I'm going to quickly post on Yamadaya in Torrance tonight instead because I know I won't be able to wrap up the 2010 Fall Mitsuwa Umaimono Fair. All I can say is I thought both Tsujita and Nantsuttei delivered really exceptional bowls! At Torrance, Ichiro Furuya of Nantsuttei was even serving each order to customers himself. So awesome. At Costa Mesa, Tsujita was serving up one with wonderful complex flavors and aromas that reminded me to tell people To Please Try Slurping! I was the only one making any sound. ;) Tomorrow, Sunday will be the last day of this fair.

So anyhow back to Yamadaya. I read Rameniac's review on Yamadaya in Torrance a couple weeks back and was really intrigued by the casual tonkotsu ramen producing establishment that was flanked between a MacDonald's and Burger King. The scoop was that Yamadaya's killer app would be a wonderful close to true rendition of a Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen with a choice of mild or rich soup, thick or thin noodles. But what I thought was neat was that they offered lunch plates such as Chicken/Pork Katsu, Teriyaki __, Karaage, Panko Fried Fish.

I just found the So. Cal. adaptation charming and particularly irresistible for a visit. Will have to get the set with potato salad next time.. ;) And Junichi, if you're reading thanks for the reminder again too!

I chose the thin noodles with the richer soup. (Full menu here.) While I'm still learning the idiosyncrasies between a Hakata and Kumamoto-style Tonkotsu, you can get the black kuro ma-yu version here. Pair it with the thicker noodles and lighter soup, you've got yourself a Kumamoto(?). Maybe some experts can chime in.

There was a subtle sheen of light rendered oils on top and the soup was quite solid. For me not too weak or on the contrary overly rich. Menma marinated bamboo shoots (sometimes called shinachiku if you want to be old school) crunchy, minced green onions and wood ear kikurage mushrooms always welcomed. The egg was ever so slightly undercooked even for a hanjyuku (some of the whites were a bit runny) but was quite yolk-a-licious.

I thought the chashu was nice too. I only wished for more but I was limited to my choices with the lack of cash I had on me. (Yamadaya is cash only.)
Then halfway through I went for the commencement of Crushing of the Fresh Raw Garlic. :)

You're gonna end up with major garlic breath of course but who cares when the soup changes so favorably. So Good. Not hard to figure out but garlic crushed fresh is so much better than some of the stuff in jars that can be pretty gnarly at times.

I did have enough cash on me to get a full order of their Japanese gyozas ($3.50 for 6 pcs). The thin wrapper characteristic of Japanese gyoza had an unusually heavy textured coating, probably from being floured too generously. It didn't bother me one bit and enjoyed them as if they were southern chicken-fried gyoza.(!)

The filling was coarser with flavors of minced cabbage, ground pork, and garlic you can taste individually. Simple and basic but definitely way much better than many generic ones I've sadly been forced to consume for lack of choice down in SD.

While some of the interior and decor has slightly changed since Rameniac's review to accommodate more tables, Yamadaya to me will still be that great hole in wall ramen joint in Torrance that serves a very good Tonkotsu ramen with equally authentic Southern Californian Teriyaki Katsu Plates to the town's lucky hungry masses. :)

Yamadaya, 3118 W 182nd St, Torrance, CA 90504

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wrandom Wednesday Wramblings - Another Mitsuwa Fair (Ramen Stubs Liberated!?) And Stuff I Ate Recently..

Dang, I thought last month was bad.. Crazy swamped busy and will continue until at least end of November. Thank goodness for this hobby of mine for a bit of stress-free outlet. Helps in keeping myself from flying over the cuckoo's nest, haha. ;)

I usually rely on Edjusted of The Ramen Blog to update me with the next Mitsuwa Fair and related famous Ramen shop guests coming but maybe he's been swamped like me too...

Well on my last fun but slightly flawed Mitsuwa Hokkaido Fair coverage I was whining about how they stopped giving out the payment stubs for the Ramen tastings. May sound trivial to some but hear me out.. (The photo below is from a fair from 2008.)

I'm trying my best to consolidate this portion of my thoughts just to be more efficient... Well I kept my promise and did write (email with links to my site and post) to Mitsuwa. I noticed more than a few hits from headquarters on my Sitemeter the preceding days but any reply back was a no show. (That's a pretty lame customer public relations attitude if you ask me..)

I ended up calling Mitsuwa (Torrance) directly and after a few phone tags back and forth (with my true name and cell number as the return contact) I ended speaking to a very nice lady who was in charge of I think the marketing end of the entire meiten Ramen portion of the fair. Sweet.

Consolidating my long winded thoughts yet again but basically the stubs are kept in-house for stocktaking purposes. Why they need both the smaller and larger beats me.. And why they have taken the time (and money) to print these stubs so attractively (so that you actually might want to keep them??) leaves me clueless.

Anyhow what I was told is that if you ask for the large stub as a souvenir, the cashier is supposed to respond positively. My negative experience during the (at least) last four fairs was from I imagine an ill-properly trained staff. It happens.(?) But in any case if you want to keep the stub, it should be yours. We'll see. ;)

The coming 2010 Mitsuwa Fall Gourmet Fair and the visiting ramen shops can be read about here (starting tomorrow!). I'm really looking forward to both Nantsuttei and Nidaime Tsujita!

Otherwise it's been a pretty non-gourmet week but always interesting nonetheless. Maybe I'll post about them more in detail in the future..

I have been also uploading the photos I take of menus from restaurants I visit in my Menu Vault but wanted to reiterate here that I don't endorse any of the places by doing so. My menu vault was simply created as a convenient location of where I store all my menus, the good, the average, the not so good, and maybe some great. It's there mostly for me but also for you. :)

Random stuff. I'll update the actual name of the brand but this frozen bag of Pork/Vegetable steamed bun I found at Marukai Market (SD) has been so far the best priced and closest rendition of a classic Japanese Nikuman. The flavor and consistency of the filling that nice nikuman evenness, haha. ;) I've only microwaved them out of laziness but I'm sure are better when steamed.


Darn, I always wished I owned one of these nikuman steamers (along with a refrigerated sushi neta case in my kitchen haha).

Uni sea urchin crackers I found at Mitsuwa-SD the other night. Was around $3.50.

Had a few since and while the Uni flavor is veeeeerrry light. I can kind of taste it and it's been strangely addicting. At least Uni is listed in the list of ingredients and they're relatively cheap. ;)

What I had for lunch today. I don't know about you but sometimes I'm just in a mood for a Crispy Beef Taco Combo....

I'll be honest and say the Roberto's by my house is my favorite for crispy beef tacos, but this version at Papa Chito's was a tad healthier in comparison. Very moist shredded beef but much less greasy and salty. It still easily managed to hit that spot though.

The rice did it's job and the tasty refried beans were extra creamy in texture. :) Full Papa Chito's menu here.

That's about it for tonight.. Sorry so Wrandom. It's Wednesday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Naporitan @ Curry House - SD

I figured if I can give some love to a Philippine based fast food chain under the umbrella concept of flavors that you simply become attached to.. I can then also be more generous to my town's Japanese familiar Yoshoku menu producing Curry House.

So a couple visits pursued after a rather long time dry spell and look, a (Japanese ketchup flavor based) Spaghetti Naporitan was right under my nose! :)

One on a flat cast iron skillet teppan and also topped with a raw egg even. Am I really in San Diego?? The Teppan Naporitan was a new menu offering at $9.15 for lunch. Add a dollar for the (small but) yummy garlic bread on the side and if you're dining at dinner, add on top a few more cents. A bit pricey but volume was quite high.

CH-SD's version is flavored with a blend of tomato sauce and ketchup so may be more acceptable for some that haven't been introduced to a Japanese Naporitan yet. But I always felt that much of the raw ketchup flavor was transformed during the pan-frying process (with a pad of butter) into something actually surprisingly palatable to most.

Crisscross knife decorated sausage wieners, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, with some CH twist of additional tomatoes, green beans and even corn. The more than usual number of ingredients made it a little fussy for me personally but I guess when you charge ten-bucks for a plate I'd feel the pressure to fancy things up a bit as well.. ;)

The execution of mine this day was on the wet side for my preference but the heated skillet would eventually remedy most of this while also cook the topped raw egg. The egg wasn't so much a surprise to be there as it was more unexpected from what I imagined a typical "safe approach taking U.S. corporate chain restaurant board controlled menu" would allow. But I guess my run-on sentence of a theory would be proven wrong here.. ;)

The Usutaa Sauce (Japanese Worcestershire Sauce) was a really nice touch.(!) I didn't know it'd be such a great match with a Naporitan. Well if anybody, perhaps the folks at House Foods Corp. would know such urawaza techniques for Japanese Westernized Yoshoku dishes most well. The usutaa sauce adds another level of deep flavor Koku and Umami while the tartness brightens up the flavors. Tobasco is another popular Naporitan condiment but I used some of the hot oil which was also great with. I have a feeling I might be back for another plate. :)

I guess I've always felt that if CH would knock a dollar or two off their prices I'd be a much bigger fan (and to be fair they have come through with decent lunch specials over the years).
Service is always top notch to the point it alone can make me feel transported to any of those family restaurants on top of Japanese department stores.

That being said at the end of the day not having Curry House in town for me would be a sad unimaginable thought, and I would guess to many others too. ;)

I think I also noticed a new Hayashi rice on the menu.. Mmm, so curious....

Curry House (SD), 3860 Convoy St #102, San Diego, CA 92111

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lazy Rainy Day Sunday: Tan Ky Mi Gia (Rolando) Re-Revisit

Man this weather has been acting on me like Kryptonite.. I did manage to read a little. I've been sitting on Jay Rayner's 'The Man Who Ate the World: In Search of the Perfect Dinner' for a while now and finally picked it up again. Thought it was a little lame that the title was so similar to Jeffrey Steingarten's 'The Man Who Ate Everything,' but it's been alright so far.

I was planning to go to Hoai Hue after Kirk's comment of their Bun Bo Hue, but I was craving some Roast Duck after reading OkiHwn's most recent meal this morning..
I ended up at Tan Ky Mi Gia further down the street (in the Pho Ca Dao complex). I haven't been back in a while due to some inconsistency issues with the soup but the Roast Duck (which seem almost braised here) is usually very moist and tasty.

I usually order my Lucky No. 13 - Roast Duck Noodle Soup ($5.50 $6.50), with choice of Egg Noodles. Full menu here, but prices have gone up about a dollar across the board so please take note.

The duck had a lot of flavor as always but this day it didn't seem to have as much meat as in the past and was rather on the fatty side. But the drippings on the plate are great which always makes me wish I had a small bowl of rice with but I usually end up pouring it later in my soup. So my same RDNS ritual.. taking the particularly fatty pieces (my plate also came with the bird's fatty tail) and letting it rest in the bowl after some prodding with chopsticks to let the oils and umami out.

The amber colored soup here is usually tinged a bit green. I'll be curious to know why. In any case after a few sips I was happy that my favorite dish here was back on game and not weak like my last. The garlic chives also adds some nice flavors but it's the little fried pork CRACK-lins and fried onions that are to me what really helps out (hidden behind the steam below). I totally wished for more of them, in fact next time I'm totally going to ask..(!) :)

The curly Mi Egg Noodles took me a few tries to get used to (if I remember right I think I've had it first here) but I really enjoy them now. I think it was the very eggy part that was the hurdle. It's served really crunchy. If you ever had Bari-Kata barely cooked super al dente noodles in a Hakata Tonkotsu ramen, this texture might remind you of it. Otherwise it's probably best not to compare the bowl to a ramen for they're two completely different animals.

If TKMG stays consistent I'd be interested to eventually take my friends over to see what they think. Either way, next time extra chives, extra fried onions and extra cracklins for sho! :)

Tan Ky Mi Gia, 5237 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92115