Monday, June 25, 2012

Jinya Ramen Bar, Costa Mesa - Quick Visit

Went up to L.A. yesterday to run a few errands. The drive was fairly impromptu including the stop by Costa Mesa on the way back. Having an early dinner there sounded like a much better idea than the leftovers waiting for me in my fridge maybe. So decided to drop in the just newly opened Jinya branch. As with Yamadaya, Jinya has been another relatively recent rapidly growing name in the L.A. Ramen scene.

Once there I was trying to figure out why I had a Gyokai (dried fish/marine) flavor image of Jinya's ramen as I found myself a little puzzled after quickly perusing the menu. Were a few variations of Tonkotsu and a chicken ramen, but nothing fishy (in the good way). Did I have them confused with another shop? It wasn't until I got home and did some digging that I realized the impression was probably from an older Rameniac's review that I read of their first Studio City location in Oct 2010. There Mr. Rameniac described a special of the day during the soft opening of a Gyokai Tonkotsu-Shoyu which perhaps didn't make the long term cut. Bummer.

So I took instead one of the recs from the kind waitress of a black "Kuro Tonkotsu" which was also mentioned and given a stamp of approval by reader Junichi. (Tonkotsu Black - $10.55).

The soup was completely opaque where I couldn't even make out a shadowy silhouette of the two large pork slices just beneath the surface (that turned out to be succulent and nicely seasoned). The 'black' part of the name obviously comes from the Maayu (Ma-yu) drizzled on top, a flavored oil made from slow charring garlic. Often found in Kumamoto-style Tonkotsu but now not uncommonly seen in others due to its popularity. A single sip of the soup reveals an impressively concentrated and creamy broth with a moderate layer of crinkled cellophane rendered fat. Big smiles.

Got a bit shy with my camera after discovering the two ladies sitting next to me and facing my way were friends with the owner, but the noodles were notably great as well. A straight, pale white in Kyushu fashion with nice subtle flavor of (cooked) flour. If anything it was a tad soft for my liking, something easily remedied by requesting it firmer next time around (barikata for me).

The Hanjyuku (soft boiled) Ajitama (flavored egg) came in a separate crucible and was marinated perfectly. Light flavors of sweet-savory soy sauce that penetrated down to the yolks, the jewel-like amber nugget softly solidified to how I most prefer.

Japanese Gyozas weren't too shabby either. A fairly mainstream rendition in style and flavor but executed very well with a wonderfully crispy single side of the thinner skin that renders easy, revealing a lightly garlic spiced, decently juicy minced pork inner. $4.50 gets you eight of these babies and makes me wonder why I can't get a similar value and quality in any of our SD Japanese restaurants. Tell me why-hee, cause I want it that a-wayyy...

In ramen, oftentimes the first spoonful/slurp is very different than the imprint of the last -- Is about the holistic sum as much as the individual parts. Thankfully sodium levels of the rich broth are controlled for a more lasting pleasant meal. The Maayu, scallions and sheet Nori help breakup the monotony impressively well and also available free are fresh garlic. But as I got to the fried onions near the end, I have to admit it almost pushed me over as tasty as they were. I started to crave some of the more time honored classic Tonkotsu toppings such as benishoga (red pickled ginger), karashi takana (hot pickled mustard greens) and/or kikurage wood ear mushrooms. Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I think I'll fork out an extra buck next time for more Menma bamboo shoots. Otherwise would've been an easy kanshoku where I reluctantly left a few spoonfuls of soup behind (and felt real bad about).

Definitely a stop I'd be recommending to friends if they happen to be in the area (or other branches) and mood for a hearty Tonkotsu that despite isn't too fat laden. I also thought the soup was a perfect platform to transform into a very spicy version, hence the availability of their Tonkotsu Red with a spice level choice of 1~10. The chicken ramen sounded enticing as well. Described as also milky and concentrated, I imagine it being something like a Tori Paitan.

Jinya Ramen Bar, 1450 Baker St - Ste C, Costa Mesa, CA 92626


Brian said...

That bowl is great; I love the contrast of blacks and whites.

Junichi said...

Glad you enjoyed the tonkotsu black. I thought it took their regular tonkotsu up a few notches. Btw Mitsuwa is having their annual Kyushu Fair next month. Tatsu No Ya is making it's way to Torrance again.

Dennis K. said...

Hi Brian, thanks for dropping by! Yup, was definitely good stuff. Hope you're doing well! :)

Hi Junichi, thanks for the heads up! Looks like a double Tonkotsu whammy with also Tanaka Shoten (at CM).

caninecologne said...

Dude, you are so FAST with this post! Had a fab time at lunch at Sakura. Liked the squid you ordered - never had it that way before,scored so thinly...

Glad you liked the chips, heheh. I would totally finish off a can myself if given the chance.

Dennis K. said...

Hi CC! I think you meant to comment on my other post, but no problem. Yeah the chips were great. I like how they were a bit tangy. Thanks again for all those gifts!