Saturday, September 29, 2012

RakiRaki Ramen And Tsukemen - Quick Visit

[Update: I've since posted a more thorough First Month post. Check it out!]

Who knew there'd be not one but two ramen joints opening in San Diego this year. 2012 has been good and we still have couple months left to spare so what are the chances that there will be a third? Don't know but while I've yet to do a more thorough post on Yamadaya SD (Update: Have since posted here) I've managed to drop by RakiRaki Ramen And Tsukemen this evening and wanted to share. This is a Quick Visit post, meaning - Single meal.., First impression.., Not a review.., Your experience may vary.., etc... Also need to mention on top that they are in soft opening at the moment. Currently only operating during dinner hours from 6PM but hear will be serving lunch eventually (sweet..) after their actual grand opening end of October.

So I noticed RakiRaki mentioned in the Japanese free publication Lighthouse SD in their '18 ramen in San Diego to try..' article and even received an email about the place (thanks Faye!). I was there earlier the day and had a chance to check out the temporary menu and shop info taped on their window. Supposedly owned by a Nagoya based food service group (and water ionization equipment producer) called Jyosui with a slew of restaurants under their belt. One of which is Riki Maru (力丸) where I noticed the large chochin paper lantern with its name but according is not related, at least directly.

The interior is done up really nice. Very modern and chic cafe like. The menu for the time being is fairly simple. A chicken based Shio Ramen in different richness and a tsukemen (also chicken based) available in different spice levels. A choice of pork or chicken Chashu, and several other ramen toppings, most your usual suspects except the oxtail. Karaage and fried rice. A couple rice bowls.

Well enough background, onto the ramen. I debated to try the tsukemen but went for the "Premium" (..ramen, $7.75) which is described to be richer than the "Original" ($7.25).

Pretty darn good. If the soup were any more cloudy it would maybe be in a light Tori Paitan category but this definitely remains a classic torigara shio. I really appreciated the subtle dried fish flavor (which my guess is bonito but could be niboshi or both). Noticeable enough for me to appreciate but I think subtle enough that it wouldn't be a turnoff for some sensitive to the marine flavor. The noodles are thinner-side medium straight, pale yellow in color and has decent resiliency. Halfway through I did have thoughts if it were ever so slightly salty but my final conclusion was that the namesake sodium flavoring was very rounded (unlike if msg) and a pleasant experience that I wouldn't change much. If anything I wouldn't mind a stronger wa-fu dashi dried fish flavor but that's how I am. As for richness, for me it was hovering only just above just right and not quite a Shio I would consider truly rich (like maybe the gyokai shio I had at Ramen Setagaya). Any case it easily hit the spot.

The chicken chashu was very tasty too, a tender thigh portion, well attended in trimming of fat and connective suji. Well flavored with light shoyu and sake/mirin notes. The menma bamboo shoots were also larger with a nice lightly marinated fresher crunch. Only bummer was the egg (not shown) which was hard boiled but some ramen shops just roll the way.

As I've been having a gradual year-long falling out with our Ramen Yakyudori (strictly for the ramen and will explain in a future rambling post) I've been wondering where I'd be getting my lighter assari-kei ramen fix in SD and RakiRaki couldn't have come in a better timing. I'll save the actual praising after I try the tsukemen though, but I am hoping that they'd be the first San Diego ramen shop that I can recommend to my out of town friends without a long laundry list of cautionary do's and don't's. :P

Last, I didn't mean to give a five-dollar tip today but was asking if I could have change for a five so that I can tip. But things like this can happen during soft openings. Nervous new servers, heck new everything. Wouldn't have bothered mentioning here except that I didn't want the management to think I was a dork hitting on the waitress!!? Haha. Anyway looking forward to be back. Plan to ask what the name is all about then.

RakiRaki Ramen And Tsukemen, 4646 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mitsuwa Hokkaido Fair 2012 - Ezofukuro's Miso Ramen, Tokachi Butadon Ippin (Bento) And A Yubari Melon Soft Serve

Wow, the Yubari Melon soft serve near exploded in my mouth (in a safe and delicious manner) with intense perfectly ripe cantaloupe/melon flavors. I'd say well worth the three-bucks spent. It made me curiously wonder if the other Milk flavored ($2.50) would taste like an exploded dairy cow (in a safe and delicious manner). Available in both cone and plastic cup but I usually prefer my soft serve vessel edible. (Available at Costa Mesa and Torrance stores only.)

Got to check out the Mitsuwa Hokkaido Fair in Costa Mesa today. Usually while I'm out there I go ahead and also make the extra few miles up to Torrance but a combination of wanting to get back to SD by 2PM and that an earlier in the week post by Dream On @LA confirming my hunch of Kagetora's showcase Kotteri Shoyu and Kotteri Shio were both a Tonkotsu meant that it'd be a quick half day trip. (Kagetora's past year Miso Ramen here.)

I'm sure they were good, but I placed my priority on trying Ezofukuro's Miso Ramen. (Their Butter Shio Tsukemen can be read about here.) As I might've mentioned often on my blog, a truly great Miso Ramen is practically non-existent here where the only recommendation I could give in So. Cal. would be Mottainai's in Gardena (though I haven't been back in a while since this visit). But sampling a Miso from a native Hokkaido shop would be good bets.

I timed my drive well and arrived five-minutes before they were serving (11AM sharp). Were only one type of ramen offered and orders were taken briskly. Permanent Mitsuwa resident Santouka wasn't doing bad either and of course Miyabi-tei with their value oriented teishoku sets (particularly the Katsu Curry) were near flying off, carried away by a consistent stream of hungry rice-a-vores.

When the first orders started appearing I was happy to see that it was a medium caramel in color, good glistening of rendered fat on the surface and even speckles of suspended spices. The pale photos of both the banner and one shown online I don't think did it justice (suggesting as if it may be a milder Shiro Miso type). To cut the chase, this was a pretty darn good bowl and a solid representation of what a Miso Ramen should be and how our shops should try to emulate.

When it comes to Miso Ramen in my opinion hardly anything can compare to Sumire (except of course another Sumire produced shop). But what was here carried a decently punchy Maillard reacted miso flavor that was only salty enough to make you want to slurp more the chewy medium-fat curly Sapporo-style noodles (the bright yellow trait from some allowed fermentation).
I even appreciated how the vegetables were prepared, what looked a proper wok flamed with lard (I couldn't visually or audibly confirm) and the smaller cuts, especially the use of softer inner heart portion of hakusai Chinese cabbage was a nice touch.

The pork chashu was great too, with a thin dark flavor ring and decently fatty. Fyi, although the obvious origins of the word comes from the Chinese Char Siu, Japanese Chashu at least ones used in ramen is more often a simmered/stewed product, sometimes braised.
The menma bamboo shoots were anti-trendy in that it's not the large domino logs of recent hipness but instead a classic smaller well marinated variety.

The meal was a decent actual single serving portion so the +$10 price (after tax) didn't seem so steep today. But the infinite loop created by the savory soup and good noodles meant the inhalation process would be a quick one. The noodles were long gone when I still had a half bowl of soup left but I still managed to do a kanshoku. ごちそうさま。。。

Hunting down my Tokachi Pork Bowl I managed to take a few pics around the fair.

White Dorayaki with various sweet fillings...

A "Moo Moo" Dome Cheesecake, too cute!

Lots of premium seafood like the Tarabagani Crab and Ikura Bento. Uni and Ikura version below. I wish I had a bigger stomach! (And wallet?)

Various Fried Fish Cakes and Croquettes galore.

I'll probably pick some of these up at our Mitsuwa SD tomorrow...

Then around the corner I finally found the Tokachi Butadon Ippin stall. To be honest I was a little bummed to realize that their showcase was in bento form where last year they were grilling each of Tsukasa's beef tongue in front of the customers. Maybe things were different in Torrance?

Still I was told all 200 were sold out yesterday and these here were made just prior. So I purchased my attractive, albeit lukewarm container ($8.50 if I remember right) and headed back on over to the tables. It took me a while to get a seat again but the time helped me digest my ramen some.

The piggy shaped sauce container was adorable. I actually asked for an extra and also purchased a bottle of it sold to the side. I totally admit in always having been a sucker for cool food packaging.

The thinner cuts of pork loin here is grilled with charcoal, supposedly Binchotan but the grilling really gives the meats an extra tasty flavor. The bento came with some karashi takana (spicy pickled mustard greens) and the rice itself was fluffy, perfectly cooked.
The sauce was on the sweeter side but not the least cloying and reminded me of some yakiniku-dare. Not as oily and spicy though and I thought went well with the lighter pork slices.

Aside for maybe the smaller portion I was super happy that I had two piggy sauce containers and it was quite tasty otherwise. The Hokkaido fair is on until tomorrow. Until next time.

Pork squeegee!

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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ramen Dreams Trailer - NYC Food Film Festival

A trailer to a short film called Ramen Dreams starring Go Ramen!'s Keizo premiering at the upcoming NYC Food Film Festival.

Can't wait! You can read about my visit to his shop Bassanova and the Green Curry Ramen I had here. I'd describe it as a tonkotsu based Thai / Japanese collaboration in flavors with a nice unexpected gyokai note harmony of gyofun and nam pla in the background.

Click here for details on the Film Festival. Ramen will be served there in limited numbers by him. Good luck Keizo!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ramen Radar: Mitsuwa Hokkaido Fair 2012 - Kagetora And Ezofukuro

There were a few things I left out my last random rambling post for the sake of it not being too long but another Mitsuwa Hokkaido Fair is coming up again for the year of 2012. This Thursday through Sunday (Sept 20th~23rd) at a So. Cal. Mitsuwa near you. [Update: Read about my Costa Mesa visit here!]

As most Mitsuwa Fairs my interests usually revolve around any ramen showcases, but Kagetora who served a Miso in the past will now offer their version of a Kotteri Shoyu and Kotteri Shio at the Torrance store. Judging by the looks of the small photos my guess would be a tonkotsu based. May be worth a try if you're in the area.

Then Ezofukuro who served a Shio Butter Tsukemen back in July 2010, is now switching up to a straight Miso at Costa Mesa. I always look forward in trying a Miso Ramen from a Hokkaido based shop. A good version of it here is hardest to come by (only equally next to a quality brothy classic Shio maybe).

As always I'll probably be deciding to do the small trek the morning of the weekend but for the first since maybe the Beef Tongue Teishoku of Tsukasa I'm actually looking forward to sampling another non-ramen item which is a Buta-don (pork bowl) from pork bowl capital (yes there is such a thing) Tokachi, Hokkaido. Tokachi Butadon Ippin boasts one of select pork loin coated multiply in an "irresistible sauce" and grilled with binchotan charcoal. Sounds good to me... :) And they'll be at both Costa Mesa and Torrance locales.

Mitsuwa San Diego will be participating as well with seafood bentos, possibly croquettes and more.

The week's been pretty hectic which usually means mall food and chips from vending machines for me. Hope you all been having some good eats otherwise. I could use a good Tonkatsu Teishoku right now, but who doesn't?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Ramblings - Keeping Cool And A Random Japanese Fast Food Burger Medley

Oh my. The heat. I haven't been in the mood to do much over the weekend, but tonight for the old blog I've managed to cobble up some images, most from my last Winter vacation trip back home and Tokyo.

Shown above is a Soda7 Popsicle. Your local island version of ubiquitous Ramune flavored ice on a stick. Below a Santa-Gundam prop at a Soft Bank store. Like a visual version of wind chimes I find it cooling viewing them on my monitor.

I've been excited to know after talking with the fam over the months that I'd be back again next year, Winter of 2013. It's more than a year from now but I can't help myself think.

My grandparents house in the Northern very rural part of Okinawa is a state recognized historical/preserved site of sorts. It's been used in shoots for many NHK dramas and more recently a movie, the film called "Yagi no Bouken."(やぎの冒険)
We'd visit at least twice a year during Summer and also New Years. It was a very Totoro-esque childhood experience that I cherish dearly (though I'd quickly miss the city if I stayed too many days).

Below, Goya bitter melon from a relative's farm. Strange how the sight makes my mouth water. Great for 'Natsu Bate Yobou' or warding off those Summer heat exhaustion blues. Haven't done a cooking post using them yet but will soon surely.

Also found a Jimami Dofu photo from a friend's hole in wall eatery which I'll let unnamed for the time being. Jimami Dofu is an Okinawan dessert tofu made with peanuts.

The flavor isn't as peanutty as one might think but has a very condensed almost dairy like richness. Lightly sweet and has the consistency in between really thick pudding and Warabimochi maybe. It's delicious!

I miss my walks a lot too, usually grabbing a quick bite at one of many food parlors along streets. Some Inari in Okinawa tends to be very pale in color and also lighter tasting. It's very popular to snack along with your main meals, so the lighter flavoring makes it an easy complement.

This shop and the Island's Inari was introduced in the Japanese micro local trends television program the Himitsu no Kenmin Show. (秘密の県民ショー) It's one of my favorite variety shows to watch recently.

These plastic wrapped burgers bring back a lot of memories too. This one I got from a quick stop bento store which are also plenty around.

Totally random but I've documented close to 30 manhole covers during my week there, haha!

It had been eight years since my last visit and you can say everything seemed so interesting to me again. Also having the blog now kinda upped my compulsive photo-documenting habits to new heights.

Another random tangent, going to squeeze in a few pics of Japanese Fast Food Burgers, mostly from MOS. **But a disclaimer here that these give me a completely different sense of satisfaction from a true great American Burger. Most traditional burger aficionados would likely sneer. You kinda have to have grown up with them maybe (though I do have many American friends who were immediate fans).

MOS Teriyaki Burger, oh how I miss you so. I forget sometimes that this chain invented the Teriyaki Burger. Burger traditionalists won't like the texture of the smooth patty (and in that case nor the teriyaki sauce I guess...). But with the Pork and Beef Aibiki, umami is the word.

An original MOS Burger. The Japanese Meat Sauce is now copied by many in the East. Again, first started here. I've been getting a lot more hits in the past couple years for the recipe for the MOS Sauce so I've been wanting to get back experimenting with it. (And yes, there are many who claim the recipe online but I've yet to find one that is remotely close to the actual.)

MOS Teriyaki Chicken. As MOS had invented the Teriyaki Burger, not surprising they have also the Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich. The roots: How do you combine that great Yakitori flavor into a sandwich... The answer, a genuinely tender and flavorful thigh portion with skin on with subtle char flavors. The fresh lettuce and onions are a must. Another perfected classic that may possibly be impossible to improve.

MOS Rosu Katsu Burger. A panko fried pork cutlet dipped in a sweeter savory sauce. It's still crispy when you bite into it and totally addicting. The finely shredded cabbage works great here.

A Freshness Burger, from Freshness Burger. So Darn Good. Speaking of MOS clones this is one that just may be better than the original.

Last, I'm a secret fan of Japan McD's Teriyaki McBurger in all of its sausage patty oddness. This one was a rare dud though. Not enough sauce.

The post turned out a bit all over the place this week but hope everyone's been successful in staying cool!