Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mitsuwa Fall Umaimono Gurume Fair 2012 - Tanaka Sobaten And Sendai Takejiro

Well, made it to both Costa Mesa and Torrance again today for another one of Mitsuwa's events, this time the Fall Umaimono Gurume Fair. I guess when you do as many as Mitsuwa does in a year (including all the Anniversary sales) you're bound to run into a few that are quiet as I felt it was this time in terms of number of stalls and foods offered. In fact I dropped by our San Diego store for lunch yesterday and it didn't seem like a whole lot was going on except for the korokke (croquettes) and few other merchandises.

My usual small trek out to the OC area is because the larger stores there have a bit more happening, but for the most part is actually to sample the limited time showcased ramen. Although I visited Costa Mesa last on the way back down, will start with Tanaka Sobaten. The event's last day is tomorrow.

It was hard for me to gather much information on Tanaka Sobaten, but it seems they're actually a chain from Tokyo that offers a few versions of Kitakata Ramen as well as a claimed Yamagata spicy miso.
Kitakata Ramen is a significant regional style in Japanese ramen alongside the largely popularized trio of Sapporo Miso, Hakata Tonkotsu and Tokyo Shoyu. As I've never had a Kitakata style you can say I was really looking forward in trying a bowl, and at least from online Japanese reviews and accounts, Tanaka Sobaten seemed pretty favorable to its authenticity.

When one hears the word "Tonkotsu," usually the famous creamy opaque white Kyushu ramen is associated with, but since the word simply means "pork bones" any stock made using is technically a tonkotsu-kei (as is Okinawa Soba, though chicken is also often used with when making). Kitakata ramen I hear is mainly of this pork bones but also niboshi.

Further the term Chuka Soba ("Chinese style soba") can mean different things depending where you are in Japan. More commonly describes an old school Shoyu Ramen but say, in Wakayama, it could mean a more distinctive Tonkotsu-Shoyu.
In the case of Tanaka Sobaten, it seems to refer to a Shio (salt flavor). I couldn't detect much if any soy sauce flavoring, though the clear, faintly colored soup would've been a visual giveaway. Pretty much looked like what Keizo of Go Ramen! had on this post, minus a few extra chashu.

The noodles were a softer chewy and hira-chubuto-chijire. That's.. flatter, medium thick and with a crinkly wave. The strangest thing was how much I felt everything reminded me of Okinawa Soba (only lacking a stronger bonito flavor, some benishoga ginger and slice of kamaboko fishcake).
There was though a good shoyu flavoring coming from the intensely dark menma bamboo shoots, similar to ones I came across on Tsujita's Edo Soba with only other soy sauce notes from the leaner meaty pork chashu which was quite nice. On the salty side but with lots of flavor.

In fact I could see some may think the entire bowl was a little salty, but I enjoyed it if not the flavor profile a little tame for an event showcase maybe. Like Ramen Iroha's Toyama Black, it made me crave a bowl of rice in a good way. Compared to Nakamuraya's refined Shio, this would be more rustic and personally wouldn't have minded the niboshi (dried sardines) to have been played out more prominently. Did kinda wish I started the day with this bowl.

I'm jumping around but I grabbed a Gyutan (beef tongue) Bento from the Tsukasa stall in Mitsuwa Torrance as well as a Gyutan Stew. They were grilled in front of you and the bentos still warm so I got tempted. Having them tonight as a late dinner. Btw it was mentioned that Gyutan Tsukasa will be opening a shop in the food court of Mitsuwa Costa Mesa Spring of 2013. Sa'weeet!

Other things that bring a smile to my face is a large mound of deep fried Korokke. I'll probably stop by our SD branch tomorrow for a few of these like I usually do.

Things I sampled. A Matcha green tea cold soba...

Konjac balls... Why not? And healthy for me.

And your usual medley of premium sushi. One day I'll grab one of these while waiting for my ramen...

In Torrance was Sendai Takejiro. A shop hailing from Sendai, Miyagi prefecture where their miso is very well known.

Was described in Mitsuwa's preview that they would be serving a milder Miso Ramen. I'm typically not a huge fan of mild tempered miso ramen but was pretty curious in trying a bowl from this city. At 11AM opening time there was already a longer line and it remained the way the duration I was there.

As described was a mellower miso but still something that'd easily blow out of the water what's served in most shops in town. I can tell a quality miso was used and I witnessed the soup heated with a wok giving way to the frothy and full bright miso flavors, though missing were the more maillard reacted notes compared to a Sapporo style like Ezofukuro's miso sampled recently.

The noodles I felt were fairly typical and didn't shine here where it being slightlly soft in my bowl you could say didn't help also. But the chashu was very decent, the kind I often give my personal description as tectonic, where leaner meaty pieces are connected with tender fatty veins.  The menma were very lightly marinated, giving way to a more springy crunch with natural bamboo shoot flavors. Other toppings were kikurage wood ear mushrooms, beansprouts and a naruto fish cake slice.

I'd be the first to say that not all Miso Ramen need to be as intense as a bowl from Sumire (as awesome as they are), and here we have a quality, albeit mellow miso that I can see myself having everyday. Still if this shop is related to this Menya Takejiro (which I couldn't confirm), I felt for the fair one of their tsukemens would've given a bigger impact imho. As always looking forward to Mitsuwa's next event. I'm stuffed! ぷっふぁ〜 食った!

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

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