Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Few More Ramen Related Ramblings, Ramen Toraya - Quick Visit, Zetton And Eboshi Revisit

Decided to do a quick part-two to my last post mostly because I totally forgot to include the recently out full take of Go Ramen! Keizo's indie food film Ramen Dreams. First revealed at the 2012 NY Food Film Festival (helped organized by the one and only "Mr. Hamburger America," George Motz). Check it out:

Congrats on winning Best Short Keizo!
(My visit to Bassanova in Winter of 2010 can be read here.)

Well last weekend I was over in Torrance again but with only partial plans not having decided which couple ramen spots to try the day. Eventually felt a revisit to Eboshi Noodle Bar was overdue and really missed their great vibe. Like if I had to choose one ramen-ya in So. Cal. that wins my personal award in "Best Atmosphere," it'd be them. Gardena Ramen would've come a close second but I unfortunately saw the shop closed and replaced by another last year. :_(

Btw, I realized that I had forgotten my memory card in my good camera soon as I sat down and tried to document the interior. So all the pics the visit are from my iPhone.

But anyway the Shoyu Ramen here is pretty subtle, in fact I can easily see many may criticize as being flat out bland. Definitely not recommended for those looking for a "wow" rich tonkotsu experience (which I've long come to surrender is a lot most out there). While I admit also getting help from the salt shaker some, where it lacks in impact to me is made up by its underlining Wa-fu tone.  More something I can find myself slurping as a leaner complementing companion to a plate of guilty gyozas and (hopefully) lard-wokked fried rice chahan maybe.

Next time though I think I'm finally going to try one of their seasonal special Miso Ramen, though any of their classic Japanese Chuka dishes I'd probably be happy with also. Would maybe just avoid the new Tsukemen that I hear is seasoned more like a Summer Hiyashi.(?)
The set with five Japanese Gyozas (or half order of Chahan) goes for $9.40. The gyoza's fillings lean more veggie based but are larger and plumper than most you find in SD. Updated Eboshi full menu here.

Because of their relatively hard to get to location, visits to Eboshi have been far and too few between. If I did live in the area though I can easily see them be my neighborhood haunt.

Eboshi Noodle Bar, 2383 Lomita Blvd Ste 116, Lomita, CA 90717

So a quick visit to Office Depot for a cheap flash card before checking out nearby Ramen Toraya. They took the spot that was Ramen California sometime last year. I hear RC didn't do that well soon after the change in management which originally was a Sean Nakamura produced shop (as is currently IKEMEN in Hollywood). The irony of it all is that I feel (the original) RC's concept was probably ahead of its time where the majority of people just wanted comforting and recognizable good ramen (aka tonkotsu? just kidding).

But anyway what piqued my interest to visit Toraya was hearing that they served a Kitakata style ramen. My first and only try of a Kitakata was at the Tanaka Sobaten demo at a Mitsuwa fair last year. Something I thoroughly enjoyed, so was looking forward in experiencing again a similar bowl.

Visually Toraya's version looked pretty promising, but it lacked any Niboshi flavor whatsoever which is a key component. The soup should have also been mainly pork bone based with maybe some chicken, but this was 100% chicken.
The Post-it sized slivers of pork chashu were a style where meaty leaner strata reside in harmony next to fattier bands. The first sampled didn't leave me with a big impression but became decently tender once warmed by the soup, however flavors still on the subtle side. The fact that it was cut pretty thin was probably not a bad idea for the style, but in return I expected a lot more fanning the edges of my bowl. Noodles were an appropriate medium-thick crinkly.

So to say the least there wasn't a lot Kitakata about this bowl. While it didn't scream out bad, there wasn't much distinctive character or interest in it for me to want to order it again either. Judging by the lack of niboshi flavor in what I had the day I wouldn't bet their Tokyo Shoyu could have been any more up my alley. Not sure when I'll be back in the area again but if I do, I can see myself order a full order of the gyoza. Maybe also try some ippin plates. Ramen Toraya menu here.

Ramen Toraya, 24231 Crenshaw Blvd, Torrance, CA 90505

My revisit to Ramen Zetton in Costa Mesa was few weeks further back. They sort of had a 1-1 score record in that I really enjoyed my first Shoyu Ramen but the "Hot" Tsukemen tried soon after was a critical bust. Fellow reader Allen had let me know he had a good experience with the Cold Tsukemen so I'm looking forward in trying it next maybe. This day I had my heart set to the Shio Ramen.

First thing I had noticed their menu was updated quite a bit (and can be found here). Where the main chicken based ramen of Shio or Shoyu used to be available in regular and Kotteri, it seems now that the richer version has become the standard for these with new Tonkotsu offerings in the mix. The dark force lure of serving tonkotsu runs strong so wasn't too big a surprise maybe. Heck it didn't take long for our RakiRaki to serve one either.

But anyway I was surprised how light caramel colored my bowl was and had to check on my order that it was in fact their Shio. The darker color seems to come from the much stronger Wa-fu stock which of course I'm a big fan of in this style of ramen. Easily leap frogs Eboshi in punch, but at least in the bowl had the day I felt the broth was a little "tired" and slightly blury in flavor.
The small sour ume topping seemed unnecessary. While it works in Santouka's creamy Asahikawa Tonkotsu as a thoughtful palate break, to me it didn't really add anything to this ramen. The texture of the hanjuku eggs were pretty much perfect for me though marinated a little on the salty side. I thought they lightly torched their chashu here but I couldn't notice such this time.

I think I might stick to the Shoyu at Zetton while their tsukemen (cold) is also on my list to retry. The Hainan Chicken Bowl wasn't as satisfying as my first had Keema Curry. Hainan Chicken to me is equally about the chicken stock/juice laden rice which was missing here, but I couldn't feel much love from the seeming microwaved small piece toppings either. Current score: 1.5 - 1.5.

Ramen Zetton, 735 Baker St - Unit B, Costa Mesa, CA 92626


Allen said...

Go Zetton! I stopped by for a late night bowl this week and my waiter Leo, turned out to be the owner. He said he tweaked the Shio a bit, and I agree the favors are muddled. Im still partial to Zetton, probably because they don't serve tonkotsu! I do think they are figuring things out and will continue to improve!

I think they torch the chasu for their tsukemen only. Also, can't say I feel the same about Raki Raki. Maybe the times I've gone have just been misses. Keep up the great ramen posts!

Dennis K. said...

Hey Allen! So looks like you have a favorite ramen-ya. I always felt every person should have at least one. :) I'm rooting for Zetton too. The waitress told me their newer tonkotsu was a creamy white hakata style. But if I make it up there I'd be more interested in their regular Shoyu or Shio so not sure when I'll get the chance to try.

Not sure which one of my RakRaki post you read but if you had a few off bowls I'd totally believe it. They've been the most frustratingly inconsistent place ever.(!) If I go I'd probably just get the tsukemen which seems to be more stable. It's a rather rare chicken-based so has a different flavor than the many gyokai-tonkotsu-kei. Just wished they were more generous with toppings (and that they start doing their egg hanjuku). Always enjoy your feedback/comments too! Take care.

Junichi said...

I ate at Santouka a few days ago but this post along with the rain is giving me a huge craving for ramen! I agree with Ramen California. If you expected ramen you would have been disappointed. To me it was healthy chicken noodle soup with lots of fresh vegetables. It was delicious and I felt refreshed after eating there. Maybe they should have left out the term ramen from their name.

There's a new place in Hillcrest called Noodle Etc that is serving fusion ramen but I haven't tried it yet.

Dennis K. said...

Hey Junichi! The special Niboshi Ramen I had at Ramen California was excellent but probably was obscure to most in the other too traditional direction, lol. Oh well.

Noodle Etc. is close enough to me. I always keep an open mind with these.