Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday Ramblings - Mostly Ramen Edition

Sharing again a few random food related topics. Happens to lean heavier on ramen tonight.

Last month I got another gift from friends returning from the land of Omurice and Ichigo Daifuku. The same cool peeps that gave me the surprise Korejanai Robo last, this time was actually a request from me, but I received my Tomica ramen truck and bread delivery van.(!)

Tomica is Japan's equivalent to Hot Wheels or Matchbox. A slightly sunsetting moody shot on the roof of my car below.

And the truck open, ready for service. Ahh, I can hear the Charumera now... :)

It's been around six-months since my longer Yamadaya SD First Month Post and I've lately been starting to hear the "Hey, have you heard of Yamadaya? They have pretty good ramen..." from friends. I guessed then that the place had been improving on their consistency issues, but I still much rather have their Premium Shoyu and/or Shio Ramen like the one I had at the Costa Mesa branch.

[Yamadaya Costa Mesa - Premium Shio Ramen ($8.95)]

These didn't make the menu cut at SD but I'm hoping that it'll appear in the near future. I had the Premium Shio a couple months back and it was equally satisfying for me as the Shoyu was. Nice strong gyokai notes of dried fish in a chicken based clear broth with sufficient guilty oils on the surface. What seemed like negi-abura on top was a nice touch.

The bowl still has plenty of room for further improvement, but it has the flavor profile that I mostly crave and can't seem to get elsewhere.

Ramen Yamadaya (Costa Mesa), 1175 Baker Street, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

I did have the standard Tonkotsu at our SD location a few weeks back and the soup was much more manageable in richness for those days you're not into an uber kotteri style. I had the 'Yamadaya' option ($7.95 + $2) which I think has the better upgrade value. The pork chashu was acceptably tender but needed more of the marinade flavor infused into it. The kakuni block-belly pretty decent as usual, but eggs were hard-boiled. When asked they said they just over boiled it the day... Oi. :( At least they're honest.

And shouldn't the Yamadaya Ramen upgrade also come with a drizzle of the Maayu black charred garlic oil? I forget. The noodles weren't as overly starchy than last which was good but I still don't think they're the best renditions of the type.
The Japanese gyozas were also better executed this time, nice and crispy with hot fillings. I noticed they're using a timer now and much higher heat than in the past. Too bad I'm still not that fond of the fillings itself. Overall I say maybe two steps forward and one back. I hope that they keep progressing, and again, that they bring over the Premium Shoyu and Shio soon.

Ramen Yamadaya (San Diego), 4706 Clairement Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92117

T-shirt I found at Amoeba Records last December and I actually bought...

If you see someone in it in glee, it's probably me. Please wave hello!

Amoeba Records (Hollywood), 6400 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028

Around the same time as SD Yamadaya, I dropped in Tajima-1 for old times sake. I was probably planning on having one of their combo lunches but I noticed a Tsukemen on the menu ($8.95) and decided on it instead.

Tajima had been the first spot in SD that actually offered a choice between thin and thick noodles. If you're doing Tsukemen, the fat noodles are definitely the way to go. Nicely chilled they weren't the best or the worst, but a bit wetter than it should. The stringy connective bits in the pork chashu were a little bothersome, the egg also on the salty side for me but not bad.

The all important dip was surprisingly intense and rich for once. (Typical downfalls are it being too thin.) It also had a noticeable dried fish gyokai note which was surprising to find in a good way. In the end though I felt there was too much going on and schizophrenic in flavor. Nice try though. RakiRaki still remains my go-to when in the mood for Tsukemen in San Diego.
Fellow blogger Jinxi had written up on Tajima's ramen recently, check it out here.

Tajima-1, 4681 Convoy St - Ste 1, San Diego, CA 92111

Masa I've often called the Sandra Lee of the Izakaya business. I suspect there's not a lot on their menu that is created totally from scratch, which includes their popular Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen (the owners are from Fukuoka, Kyushu). But they have a cozy atmosphere that I've always found comforting and the fact that friends live nearby I find myself patronizing pretty often. I snapped this pic since it was one of the more attractively put together bowl than usual.

Fried garlic chips, roasted sesame seeds, flavorful pork chashu (purchased) and hot, just adequately greasy-rich tasty tonkotsu broth... After a shared pitcher of chilled Japanese beer on draft, the questionability of its scratch-made origins seem to fade away, haha. I just ask to be honest about it. :P
I did always think there's a lot other Japanese restaurants in town can learn from Masa. Final execution.

Izakaya Masa, 928 Fort Stockton Dr, San Diego, CA 92103

For me if the price is right there's plenty room for "put together ramen," like this old school Shoyu 'Chuka Soba' served as one of their daily specials lunching at Wa Dining Okan. Knowing the kitchen situation, the base was probably "from package" but the broth seemed fortified with some extra niboshi which it's all about for me.

Sure, I did wish the egg was soft-boiled and the noodle were maybe a little softer than it should've been, but the roasted pork chashu was excellent and it still managed to be a decently satisfying bowl.

Wa Dining Okan, 3860 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111

Was at Mitsuwa Costa Mesa recently and noticed the beef tongue specialist Tsukasa stall boarded up with a huge "coming soon!" sign. I'm looking forward to this one. I just hope prices will stay to more reasonable food court prices (unlike Ten-don Hannosuke in Santa Monica).

Mitsuwa Market (Torrance), 21515 Western Avenue, Torrance, CA 90501

Over at our own Mitsuwa, I had a quick lunch from the bento section two weekends ago. The Oyakodon was just made and still warm and picked one up. I was tempted by the amount of lovely green laver Aonori on the takoyaki that I had one of those too. ;)

The egg was  nice and wiggly rare on the "fried chicken" oyakodon. I could tell Karaage was used for the chicken which although somewhat chewy, gave it some extra flavor. The octopus pieces in the takoyaki was a little tough but the amount of said Aonori and shaved bonito katsuo-bushi made it for me.

Mitsuwa Market, 4240 Kearny Mesa Rd, San Diego, CA 92111

More B-Kyu personal soul food. I haven't been impressed with my recent tacos at neighborhood El Zarape (and their stale chips the day). But my favorite Chicken Fajita Burrito was great as always, nice and charred/caramelized inside. Btw this is at the original shop off Park Blvd, not the sit down on Adams which I've yet to visit..

I noticed the person responsible for The Great Taco Hunt blog had started a new burrito centric Tumblr version called All Your Burritos Are Belong To Me [sic]. I love the simple straight forward documentative style. Almost like looking at someone's baseball card or stamp collection, ha.

El Zarape, 642 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116

What's your personal soul food? I often find myself at Izakaya Sakura just so to have their miso soup. While they have plenty of quirks, I feel they serve the best free/standard miso soup in San Diego. But there are a couple other spots I'd like to try before I make the claim.

Izakaya Sakura, 3904 Convoy St #121, San Diego, CA 92111

My Championship Series chess board and pieces from The House of Staunton came early.(!) They're so bootiful.

Heavy weighted with tournament 3.75" King. Also comes with two extra queens which is standard when ordering from HOS.

Phat and Fresh videos and miso soup.


Jinxi said...

Still haven't made my way over to Masa yet... it's been on my list forever. And takoyaki! I've been known to dream about it before. Maybe it's not a good idea that I read this post right before bedtime, haha.

Dennis K. said...

Hi Jinxi I'm more fond of Masa's atmosphere. It's a nice place to have beers after work on a Friday night. If I get the tonkotsu I usually ask for the noodles 'hard.' It's for good measure but also the way I like it.
It's been a while since I had scratch made Takoyaki. Most places deep fry from a frozen bag. I hate that some places skimp or worse, not use Aonori at all. To me it's not takoyaki without it! ;)

caninecologne said...

Great post Dennis. I always like reading your informative writeups on the Ramen places. There's so much I haven't tried.

Btw, I have both of those Fat Boys songs on my ipod!!!!!! Human Beat Box rules!

K and S said...

coincidentally, we had charumera circulating in our neighborhood last night. love your pics!

KirkK said...

Hey Dennis - I recently got back to Masa to retry their know, you're right, there's something almost artificial in the flavoring. I still can't pinpoint quite what it is.

Dennis K. said...

Thanks CC! I admit used to love doing the human beatbox back in the day. Now only occasionally in the privacy of my car, haha.

Hi Kat! That sounds like a lovely evening. I can't remember the last I heard a genuine one..

Hi Kirk! I guess it's like how you just know a complete scratch made soup when you have one (though I'm well far from a super taster). Masa's also tend to be on the salty side, but my guess a calculated good companion to beer. I've long suspected the Santouka chain is powder based (haven't confirmed) but they've got their flavor profile fine tuned and locked down, what people keep coming back for.