Today was the final day for the Mitsuwa Marketplace's anniversary sale, and all the restaurants in the food court were celebrating by offering specialty dishes. Mitsuwa Marketplace is also home to my favorite ramen-ya in Southern California, Santouka Ramen. So after a morning filled with nine grueling full court games, we headed over to Santa Monica.
The place was packed, but then it usually is on weekends regardless of whether anything special is going on. I was with friends A and Mrs. Winterbottom (who's really a guy, but I felt like giving him a girly nickname), and we ordered specials from each of the restaurants. Since I didn't eat their food, I can't review what they had, but I can include pictures so others can drool and moan about what they missed.
A got the sake ikura donburi (salmon and salmon roe rice bowl) from Misasa. The ikura didn't taste too funky, so it's possible they used real ikura or at least a better quality artificial type.
Mrs. Winterbottom got the gyuniku box and half udon set from Sanuki Sandou Udon. I tried a little, and it tasted pretty good. It looked like a lot of food in the box.
(The normal chashu miso ramen.)
I ended up ordering tsukemen from Santouka Ramen. Before I get into today's meal, I should provide a general overview of their normal offerings. According to Rameniac's website (www.rameniac.com), Santouka's ramen is in the Asahikawa style, which features a blend of tonkotsu (soup broth made with pork bones) and seafood soup stocks mixed with the traditional flavorings of shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), and miso. Topping off the soup is a relatively thick layer of oil which traps heat in the soup until the surface is broken. This can be a little off-putting for some who may not welcome the rich, fatty goodness. I usually order the chashu miso ramen, as the soup has a richer, fuller flavor than that of the shio or shoyu. That doesn't mean the shio or shoyu aren't good, which they are, but I just prefer miso in general. The ramen comes topped with about two to four slices of tender, fatty chashu (barbecued pork), menma (marinated bamboo shoots), kikurage (wood ear mushroom), naruto (fish cake), and freshly sliced green onions. The noodles are cooked just right, with just enough toothiness so that they don't just collapse in your mouth, and they are also crinkly and perhaps a little more round than other ramen-ya noodles. The regular ramen is so good that whenever I'm in Torrance, it's next to impossible for me to pass up the Mitsuwa Marketplace food court and Santouka Ramen. Only the Local Place comes close to dissuading me from Santouka.
Now with all that in mind, tsukumen is a ramen dish where the noodles are served apart from the soup, and you have to dip the noodles into a bowl of even more concentrated soup. In that respect it's similar to other Japanese noodle dishes, like cold somen or soba. The usual toppings were in the dipping soup along with a marinated hard-boiled egg, chunks of chashu, and what appeared to be marinated green onion pieces. The soup, as it was concentrated, was significantly saltier and perhaps oilier, although that didn't stop me from drinking it (this behavior is considered unusual though). It was a nice alternative to the normal dish, although if it was a permanent addition to the menu I couldn't see it supplanting my usual meal. In addition to the tsukemen, I also got a chashu rice bowl, which is chunks of chashu with green onion over tare (sauce) covered rice. I find this side an excellent value as you get a decent amount of the chashu over a bowl of rice. I usually get this in the set with the ramen, though sometimes I'll make meal out of two of these bowls. So today's meal with the tsukemen and chashu bowl was very satisfying at just under $13.
Some other notes on Santouka Ramen:
- 6 out of 10 on my fatty-goodness scale. That means eating this regularly once a week will probably contribute to about a 6% increase in the likelihood that you will have a heart attack.
- 2 out of 7 on the mess-o-meter, which means you could get dirty, but can probably avoid doing so.
3760 S. Centinela Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
21515 Western Ave.
Torrance, CA 90501
665 Paularino Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Santouka Ramen Homepage (Japanese)