Sunday, February 28, 2010

Foo Foo Tei, Hacienda Heights

I'm a little late with this post, please forgive me, but here goes. This place has got to be the best noodle house I have ever been to. I've been here four times, and it just keeps getting better. I will in future re order the ramen I have already sampled on past visits so that I may review it for you and post it to this site.

15018 Clark Ave Hacienda Heights, Ca. (626)937-6585
What made this trip so special is the fact that my wife Jan came with me, loved it, and said she would come again, that's huge. As you have already read, if you are a follower of the blog, she didn't exactly like her experience at Gomen, Stanton. And the list of places she will no longer go is growing. So I will start the review portion of this post by saying she had the #30 ramen, Curry Nanchatte, and liked it very much. When a hot steaming bowl of Japanese curry comes within ten feet, you notice. And to me, it has to be one of the most pleasant aromas on earth. Since it was her experience and not mine, I'll not go further than that, except to say that I have had this ramen before and it did not disappoint.

If you read my welcome post to this blog you'll see I made mention of a commitment to push the envelope and try things that I might not otherwise, in order that I might write a more interesting, and comprehensive blog, ramen wise. And with 32 ramen on the menu, there is a lot to choose from. To that end I chose the ramen I ate this trip by the eenie meenie minee moe, catch a ramen chef by the toe method. As a result I ended up with the #4 Torikara ramen. With this ramen you have your choice of base, and as you might have guessed if you read this blog, I'm a sucker for shoyu, so that's what I went with. In keeping with my mission, and mission statement, the next time I have this ramen it will be a different base, to experience all the combos of ramen possible at this, or any location. Anyway, this ramen has chicken wings, bean sprouts, onions and hanjuku egg. I'm not really a bean sprout fan so I removed a few, but the ones I left, and ate, weren't that bad, very fresh. The chicken wings are treated in a peculiar way. The meat is pushed out to the end of the bone in such a way as to make then look like drumsticks. The broth was the usual great quality, and the noodles were loose with out being mushy, just the way I like them. The chicken was quite good as well, but I wished there was just a little more to them. I know they are just wings and I shouldn't expect too much. And I suppose if they added another one it might throw of the balance and synergy between ingredients. So on balance I guess the extra chicken craving was just me being a pig. Hello, have you met me yet? On the whole I did leave well filled however. Because the ramen was pretty large, and we did have gyoza, which are phenomenal by the way. Can't wait for my next trip to Foo Foo Tei.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sushi pia, Fullerton

I'm not going to say a lot about this place, because I didn't have time to check out the ramen. In fact you could make the case that this post doesn't even belong on this blog. But because gyoza is tangentially connected to ramen, I felt it warranted.
I stopped in to get some gyoza to go to eat in the truck on my way from one job in Diamond bar, to another in Irvine. The gyoza at sushi pia were not horrible, but they were not home made. I could tell because they had the tell tale machine made grooves that you only get on the store bought frozen variety. In fact I think I can safely say with confidence that I even know what brand they are and where they were made, I know because I have them in my freezer and have made them at home. The only difference is that these were deep fried,Yuk, and not pan fried as I prefer to do them. But the,"DayLeePride" pot stickers are not bad if prepared well, and paired with the appropriate dipping sauce. The sauce they gave me was nice, with a bit of a kick.
I'm not going to give sushi pia a chopstick rating, I'll reserve that for when I go back for ramen, and not gyoza.


Shin-Sen-Gumi, Fountain Valley

Well I'm late posting this one, but better late than never.
I heard about Shinsengumi Gardena from a friend, so I thought I'd go to their web-site to check them out. I found out that not only do they have five restaurants, most of them do ramen, but that there is one close to me in Fountain Vally. So I asked my ramen buddy, Ken, if he wanted to take a scooter ride down to F.V. to check it out, he agreed, so off we went.
18315 Brookhurst St. #1 Fountain Valley, Ca (714)962-8952
We arrived 15 min. before opening, and a line had already developed. We put our name on the list to assure ourselves a spot once open. Just before opening the crew approached the door all together as if it were some kind of greeting ritual. But instead of opening the fellow I believe to be head chef lead them in a ceremony that was a kin to a coaches pep talk before a game. It was quite a site, I must learn more about this practice and it's significance to restaurant running generally, and ramen production specifically.
This place is a bit of a mix between old school ramen-ya, and modern cafe style ramen joint. I mean the building is literally divided down the middle.The west end of the building is a cafe/diner looking place with its own full kitchen, laminated tables and steel chairs. And on the other side of the shared wall is the old school wooden counter with wooden pub size chairs, very cool. We were fortunate enough to be seated on the old school side. I would have been content to sit on the diner side, but it was a cool experience to sit where we had a view of the yakitori grill and the family sized Chabudai on a raised platform. As you walk in, the entire crew shouts a traditional Japanese greeting to you that is very welcoming, and sets the tone for the rest of the visit.
The menu is kind of a score card where you choose how they make your ramen. You pick the base, you pick the noodle, and you pick the toppings. The noodle choice is soft, normal or firm, the broth is light, normal or thick. Since I've not been here before I decided to go normal on everything to establish a base line of what exactly is normal. I further chose chashu, negi and egg as my toppings. They also ask you if you will be wanting extra noodles later so that they can have them ready should you need them. You can get the ramen by itself, or with various appetizer or sides. I went with the gyoza, of course.
When the bowl arrived I knew this ramen would not disappoint. It looked so good with the negi and ginger lovingly sprinkled on top, two hanjuku egg and loads of chashu. The eggs struck a nice balance between firm and runny, just the way I like them. The chashu was not melt in your mouth, but quite good none the less. The noodles were very nice, close to the best I've had. All in all a damn good bowl of ramen, so good in fact that I finished the entire bowl, a first for me.
The gyoza are quite nice, and very obviously made on site. The filling was a tad under done,(pinkish), which you usually don't want with pork, but they were just fine, and I'm still here to talk about it so no harm no fowl.
At some point during our meal, the guy it seams is the team leader brought out a meat slicer and several packages of pork roll, and proceeded to slice the chashu for further ramen production. What a show, I know I'm easily entertained.
The part that surprised me most was the check. I thought I was keeping a running tab in my mind as to what the bill would be, but was floored when it finally arrived. The basic ramen is $6.95, you add for gyoza, toppings, and drinks, and the total with tip came to $20.00 each. A little high I thought at the time, but upon reflection if that's what it costs to have a quality experience, a great show, and the knowledge that your helping to keep a nice old school ramen-ya open, it's worth it.
As you walk out, the entire crew shouts a thank you to you and welcomes you to come back soon.
On balance a very nice visit, I give Shin-sen-gumi 5 chopsticks.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

GOMEN Stanton, Ca.

This is a place you will be hearing quite a bit about on this blog. You see this particular Ramen-ya is what you might call,"my local". Two and a half miles from my house. How happy am I? Very.
7174 Katella Ave. Stanton, Ca. 90680 (714) 761-8007
Well my wife and I go Friday night, and right away I sense a different vibe. The place is not packed as usual, but there is a wait to be seated. The same two women who serve are there, and we know what they are capable of, quick and efficient, non stop friendly service. Something else is wrong, and after sitting for a while and looking into the kitchen, as you do, I see that the proprietor is running the kitchen by himself. Now this meant of coarse that food would come from the kitchen a bit slower, but you got to hand it to the guy, he wasn't any slower than a normal restaurant with a full compliment. Every time I go I find new reasons to be excited about this place. Think about the passion this fellow must have about his Ramen, Katsudon is another story, more on that later. Now on to the review.

I had the #2 Tonkotsu Shoyu, "A" combination. The "A" means Ramen + fried rice. I usually get the "B" combo, Ramen + gyoza, but hadn't tried the chahan yet, so I decided to give it a go, and boy am glad I did. You see I'm a pickled ginger fanatic. If I knew that the chahan came with a great big heaping clump of pickled ginger, I would have gotten it much sooner. Now don't get me wrong, I love gyoza, and Gomen gyoza is no slouch, but it's just not my favorite. I like more pork and garlic, this gyoza has too much cabbage for my liking, it might as well be an egg roll in my view.
The tonkotsu was brilliant. Even with no one else in the kitchen this chef manages to deliver perfection in a bowl. I love the aroma of the broth as the bowl is placed on the table. I love the artful composition of the garnish. The chashu fanned out like a winning poker hand when you've been called, hanjuku egg resting on top of the chashu, menma opposite the egg for balance, finished with a couple of sprigs of negi right in the center. As an artist, looking at a bowl of ramen is like looking at a Monet Rembrandt or Vermeer. The chashu was heavenly, as always. This stuff is just so melt in your mouth you can't believe it. The hanjuku egg was a bit hard boiled for my liking, I like it a little runny, but the marinade more than makes up for it. Menma was a good supporting player, as was the negi. The noodles were their usual standard good, not great, but with everything this ramen has going for it, I'll take good noodles over bad happily. My favorite bit was being able to let the pickled ginger mingle with the other ingredients. This stuff takes an otherwise great ramen and send it into the stratosphere. This is ramen on steroids.
The chahan was good. I left some ginger behind in the rice bowl to eat with the rice, I now see why it comes with it.
Jan however had a much different experience. She ordered their #29, Katsudon. We should have known something was up when she ordered it, cause the first thing the waitress did when she said #29 was stopped to excuse herself, and went to the kitchen, presumably to ask it it was still on. When she returned she said it was OK, that there was katsu available. When it arrived I was so into my ramen I hadn't noticed anything was up. At some point Jan offered some of her dish for me to try, as she usually does, and I was stunned. How could a guy that gets ramen so right, get a simple Tonkatso so wrong. This pork was like rubber. Thankfully the rest of the dish was fine, so she decided to not bring it up to the waitress because of the kitchen staff problem, we might still be there waiting for a replacement. Prices here are very good. Nowhere else could you get as full as we did and be out of there for two people for under 20 bucks, tip and all.
So for the stellar ramen, weighed against the less than stellar katsudon, I give this visit to Gomen four chopsticks. Which may sound harsh, but to earn a six everyone at my table must get great food and service. Tonight, on balance, was a near miss.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chabuya, westside L.A.

Had to work in Beverly Hills today. So I decided to consult the,"Ramen Data Base" otherwise known as, props to Keizo-san for compiling such a comprehensive list of most Ramen-ya known to mankind. I looked to see which Ramen-ya was the closest to where I was working, and it turned out to be Chabuya, 2002 Sawtelle Blvd. Los Angeles, 90025 (310)473-1013

I need to say up front that I did not have time to sit and eat, I took my ramen to go, which may have effected the outcome.

For a base line on the place I chose the first, and most basic ramen, on the menu, The Classic. It looked like a Tonkotsu shoyu, but the broth tasted like a shio. The menma was like rubber, and the negi was as good as absent. The chashu didn't even look like pork, it looked and tasted like roast beef. The noodles weren't half bad, but not good enough to rescue the experience. My God, listen to me, am I becoming a ramen snob? On the bright side, the gyoza were very nice, so nice in fact that I couldn't resist eating them by hand in the truck on the way back to the job. Nice and garlicy, the way I like them.

Anyway, because of the, "to go" status of the visit, coupled with the fact that the only other thing I tried was the gyoza, and that was an out of the park homer, I'll not judge them harshly enough to say that I'll never return. Because the gyoza is such a bargain at $3.75 for six, and because they have much more on the menu to consider, I'd go again when in the area, if only for the gyoza.

My son says I should have a rating system of some kind going forward. So for this first review, I hereby institute the six chopstick system. One being a no return, and six being a V-8 firing on all cylinders. All things considered, Chabuya gets three chopsticks.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Welcome to the wonderful world of Ramen

Welcome to my new blog. I've developed a passion for Ramen lately and felt I needed to break down an old blog and reconfigure it to reflect my changing mood. And to share with all of you my adventures, and hopefully not misadventures, in the wide world of Ramen. I plan on pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone by eating things I might not otherwise in order that I might expand my horizons, and hopefully not my waistline, and grow as a person and a Ramen lover. I owe most of what I know about Ramen to Keizo-san, of Go Ramen fame. He has inspired me to explore more fully the variety and broad range that is Ramen. I will try to post each time I visit a Ramen-ya, and give you an overview of the experience. I'm still learning this technology, so pictures might take a while, but once I master the .jpg upload thing we'll be sailing right along. Wish me luck, this should be interesting. I bid you good slurping.