Silverlake Ramen

IMG_6895I’m not sure if my taste bud has changed but some of the ramen places I once thought were phenomenal have become a bit of a blah. I used to rank Santouka and Mottainai, both located in South Bay, to be two of my favorite ramen restaurants in Los Angeles (Daikokuya is still my undisputed champ), but my recent visits there made me think otherwise. Don’t get me wrong – their ramens are still very decent and in fact, a Japanese TV show recently ranked them in the top 10 ramen shops in LA and Orange County – but I didn’t experience the euphoric high that I once enjoyed after slurping their milky tonkotsu broth.

Though never a ramen addict, I do have an occasional craving for the super-high-in-sodium-but-totally-worth-it Japanese comfort food … and it often comes in scorching hot days, like today. Let’s call it a ramen paradox – how a hot noodle soup (in temperature, as well as flavor) tastes extra delicious in a 100-plus degree weather.

Determined to recreate the ramen love I once felt, my husband, Pon Pon and I headed to Silverlake Ramen, a small, no-frill establishment in a shopping center on an artsy and very hipster stretch of Sunset Boulevard. This place has received positive reviews on Yelp, and we conquered with the consensus.

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We ordered the tonkotsu ramen and shared a place of grilled gyoza. I really liked the flavor of the broth and how the “kotteri” (rich) soup intertwined beautifully with the slightly undercooked (just the way I like it) noodles. I think I favor this bowl of pork bone broth over my previous favorite places, but with one caveat. Although flavorful, the broth was way too heavy and thick, like the humid air outside. It was definitely more fatty and salty than I would like, so much so that my palette, as well as my stomach, got too overwhelmed and couldn’t finish the entire bowl. But yes, this place is very good and I would definitely come back here to satisfy my next craving.

IMG_6893These pork dumplings were very ordinary (and I mean this in an endearing way) but definitely brought out the lovely comfort feel to this gyoza lover here.

I’ll be sure to sport a pair of my geeky, black-frame glasses and a skinny jeans next time just so I can blend in with the other Hipsters in this trendy neighborhood.

Silverlake Ramen
2927 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
★★★★☆

Hokkaido Fair at Mitsuwa

Kevin and I went to Torrance to check out Mitsuwa’s Hokkaido Fair last weekend!

We actually decided to skip the limited edition miso ramen from Ezofukuro, and went straight to Santouka. We’ve been disappointed with the over-hyped special ramen from the previous food fairs (it’s such hit and miss), so we decided to stick to the guaranteed goodness of Santouka’s tonkotsu ramen.  This is my second favorite ramen shop in Los Angeles, after Daikokuya, and we didn’t have to get in a long line!

Kevin ordered the combination, with ramen and pork chashu bowl.  It was so delicious!

We were so looking forward to the soft served ice cream made from the luscious milk from Hokkaido but I am disappointed to report that it was not as good as I remembered. The ice cream machine wasn’t working properly and the cream had already melted by the time we got ours (it started dripping right after we snapped that photo). I remember it being so much richer and silkier … but this one tasted no different than any other soft served from fast food joints. It so want my $3.00 back so I can go to Pinkberry! 😦

We were already full by the time we finished the ramen and the ice cream, so we took some of the fish cakes home and enjoyed them with the family for dinner.

We got some yummy croquettes too!

Say Yes to the Dress

Lunch (11:00 a.m.): Early lunch at Fat Spoon in Little Tokyo with Tiffany and Shannon, before wedding dress shopping. We started out with an order of Fat Spoon Salad, followed by its famous corn dogs. I had beef curry for the main dish.

Dress Shopping: We visited the Simple Bridal showroom in Downtown. Simple Bridal is an online bridal dress shop that has a several by-appointments-only showrooms around the country. We visited the LA showroom near Staple Center, in a building overlooking the entire Downtown LA.  It was breathtaking!

The experience was absolutely amazing. The showroom staff was knowledgeable and extremely helpful, and made me feel so comfortable. I was really dreading this process before arriving here but they made it completely pain-free for me. I actually ended up having a wonderful time playing dress up.

We even got to enjoy a few glasses of complimentary mimosas!biggrin

I was bummed that Saori (she wasn’t feeling well) and Maya (she lives out of town) couldn’t join in, but big thanks to Tiffany and Shannon for the much-needed moral support and honest feedback. Saori gave me her comments and feedback virtually via our iPhones after I sent her photos with options!

I’m happy to report that I found the perfect dress. And what people say is true – when you find the one, you just know. I knew immediately when I put on it on that this was the dress that I was going to walk down the aisle in!

I tried on a few more, just in case, but nothing came close to the feeling I had when I put on the winning dress.

Dinner (4:30 p.m.): After dressing shopping, we headed over to Daikokuya for an early dinner. I ordered Tsukemen, a deconstructed version of a regular ramen bowl.  We walked over to the nearby Pinkberry for a small pomegranate- and original-flavor frozen yogurt with strawberries, kiwis, and chocolate crisps, for dessert.

Late-Night Snack (8:40 p.m.): Imagawayaki from Mitsuru Cafe in Little Tokyo.  I ate way too much today.  Juice detox to commence next week.

This was a wonderful productive Sunday! Thank you, girls, for everything!

Great Alternative: Ramen Jinya

I’m happy to report that my fiancé and I finally found a decent ramen shop in the neighborhood! Daikokuya is still our favorite but it’s a hassle to drive to Little Tokyo and wait in a long line for a bowl of tonkotsu ramen most of the time. Ramen Jinya in Studio City is much closer for us and the ramen is pretty good!

I ordered Hakata tonkotsu, which, I learned, is cooked slightly longer than the original Yokohama (16 hours vs. 20 hours, or something like that). I was pleasantly surprised at how light the broth came out. You might, however, feel slightly unsatisfied if you’re into a really rich tonkotsu broth.

I loved the gyoza — much better than Orochon’s which seems to get raving reviews. And the pork chashu was amazing. I still think Daikokuya and Santouka offer more flavorful Tonkotsu but Jinya is definitely up there.

Ramen Jinya
11239 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604
★★★★☆

Childhood Memories: Tonkotsu Ramen and Takoyaki

I was born in Tokyo but spent most of my childhood in Fukuoka, before moving to the states in the mid-80s. My old neighborhood where I spent the first seven years of my life in Japan is also the birthplace of Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, a Japanese noodle bowl in a milky broth made out of cooking pork bones for days. That may be the reason why I love this type of ramen over any other kind, even the more popular shoyu (soy sauce) version. Although I don’t remember eating much ramen growing up, it’s embedded in my DNA to love tonkotsu. It takes me back to childhood.

On a random note, my mother loves ramen but can’t stand the tonkotsu broth even though she had lived in Fukuoka for many years. Back when my father was courting my mother, he took her to this ramen shop in Hakata known to serve the best tonkotsu ramen in the area to impress her. The chef prided himself in the soup so much that he told my mother that she could not leave the restaurant without drinking the last drop of the soup. She was already full but had to force herself to eat the entire bowl and got really sick afterward. The experience traumatized her so much that she hasn’t been able to be near tonkotsu since. Poor mom!

Now back in the present day, my boyfriend and I found ourselves in Mistuwa market in Costa Mesa last weekend, to check out the Gourmet “Umaimono” Food Fair which featured yummy umaimono (translates to “delicious things”) from Japan, from the northern part of Hokkaido all the way down to Kyushu in the south, including tonkotsu ramen from a highly acclaimed ramen shop, Hakata Ippudo (now also in New York). We tried the ramen, and unlike my mother with her delicate stomach, I slurped down to the last drop of the broth with no problem! The ramen was good, and I particularly enjoyed the combination of oily, rich broth with grated garlic, shredded meat (in addition to a piece of very generously cut chashu pork) and beni-shoga (red ginger), but the dish didn’t blow my mind like I was hoping it would. I think I’d much rather prefer a bowl from Daikokuya or Santouka … they were 10 time better.

Takoya Kukuru‘s Takoyaki, a savory Japanese version of a Danish doughnut Aebleskiver, was, however, amazing! The literal translation of this dish to English is “Octopus Balls” because each “ball” that’s made out of vegetable and batter has a piece of octopus in the center, but some people think it’s a dish with octopus you-know-what and run the other way. Please rest assure that there are no Rocky Mountain Oyster things happening in takoyaki and you can enjoy this famous Japanese fair / carnival food in peace. Each takoyaki ball was very soft and creamy and the sweet sauce, mayonnaise, and a sprinkle of aonori took this snack to another level.

While American friends enjoyed funnel cakes at a carnival, we Japanese chomped down on Takoyaki. I love Takoyaki so much, it’s one of my favorite food of all time. You can take the girl out of Japan but you can’t take Japan out of a girl, I guess. 🙂

Hokkaido Gourmet Food Fair: Mitsuwa Market

ramen

As much as I love food, I am not usually the one to drive hours and hours for it (I may wait in a long line because I’m a culinary ambulance chaser but driving is a different story altogether). My boyfriend, however, is, so I was not surprised when he asked me to go to Hokkaido with him for a bowl of ramen. Thank goodness Hokkaido came to Torrance this weekend, instead of us having to fly over to the northernmost island of Japan.

When we got to Mistuwa Market, one of the hosts of Hokkaido Gourmet Food Fair (others were at its Costa Mesa and San Diego locations), at around 11:30 a.m., we made a beeline to Ramen Shingen for the limited edition, salt-flavored ramen. The line was about seven people deep when we arrived and by the time we started eating, the line had extended all the way to the other end, about 30 people! Although I am not a huge fan of ramen, particularly shio ramen, I found this to be pretty refreshing with light broth and thick noodles. And the fatty chashu was out of this world.  (You can see more yummy pictures at Keizo’s blog here, at  Go Ramen.)

crepe

My boyfriend could have been happy with the bowl of ramen, but my day was not going to be complete until I explored all the other delicious offerings. Right after lunch, and after grabbing several fish cakes and croquettes from the deli sections to take home for dinner, we walked over to the other side for crepe. The price was pretty steep at $5.00 a pop (for something that takes 25 cents to make) but I was happy with the green tea crepe that had whipped cream (Hokkaido is known for wonderful milk products and although I don’t like whipped cream in general, this one was different in a very luscious way), a good chunk of sweet anko (red bean paste) and a sprinkle of green tea power wrapped in air thin, chewy crepe dough. It was fun watching the crepe maker busy at work!

taiyaki in action

The highlight of the day, for me, was definitely the freshly made Shiro Taiyaki. Regular yaikyaki (translates to “baked bream,” because of the shape) is made out of yellow waffle-like batter but this special, Hokkaido kind was made out of rice flour, which gave it a more sticky and chewy texture, like mochi. For a die-hard mochi and anko lover, this one made my eyes roll backward.

taiyaki

In addition, we enjoyed ohagi, sweet mochi rice wrapped in anko (which was absolutely divine), curry pan (fried bread with velvety Japanese curry in the middle) and vanilla and French pear soft serve ice creams which added the delicious exclamation point to this wonderfully satisfying afternoon in Hokkaido. 🙂

Heart Breaker: Daikokuya

daikokuya

I suppose I should not repeat the kinds of vocabularies that came of my month, but you can probably imagine the tantrum I threw after I saw this sign posted on the door of my favorite ramen joint, Daikokuya.  A flood of tears inevitably followed.

daikokuya-closed

Until I can compose myself, I’m going to indulge in Keizo’s blog, Go Ramen!, and pretend that I was there slurping the ramen noodle swimming in flavorful pork broth.

Daikokuya

327 E. First Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012