13256 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92602
Before I get started, I just want to give my condolences to all who have been affected by the recent fires in socal. It’s been crazy enough just watching it on TV. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose almost everything you own in a matter of minutes. I hope you are all safe and best of luck with piecing things back together!
It doesn’t take much to get me to go eat ramen. But after edjusted gave EZO a bad rating back in 2005 and cutie followed by commenting “ezo noodle cafe is really really bad!!” one year later, I was never in a real rush to give this place a try. The only reason I even considered going is because I found this coupon online the other day. It’s not much of a coupon, but it was enough to just get EZO on the board and out of the way.
Miso-ramen (EZO Special): I love miso soup, but I’ve never really been a huge fan of miso-ramen. And this EZO Special didn’t impress me enough to change that. In fact, it didn’t really impress me at all. Granted this is a “fast-casual” restaurant where everything is served in plastic on a flimsy lunch tray, but that’s no excuse to serve a less than mediocre ramen. Perhaps they should get some tips from Santouka. On a another note, providing plastic teaspoons for sipping soup should be outlawed! Anyway, the soup was strangely tangy for ramen. I’m not quite sure what to think about it. The noodles were decent, but I couldn’t get over that tangy-ness. The toppings (naruto, negi, moyashi, cabbage, and a horrendously dry piece of chashu) were mind-blowingly boring. And tangy.
Shoyu-ramen: Bland with an extra hint of bland. The noodles and toppings were the same as above, minus the tangy. Did I mention that it was bland? Wait, it wasn’t that bland but it was pretty bland. Who came up with the word bland anyway? Did someone just eat something bland and happen to mutter bland? Okay, this blandness is making me balmy.
Gyoza: Straight from the grocer’s freezer. At least that’s what it tasted like. Don’t let the seared outside fool you, the inside was still cold. I’m not sure I’d even say that they are worth the free coupon. Actually I am sure, they’re not!
333 Alameda St. Ste. 125
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Yokohama Kaigenro is another ramen shop situated in the deserted former Yaohan Plaza. Located on the first floor next to the Mitsuwa entrance, it appears to be a nice, friendly place to enjoy a good ramen. Unfortunately, their ramen wasn’t very good. I’d rather take the escalator up two stories and eat ramen at Hanaichimonme or Honda-ya.
Shoyu-ramen: The soup was an average shoyu with an unexplainable after-taste. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the strange taste but it must have something to do with the dashi. The noodles were crinkled and average as well. The toppings (chashu, egg, baby bok choy, menma, moyashi, negi, and nori) were the best part of this not-so-impressive ramen, but they still couldn’t make up for the damage already done.
Shio-ramen: The shio soup was really bland and tasted like sea water–very fishy. The noodles were the same as above. The toppings (chashu, cabbage, egg, moyashi, menma, and negi) couldn’t make up for this flavor either.
Gyoza: They looked good but looks can be deceiving. They weren’t the worst that I’ve had, but they still could’ve used some more flavor.
18414 Colima Rd Unit R
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
In a desperate effort not to exceed more than ten days between posts, I went digging deep into the Hong Kong Palace area of Rowland Heights only to discover…the…WORST RAMEN EVER!!! I honestly never thought I could find a ramen this bad. I know that ramen isn’t their specialty, but come on…this was horrendous. Why even have it on the menu?!! I’ve never not finished a ramen before no matter how bad it was (Noodle World included), but I guess–like they say–there’s a first for everything. After only a few slurps, we asked for the check and left. With that said, let’s not waste any more time.
BBQ Pork-ramen: Basically a really bland chashu ramen with mushy, overcooked noodles. It even came topped with not one, but TWO gnats. Yum!
Chicken Ball-ramen: Need I say anything else?…I think not.
14425 1/4 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
I’ve been working in Sherman Oaks lately so I thought I’d give Koraku Sherman Oaks a try. Having already been to the Koraku in Little Tokyo, I thought I’d order some of the other not quite traditional ramen’s on the menu. In surprising contrast to the Little Tokyo restaurant, this Koraku was empty. My co-worker and I were the only ones in the restaurant. Hmm…I wonder why?
Koraku-ramen: If you name a ramen after your restaurant’s name it better be good! And indeed this ramen was good but I still think it could’ve been better. Slightly on the fishy side, if you aren’t a seafood lover then you should definitely pass. But I did enjoy it. Since there are too many toppings to name, I won’t even try. The soup was a little oily but that’s nothing new. The noodles were typical Koraku. I probably will never order this again, but not because I didn’t like it. More so because it’s just not my style.
Gekikara Miso Yasai-ramen: I didn’t try this so I really can’t review it. I’ll just provide the picture and let you imagine what it would taste like. According to the actual eater, this ramen was really good. Let me know if you agree.
15355 Sherman Way
Van Nuys, CA 91406
How often can you sit down at a ramen-ya and listen to an 80 year-old Japanese-American man tell random stories about Manzanar? Not very often, but today must have been my lucky day. Unfortunately, I could only take an hour for lunch so I had to leave right when he began telling the story of how they used to sneak off the camp in the middle of the night, while the guards weren’t looking, to go fishing at the nearby creek. I wish I could have stayed longer. Anyway, I feel fortunate to have the freedom of being able to mindlessly travel from ramen-ya to ramen-ya. Being at Kyushu Ramen today has definitely put things in perspective.
Kyushu-ramen: I’ve seen this tonkotsu ramen mentioned favorably in comparison with the greats–Daikokuya and Shinsengumi–so I HAD to see for myself. So what did I think?…good but not even close to the greats. BUT, I’ll have to try it one more time to make a final decision. The noodles were overcooked so it threw my judgment of everything else off a bit. The chashu was flavorful but nowhere near as moist as Daikokuya. The rest of the toppings (egg, seaweed, spinach, naruto, menma, and negi) were just along for the swim.
Shoyu-ramen: The soup was very dark and that darkness transferred over to the noodles in discoloring fashion. The strong flavor was bearable, but not what I’ve been used to. The toppings (chashu, menma, egg, naruto, spinach, and negi) were great, but they also absorbed much of the soup’s color. If your taste buds yearn for strong, bold flavor, this ramen is for you.
Gyoza: There are two-types of gyoza served here: A regular gyoza (seen below) and a house special gyoza. I wasn’t quite sure what the main difference was, but the house special gyoza tasted a bit more garlicky. Both were good but I’d rather order the regular gyoza from now on. You can also choose between pork or chicken.
1738 1/4 Nogales St.
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
Literally translated, Hanashima means Flower Island. A strange name for a ramen-ya, but thank goodness names don’t make the ramen. Sandwiched between a Korean restaurant and a laundromat, could Hanashima be that ramen rose which grows from concrete? Early signs say no, but I’ve been wrong about first impressions before. Plus, the Chinese waiter/manager speaks fluent Japanese and claims to have been born in Japan.
Shoyu-ramen: I honestly expected worse. This shoyu-ramen wasn’t quite bland, but it’s definitely on the lighter side as far as taste goes. The soup also had a minor sweetness to it that made it stand out. The crinkled noodles were much like the ones you’ll find at most ramen-ya’s. Not original but they still tasted good. The toppings (chashu, baby bok choy, menma, negi, naruto, and nori) all tasted very normal and unimpressive.
Mabo-ramen: This mabo-ramen was created by injecting the shoyu-ramen with anthrocytes. I think I’ve found the world’s first bionic ramen! Ten times better than the shoyu, this spicy specimen took me through a full spectrum of emotions. I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for mabo. The only negative for me was the size of the tofu. Bigger chunks would have been better.
Gyoza: A little too much meat, but otherwise delicious. Plenty of garlic, but not too overwhelming. A good companion to the ramen.