The Dream Ramen Journey…

In less than 24 hours, I will embark on a month-long once-in-a-lifetime journey around the nation of Japan doing the only thing I know how to do really well–EAT RAMEN! I initially planned on quitting my job and doing this over a three-month period, but then the economy tanked…and, needless to say, that probably wouldn’t have been a good idea. So instead, I was lucky enough to take one whole month off and still have a job to come home to. The ramen gods are indeed smiling upon me!

I’m not exactly sure how this will turn out and I don’t really have a set plan or agenda, but the goal is to just get on a plane or a train and go city to city in search of the best ramen shops around. Another goal would be to update my blog daily (as long as I can find the internet) and compile as many pictures that my four memory cards can hold. I’m not getting paid for this, nor is there a desire to. This is just a longstanding dream of mine that I would like to share with all of you. So please join me and let the ramen rampage begin!!

See you in Tokyo! Bassanova here I come!!!

JapanUp! Vol. 22 – Ramen Special

In case you haven’t found a free copy of this month’s JapanUp! magazine laying around your favorite Japanese market, here are some pics. I’ve been a fan of JapanUp! since the magazine debuted 22 issues ago. Not because it’s the greatest free pub out there, but because it’s the only English alternative. And it can be pretty interesting at times.

The funny thing is, I’ve sent several emails over the past year asking them to do a ramen special. None of them were returned, but I guess they finally did it. I don’t know…it would have been nice to have a section on us local ramen blogs. Nevertheless, it was a good issue and it helped the overall exposure of ramen so I can’t complain.

The various regions of ramen were also featured. Although, it didn’t seem complete!

Ramen-ya’s around LA. Hmm…I’m noticing a trend. I only see ramen-ya’s that regularly pay for ads. If you do a special on ramen in LA, shouldn’t you include every ramen-ya??

Man, this is making me want to create my own LA Ramen Guide. What do ya think? Shall I do it? You wanna help? Oh wait, but I already have this blog and I’m not a big fan of wasting paper.

Ahh, Sun Noodle. They seem to sponsor everything. What? Free gift with every kids set at Shin-Sen-Gumi? Darn, the fine print says 12 or under.

An interview with Aaron Woolfolk–a man who respects the mighty slurp!

Toppings anyone? This is actually pretty cool. It tells you which toppings go with which soup base.

Where is Sharman Oaks? Hahaha!!

That’s all. I almost forgot to mention the staff of Shin-Sen-Gumi Gardena on the cover. Nice job!

Santouka’s Limited Edition Awase Aji Ramen

As luck would have it, I had planned on driving down to OC today so you can probably imagine my excitement when I read edjusted’s ramen alert this morning. If you can’t imagine it, well…nevermind. Anyway, I’m really busy and I should be working right now so I’ll keep this short. (And shhhh, don’t tell my boss.) Stay tuned to edjusted’s blog for a more professional review.

The Awase Aji Ramen is a mixture of Santouka’s Miso, Shio, and Shoyu with a little bit of fish powder and pirikara. Its “chibi” size comes with a bowl of rice so you can add it to the soup after you’ve run out of noodles. We’ll get to that later.

Mmm…not bad! The mixture of the three produces a complex flavor with a subtle sweetness and a mild kick. The chashu was juicy, the egg was rubbery, and the specially marinated menma had a good smoked flavor.

“Yeah…we just chillin’ on this chashu raft in a pool of ménage à trois ramen.”

It is recommended that you dump the rice in the soup “chazuke-style” after you’ve slurped up everything. Oooh…I may have to start doing this with all the ramen I eat. Not bad at all…

Unfortunately, the Awase Aji Ramen is limited to this weekend only and there are just 20 bowls per day. You should probably get there early if you want to try it (11am open) because at 10:50am today the line was almost reaching Italian Tomato. Ganbatte!

I’m starting to like these limited edition ramen. Santouka, keep them coming!!

Only 4 more days…

Northern Cali Conclusion: Santa rules!

Santa Ramen
1944 S. El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA
(650) 344-5918

I started out this trip determined only to try new places that I’ve never been to, but with all the mediocrity in the city I just HAD to visit Santa! It’s been almost a year since my last visit and my dreams of “pure kotteri heaven” have never been matched. I needed a quick reminder to ensure that it still exists. And indeed it does…

(Shout goes out to Lynae of the Clippers Spirit!)

Shoyu Ramen w/Stewed Premium Pork: To be honest, I felt a little nauseous after eating at Kahoo today. I wasn’t sure if it was MSG overload or just plain heartburn, but this ramen made everything feel better. No joke! It might have been mental, but there’s nothing fake about this Shoyu Ramen. Rich, bold, distinct, deep. There’s not enough adjectives in my vocabulary to describe it.

I also heard great things about their Kakuni, but never had a chance to try it until now. Amazing! Every intoxicating bite was tender and addictive. Seriously, the sake was permeating perfectly!

So that’s it! It’s time to head back to LA. I hope you enjoyed my posts as much as I enjoyed the trip. If I had to do a northern cali ramen ranking based on places that I’ve been, it would probably go something like this:

  1. Santa Ramen
  2. Ramen Halu
  3. Shoki Ramen House
  4. Kahoo Ramen
  5. Maru Ichi
  6. Ramen House Ryowa
  7. Katana-Ya
  8. Suzu
  9. Osaka Ramen
  10. Iroha

IMO: Everything outside of this top 5 is probably not worth trying unless you live close by and don’t have any other choice. Oyasumi!

Ramen Club – Burlingame, CA

723 California Dr.
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 347-3690

I tried joining the Ramen Club today, but they were closed. What’s up with that?! Closed on Sundays AND Mondays? Oh well, there’s always next time.

You want to join the Go Ramen! Club? Membership includes a free t-shirt! Okay, so there’s not really a Go Ramen Club YET and t-shirts are on back-order, but email me if you want one! (Btw, not sure who the dork in the pic below is…)

Kahoo Ramen – San Jose, CA

4330 Moorpark Ave.
San Jose, CA 95129
(408) 255-8244
Around the corner from Mitsuwa.

Can you smell the ramen incense blowing in the air? I can and it’s emanating from Kahoo 香風! After a share of disappointments in the city, I decided to head south (again) to try another well-recommended ramen-ya from San Jose. One supposedly so good, our friend rameniac calls it “the best shoyu ramen in the Bay Area, if not the world outside of Japan.” Wow, could this bowl be the one?

Shoyu Ramen: A deep, murky goodness that is both light and resoundingly flavored, one could definitely argue it’s position for best in the bay. I, on the other hand, have a few objections. Indeed this ramen stood out, but I’m not sure it could beat out the likes of Santa, Halu, or even Shoki. Wouldn’t it be fun if we could see them all duke it out? I’d pay to see that! (I’d probably be the only one too…)

The star topping was the pork belly. Next time I’m ordering extra! The rest (egg, menma, spinach, goma, negi, nori) were somewhat typical. But I loved how the spinach soaked up the wonderful soup.

The noodles didn’t seem to match. Much too thin for my tastes, they really didn’t feel like ramen noodles. I’m not sure what it was or if it was just me, but something a little thicker would have been nice.

Shio Ramen: The Shio Ramen wasn’t as good as the Shoyu, but if you like a strong, heavy chicken flavored soup, then this would be the one to get. The toppings and noodles are similar to above with much the same impressions.

Once again, the pork belly was sensational!

Gyoza: Now why would they just bring out an empty plate? I thought I ordered gyoza! Sumimasen! Oh wait…there is gyoza on the plate. Daaang, that’s some crazy camouflage. Are those octocamo gyoza skins? Hahaha. I was so intrigued with their appearance that I almost forgot to eat them. They weren’t the greatest but they were 100x better than that Neon Palace!

Yup, it’s official. You definitely need to travel outside the city for ramen to mean anything up here!