Have any of you ever woken up in the morning and thought: hmm…it’s going to be 99 degrees today…what a great day for a nice steaming hot bowl of ramen! Since Mitsuwa Supermarket decided to hold their Gourmet Food Fair on the hottest weekend of the month, I found myself in the awkward position of doing just that and convincing my wife that I wasn’t already suffering from heat stroke! The wife and I went early to beat the heat, only to find an already packed parking lot and an already packed food court. We eagerly ordered the Kujiraken Shinasoba ramen (there’s only one choice) and circled the busy food court a few times before we were able to find some seats.
The piping hot ramen was ready about 5 minutes later. Yes, this was probably the hottest bowl of ramen I’ve ever had. If there was ever a time I wanted a more lukewarm bowl, today would’ve been it.
I sipped the shoyu based soup and found it to be surprisingly strong and potent. Kujiraken is apparently not shy about their shoyu! The soup was rich, and I could detect elements of fish, pork, and of course, shoyu. Quite good. We were off to a good start!
The toppings consisted of shinachiku, green onions, seaweed, and a piece of naruto. The shinachiku was marinated and crunchy while the seaweed dissolved into the noodles and soup after soaking for a while, which added a nice subtle flavor. The noodles, however, were disappointing. The thin yellow noodles were soft and slightly sticky, with an almost mochi-like consistency. I could only nod my head in agreement when my wife commented that the noodles reminded her of Chinese “oil noodles.” After my fourth or fifth slurp, I was starting to sweat from the heat, and the hot and mushy noodles didn’t help. I eyed the thick piece of chashu, looking for salvation.
I picked up the piece of chashu only to see it fall apart. I rubbed my eyes: what just happened? I picked up one of the broken pieces of pork more gently and that too broke into two piece. I tried once more, gently treating the chashu as though it was a piece of soft tofu, and eagerly placed it in my mouth. It all but dissolved by itself. Yes! The pork was incredibly tender, not quite as buttery-tender as Santouka Ramen’s toroniku, but more of a solid-tender like…like prime rib? It wasn’t until my second piece that I noticed something odd…this didn’t really taste like chashu. In fact, the chashu did taste more like a nice piece of prime rib than a piece of chashu. Which is not to say it wasn’t good, because it was definitely good. It just wasn’t quite chashu-tasting.
While I was slightly disappointed because of the soggy noodles, the soup and chashu make up the difference. Kujiraken Shinasoba gets a 7. Orange County residents have one more day to try it out, and it’ll be available in San Jose next weekend.
at Mitsuwa Marketplace
665 Paularino Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626