Santouka Ramen recently offered a limited edition, and very tasty toromi shoyu ramen, so when I found out they were offering another limited edition ramen…guess where I was this morning? The ramen offered this time is an awase aji ramen (literally combination flavor ramen). As with last time, it’s also limited to 20 bowls a day, and this time, it’s only available at their Costa Mesa location. I got there a bit early and found no line, to my surprise. I wandered around the store and came back at 11am, when they open, and managed to be 4th in line.
The awase aji ramen comes in a half order combo with a bowl of rice. The hand-written (and unfortunately entirely-in-Japanese) sign says the soup base is a combination shio, miso, and shoyu, plus some fish powder. The sign also explains the rice: you’re meant to eat the rice with the soup once you’ve finished the noodles. It compares the experience to eating ochazuke, which is a simple and delicious rice dish where the rice is served in (yes, I said *in*) a bowl of tea with various toppings.
The kotteri soup was piping hot (yay!), and I was surprised at how tonkotsu-like the flavor was. The flavor reminded me more of a thick tonkotsu-shoyu ramen with some miso flavor added in. It was rich and savory, but not as salty as you would expect from a miso-shio-shoyu mix, and just a hint of spiciness from the red pepper bits mixed in. The overall flavor also imparted an unexpected slight smoky taste to the noodles.
The large slices of green onions provided a nice light contrast to the rich soup, and the specially-marinated menma was deliciously crunchy. The egg was a simple marinated hard-boiled (emphasis on “hard”) egg, and the single slice of deceptively fatty-looking chashu was slightly above average, but the lean part was dry, and the fatty part wasn’t flavorful enough.
How was the rice and soup? I really like ochazuke. I like it to the point where I’ll order it in Japanese restaurants, enduring the “why the heck are you ordering chazuke in a restaurant” look from my friends and family. In this case, though, the plain white rice, even with the sprinkling of sesame seeds, didn’t mix well enough with the soup. Every mouthful was a too-distinct plain white rice flavor, plus the rich kotteri soup. Maybe I should’ve let the rice soak a bit longer before eating. It certainly wasn’t bad, but I ended up slurping the rest of my soup sans rice.
On a side note, if anyone has an aversion to spicy foods, you should be careful with this ramen. It’s really not particularly spicy overall, but if you happen to bite directly into a piece of pepper like I did, your tongue will sting for a while.
On another side note, Go Ramen already has a review of the awase aji ramen from his trip to Santouka yesterday. If you’re a regular reader of Go Ramen, you’ll understand why I bring this up: Keizo, do you have at least a twin brother, if not triplets? I don’t understand how else he could possibly be at so many ramenyas so often. The man’s a ramen-eating machine!
One last side note, I promise. I’m on a roll: if anyone at Santouka is reading, I’m begging you for more adequate soup spoons. It’s simply impossible to get a decent spoonful of soup with the rinky-spoons you currently provide.
Santouka is two for two with their limited edition ramen! Their awase aji ramen gets a 7 out of 10.
The special is happening this weekend, Friday 3/27 through Monday 3/30 and only at the Costa Mesa Mitsuwa.