The last thing you expect to find in the local strip mall is decent ramen but that’s exactly what happened to me one Saturday when I had to go to Target. Lo and behold, there lies MOMIJI RAMEN and despite its location, it’s a tasty bowl of goodness.
A few months ago, this was a family run Taqueria but now it’s all black and streamlined, focussed on bowls of noodles and I for one like the change. Momiji offers four types of broth either regular or spicy: Tonkotsu, Miso, Shoyu (soy sauce), Shio (salt) and Soy Milk. Each bowl comes with Chasu, green onions, kikurge-mushroom, bean sprouts and a soft-boiled egg. Additional toppings included the usual suspects like corn, kimchee, butter or bamboo for $1 or more adventurous toppings like Kakuni, Gyoza, Tori or Karaage for $2. I went with the Spicy Miso Ramen and added corn. I opted to have the delicious Karaage as an appetizer.
Within the usual 10 minutes I was presented with a rather large bowl of goodness. All in all, great presentation, vibrant colors, loads of texture and all of it swimming in a rich, red broth. The Veggies were fresh, the egg a winner and the corn added a nice sweetness to the spiciness of the broth. My issues were minimal, the pork while tasty, didn’t seem fresh to me, in fact it felt like yesterday’s pork. The “extra spicy” wasn’t spicy at all and I had to ask for extra chili sauce, finally the noodles, while abundant weren’t outstanding in flavor. It was a decent bowl of ramen, large in size and with a good but not amazing overall flavor.
I will definitely visit MOMIJI again, the convenience of being a 10 minute drive from my house, the size of the ramen and the friendly staff make this spot worthy of a repeat visit.
- Dish: Spicy Miso Ramen
- Price: $9.99
- Extras: Sweet Corn: $1.00
Matt has eaten here already and claimed it was one of the best Ramen’s he’s had in the Bay Area so far. Bold Statement, I had to try it for myself.
The owners of SANTA RAMEN are also the owners of RAMEN DOJO, one of the more popular Ramen joints in San Mateo. This is the new location of their original restaurant, a bigger establishment which houses more noodle-slurpers than either Dojo or the original Santa location. We arrived at 11:45am and just in time too, by noon, the place was packed and there was a 17 person line-up to get in… always a good sign.
There are three types of Ramen’s to order: Classic, Pork Cheek and Pork Belly. Within those are a few choices for broth: Soy, Miso, Pork or Garlic Pork (note: there are no veggie broth options here). Each Ramen can be ordered regular, spicy, extra spicy or for $1.00 more, Japanese Curry can be added. Matt swore by the Pork Cheek w. Garlic Pork Broth/Extra Spicy but I wanted to see what the “classic” broth stood for before I went to the next level.
I ordered the Classic Miso Broth (which comes with noodles, mushrooms, chives, seaweed and two pieces of Chasu Pork), I added corn and a hard-boiled egg and true to form, I asked for it “extra spicy”. Within 10 minutes, the Ramen appeared.
Top marks for presentation, vivid colors and well organized toppings in the bowl. All the veggies were fresh and crisp and they meat was tender and flavorful, the all added perfectly to the overall taste of the Ramen. So let’s focus on the big four of the dish:
- SPICE LEVEL: Santa Ramen is not kidding around when they say “extra spicy”, a deep red hue in the broth, a welcoming heat on the palette and within a few slurps, perspiration on the brow. The best part? Despite the heat, the spice did not overtake the flavours of the broth, merely they enhanced it, exactly what you want from the addition of spice to your ramen.
- NOODLES: Fresh and bountiful, they soak up the broth well and the spice coats the noodles nicely.
- EGG: A huge disappointment, overcooked and cold inside. I think egg in ramen is best when its herbed and soft boiled, the yolk adds a richness to the broth that enhances the Chasu. Here the egg was way too cooked and obviously in a fridge so that it was cold and crumbly, it was a large fail for me.
- BROTH: Wow, what an amazing base! Miso is a standard for Ramen but surprisingly it is easy to screw up, sometimes coming out too watery or lacking flavor. Not here, the Classic Miso broth was rich, velvety with that slight nutty hint that you expect and crave from a good Miso base and it was here in spades. Well done!
If it wasn’t for that cold, crumbly egg, this would have been a 5/5 Ramen, the broth alone is worthy of a repeat visit! I will be back to try the Pork Cheek and a different broth combination as well as Santa Ramen has definitely made the list as one of my favorites but next time I wont order the egg.
- Dish: Classic Miso Ramen
- Price: $8.50
- Extras: Sweet Corn $1.00, Egg $1.00, Extra Spicy $1.00
L.A. is known for it’s good street food, the food trucks are legendary, as is the Mexican Food but low and behold, so is the Asian food. Knowing that we were going to be in LA for the Weekend, Matt and I researched some Ramen joints located near our hotel and settled on a newer establishment close by rather than cabbing it to Koreatown where better rated joints are found. We visited TAKARA RAMEN just off of Sunset with a couple buddies to see what the City of Angels had to offer.
TAKARA looks to be an old diner, re-modeled into a Ramen Joint, it’s all black and white with an open kitchen on one side and booths lining the other, a large window looks out into the hustle and bustle of Hollywood as you eat. I went for the Spicy Miso which comes with Chasu Pork, Egg, Bamboo, Sesame Seeds, Onion, Bok Choi, Bean Sprouts and Ground Pork. Within 10 minutes of ordering, the Ramen was at the table.
While the presentation wasn’t the best (everything was under the broth except for the Pork and the Bok Choi), the broth itself was a winner. A nice level of spice on top of a rich and flavorful Miso-based broth. The pork itself was delicate, the egg was decent and the noodles were solid, not amazing but not bad either. I really enjoyed the addition of the Bok Choi in the Ramen as a little green always helps cut through the richness of Ramen but the ground pork was completely lost amid the other flavors and textures.
Overall I was pleased with my meal as it was a mix of good flavors and it left my belly full. I would try another Ramen House next time I was in LA but if I was in the area, I would give TAKARA another go.
- Dish: Spicy Miso Ramen
- Price: $10.95
- Extras: None