Here's the fourth installment of my ramen-mania posts. With the exception of Hinotez, I've had tonkotsu ramen at all of these places before and had long ago decided that long simmered pork bone soup (or in a few instances tonkotsu base) was not the way to go. In the battle of shoyu versus shio, salt is my preference. I like the mild briney and in some cases complex, salt flavors along with a nice, clean, but rich broth. For me the margin of error is slim....temperature and richness really do count.
After being tonkotsu'd out, some shio ramen sounded just plain refreshing to me. Here's my visits in chronological order.
I really enjoyed my Shio Ramen here. It seems that the ramen has been getting better with every visit.
While the broth is relatively simple and very low on oil, there's one flavor that really sticks out....ginger. But either my tolerance has improved over the years, or they've learned to temper the flavor while still giving the broth here a touch of uniqueness, I dunno.
Still I had a pleasant lunch.
305 Palomar St
Chula Vista, CA 91911
Funny thing, I've had many breakfasts at Hinotez, a couple of dinners, but it wasn't until I read Kirbie's post on Hinotez, that I realized I hadn't had the ramen here.
Upon arriving I noticed that there have been some minor renovations, curtains on the booths and such.
I must go during some really off-peak hours. There never seems to be many people in te place when I eat here. Such was the case on this day.
As I mentioned before; I expected Yakyudori Shio Ramen, which this was not.
The broth was also a bit strange. I'm wondering if the Yakyudori group has changed their salt? This had a strange almost bitter flavor, rather than the mild sweetness of the shio ramen I'd had at Yakyudori.....well you know that I just had to check into that, right? The chashu was nicely flavored but tragically ice cold and thus somewhat waxy and not pleasant to eat.
I don't think I'll be coming back to Hinotez for the ramen....breakfast, but not ramen.
7947 Balboa Ave
San Diego, CA 92111
Tajima Ramen House:
It was MrsZ who first informed me that Tajima was undergoing renovation. So about two weeks later I dropped by. The reworking was almost complete, the place looked very nice and modern. Hey look folks, Tajima looks all grown up now.....they even carry local craft beers!
But would the Shio Ramen suddenly be better than the rather mediocre stuff I've had here before?
Seriously, because of the temperature of the broth.... not hot enough, this seemed like a greasy mess. The noodles were over-cooked, the chashu here never wows me, and it was very consistent in being very dry and tough.
I usually hedge my bets by adding kakuni pork, which wasn't very good on this day as it was lacking in flavor and tough. At least the egg was nicely done.
Just think if that broth was hot enough.
Service, as has been my experience at Tajima was very nice.
Tajima Ramen House
4681 Convoy St., #1
San Diego, CA 92111
There has always been a kind of metallic flavor to the broth here. In fact, I think Dennis has picked up on that as well as he calls this place the Sandra Lee of Izakayas.
Strangely, one of the biggest complaints about the ramen at Masa was rectified, at least on this visit. The noodles were nice and firm.
But this was way too salty, the broth almost lukewarm, and it had a strange feel to it. It seemed milky in color even though I didn't order the tonkotsu.
Here's a photo of the Shio Ramen I had here on my previous visit.
Add to that the strangely surly service on this evening........
At least the Chuka Kurage delivered as it always does.
Like Tajima, the food here probably tastes better after a couple of beers or at the end of a long night.
928 Fort Stockton Dr
San Diego, CA 92103
By the itme I hit Yakyudori I was hitting the wall. Luckily, they have lunch specials with "small" ramen. This being a Thursday, it came with chicken karaage, quite a bit of chicken karaage, and some might-as-well-have-been-from-a-bag-of-frozen shumai.
Over my last couple of visits, it seemed like Yakyudori is slipping with regards to ramen. This was decently done, but the cracks are showing. The chashu was still very cold....just like Hinotez, what's up with that? The broth also tastes a bit different, which really makes me wonder if they've changed the salt they use. The noodles were done characteristically well.
Still, this was not the same Shio Ramen I had here over the last three years.
Yakyudori Ramen and Yakitori
4898 Convoy St
San Diego, CA 92111
You know, I've been wondering if I should actually go on and do posts on some of what I consider to be "second-tier" ramen. what do you think?
My previous Ramen Renaissance Posts:
Part 1 : Underbelly revisited
Part 2: Tecchan Yakitori and Izakaya
Thanks for reading!