The chashu while well flavored and moist, was just too much of a good thing and I left quite full. Still, the noodles were again perfect, just the right amount of pull with a bit of pull, nice and slippery, and a good vehicle for the collagen in the broth, which was, like my previous visit, a solid tonkotsu.
About two weeks later, I found out my haircut guy was working relatively close by and having read about the crowds in the comments on my post....I was curious. I got there at 1045...and no kidding; there were over 30 people waiting in line.
I'm usually not one to wait in line; but I was curious if this new popularity would change anything about the ramen at Ultra. So I put my name on the list....and waited about 30 minutes to get in.
I went with the Ajitama Ramen with an extra egg.
While the noodles were still perfect for my taste and the boiled egg was much better.....lukewarm instead of cold and not as "cooked". There were several things I noticed. The broth had less of a fragrance and indeed, while being fairly mild and nuanced before, was much less rich....more fatty, but lacking in the real noodle coating capacity. It was still good....just not quite as good as my previous two visits.
I'll wait a few months before going back. It'll be interesting to see how things progress. I think it's still the best straight up tonkotsu in San Diego.
Menya Ultra Ramen 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
Pho T Cali is basically within walking distance from my office.....but of course my previous experiences kind of keep me away....but I just had to see......had it really hit the "ten dollar pho" category?
Upon arriving and having the menu handed to me....I saw...yes indeed, the dac biet was now $9.95.
So for ten bucks I got this.
The broth had almost no color and had a strong onion taste. It looked like dishwater. While the texture of the tripe was good, it had a strange aftertaste; the tendon was decent though. The portion of noodles was quite large and adequately prepared.
The serving of sprouts and such was paltry to say the least.
I think this is why I saw folks (I was the only Asian in the place) dumping in loads of Hoisin and Sriracha into their pho.
On a rather amusing note; a few days later I received an email from "AlanH" regarding Pho T Cali....I'm hoping you won't mind me using a few excerpts Alan? Some of the, ahem, "highlites" of his email were....
"A -small- Pho "Chin" is now $8.95 (I almost walked out at that point, but was too hungry for Pho)"
"They have totally dumbed and stripped down the menu, which should have been my first warning sign...They have gone to the all photo model with a bit of basic text with prices. "
"The "herbal accessory plate" was its usual mediocre affair, but the basil was even more paltry and under-developed than usual (if the basil was human it would have needed a wheelchair)."
"As they do not serve / have Ngo Gai, I asked for a small portion / bowl of cilantro...THEY WERE OUT OF F'ING CILANTRO!!!!!" " Is there a cilantro shortage I was not aware of?"
"I just paid $11.00 (with tip) for a mediocre -at best- bowl of Pho. Is this Manhattan? No, this is not Manhattan......Manhattan would have had cilantro....."
All I can say Alan is...."I feel (or ate...or something like that) your pain".
Pho T Cali 7351 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
This has me wondering....in a very twisted way; if I were to think the Pho at Pho Mignon is still worse than this.
Our trip to Japan had pretty much come to an end....there was still one more stop though. Much like what we on our previous visit, we left for Tokyo Station rather early, stowed our luggage, and went straight for ramen street. The last time it was Rokurinsha....this time the decision was a bit harder....the Missus wanted to share some Tonkotsu ramen so we settles on Oreshiki Jun.
We got our ticket at the vending machine, entered and was seated quickly.......it seemed like all the customers in the shop were Salarymen.
I went with the Deluxe Tonkotsu Ramen which featured a nice, albeit a bit salty portion of mentaiko.
The egg was perfect as were the noodles. I wasn't a big fan of the tonkotsu here as it was a lot milder in flavor....even for a tonkotsu broth than I prefer. It also lacked that nice tongue coating quality I enjoy in that style of broth in addition to being served a bit too cold for my taste. The chashu here is a bit leaner and more chewy than other versions, but makes up for that with a nice porkiness. I really enjoyed the "rayu" (chili oil), which in this case seemed to have some bean paste in it....a wonderful, spicy, savory, package of flavor.
I actually preferred what the Missus ordered.
A nice little rice bowl with raw egg, chashu, and bean sprouts, along with an extra order of bean sprouts, chashu, and negi....along with an extra boiled egg. All worked together quite nicely!
So, perhaps not the best last meal in Japan.....still, we had many memorable experiences again. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before we return.
Oreshiki Jun (Tokyo Station) 1-9-1 Marunochi, Chiyoda, Tokyo
One thing was quite apparent. The Missus really enjoys Tokyo Station City. To the point that She got Her "hair done" twice at this kind of "fast" hair salon named Fass. You basically go in and order your stuff on an iPad. Of course we couldn't really understand anything the first time around....so this really nice, adorable woman came out and the Missus had Her bangs cut. Well, with some time on our hands, the Missus decided She wanted a trim.
We walked in and it was the same woman....who got a kick out of seeing us. Apparently, they don't get too many foreign customers. This time the Missus wanted a trim and some styling, which she did with gusto. At the end, she couldn't stop giggling, telling us "kawaii....kawaii" (cute). I think she had more fun than we did.
We'd always had a visit to Arashiyama on the books and on our last full day in Kyoto, we decided to head out early in the day. We ended up taking the rather fun Keifuku Tram Line to Arashiyama Station.
It was a slightly hazy, but beautiful day....the air so clean. We walked out of the station and headed down what looked like Arashiyama's main street. And walked over to the Togetsu-kyo Bridge.
We headed north alongside the picturesque Oi River and took a right along a rather random street.
It wasn't very crowded, so we just took in the sights a bit.
We headed out front, looking for the Bamboo Forest. I walked up to a traffic officer and asked for directions to the Bamboo Grove. In the typical Japanese way....he insisted on walking us most of the way there.
It was very pretty....but for some reason, I expected it to be a bit more grand.
I guess having grown up around various bamboo forests......
The place does take some really nice photos though.
Heading back down to the street, we found another entrance to Tenryū-ji. This is the garden area and is quite beautiful.
By now, we'd had enough for the morning and headed back to downtown Kyoto. We walked around a bit and decided to have lunch at a place I had specifically marked down. We'd really enjoyed Ippudo in Osaka and there just happened to be a location in downtown Kyoto.
Call us boring, but we'd enjoyed ourselves so much on our previous visit to the Osaka location that we basically got the same thing. The Shormaru Special, what I call a classic tonkotsu with chashu and egg. And of course, the Missus got Hakata Chikara Meshi, chashu rice and an onsen tamago.
The broth was nice and rich, but not oily nor too fatty. The flavor is rather delicate. The chashu was tender and nicely flavored, the noodles just perfectly al dente for my taste.
I gave the Missus my tamago....now that's love. And when She cut into it....well, we had a perfect "egg porn shot".
Our meal was the perfect foil for the cool autumn chill.
Feeling nice and warm, we headed on out to do some shopping. We found an underground passageway to Takashimaya Department Store.
Of course this lead right to B1 and the food floor.
We were wandering around the third floor of Takashimaya Department Store and I noticed this.....
Oh my....it was Din Tai Fung!
And there was no line.....
The Missus and I looked at each other......why not, right? We still had a bit of room in our bellies, so we went for a second, rather light lunch.
I was wondering just how good this was going to be. We got the pork and crab version of the Xiao Long Bao. When it arrived, it looked like the XLB on the left had leaked, but it had not. As for the wrappers....well just look at the classic "XLB hang". The wrapper were very nice, for some reason they seemed a bit thicker than the wrapper at DTF here in the states. I really couldn't complain about the amount of soup, nor the flavor (a bit too sweet for me), or the texture. This was pretty good. Much better than anything we have here in San Diego.
The Missus has got to have Her veggies, so we got some greens. Nice and simple, very mildly seasoned.
Din Tai Fung (Third Floor of Takashimaya Department Store) 52 Shincho, Shijo Kawaramachi-dori Nishi-iru Simogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8001
I guess that's fun part of trips...you make basic plans, but leave time to wander and explore. You never know what you'll run into.
Kirk and Cathy are crazy busy now. Ed (from Yuma) is gainfully unemployed (also known as retired), so he has time for a post today.
I was in San Diego recently, staying on Clairemont Mesa Blvd, and I noticed a new large ramen location not too far from its intersection with Ruffner:
With the cool weather, I had been thinking about getting ramen on the trip, and when I saw that neither Kirk nor Cathy had posted about it, I thought I'd give it a try – probably taking one for the team since Kirk had been unhappy at Ajisen in Orange County.
So I arrived shortly after 11 AM. There were already a few cars in the sizable parking lot, and a few folks scattered in the modern, well-lit restaurant, which featured a variety of eating arrangements to accommodate individuals and groups of different sizes:
I was planning on having iced tea, so I was delighted to see a range of fruit flavored iced teas. This one is mango:
It was really good. Fruit sweet and full of mango flavor. Served in a covered to go cup along with a straw with one end cut at an angle making it easy to push through the lid.
The attractive menu was wide-ranging, including sushi and other Japanese dishes, but I was here for ramen. I ordered it with tender pork ribs (at lunch special prices). When it arrived at the table, it looked like this:
Up in Orange County, the Ramen was served warm, a real disappointment for Kirk; mine in San Diego was piping hot with little wisps of steam across the surface. At first the noodles were too hot for slurping, and when I finished, the broth was still warm and pleasant.
The noodles are not standard ramen (Kirk says Kumamoto style). They were, I thought, perfectly cooked, however. Not too soft and not too hard. Goldilocks style.
The cloudy broth was lightly porky with wakame overtones. Not as intense or rich as Santouka, but plenty good enough for this gaijin:
The wakame added color and flavor, and the cabbage provided a nice crunchy contrast to the other elements in the bowl.
The real hero of the soup, this ramen's main character, was the meat. Browned and nicely braised, the porkribs had toothsome chew. And a lot of tendon and cartilage and connective tissue:
Just look at this piece:
The service was professional, efficient, and reasonably friendly. I appreciated the bill arriving before I finished eating, making timely payment easy, and I appreciated the bottom line:
For 2017, this seems very reasonable.
Would I come back again?
For sure – at least for the fruity teas and the ramen with those ribs. The San Diego Ajisen Ramen, one of the over 700 branches of this large Chinese owned chain, seems to perform better than the shop Kirk visited in Orange County. And when I looked around the room, it was obvious that Ajisen has a wide appeal. On one side of me there was an older Asian couple and then a man from Charlotte, North Carolina, here on work, who'd never had ramen before. On the other side of me was a student from Japan. I am no expert on ramen; in fact I am pretty much a novice. For that reason, I enjoyed the clear menu and the table service, much easier for me than standing in line and trying to figure out the option grid at Santouka. Your mileage may differ.
Ajisen Ramen, 7398 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego 92111, (858) 277-1380. Website
I'd been following the progress of this spot on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard for a while now. A few weeks back, I noticed the sign had gone up. There wasn't very much hype about this place as there was when Nishiki opened. But the questions and mentions I did get were interesting....it seems that folks in the Japanese community were quite interested. Heck, even Taka at Taisho mentioned this place to me! Word had got around that this ramen chain from Odate, Akita had won some awards. Also, the owner of this shop, Takashi Endo, the Director of the Ramen Assiciation of Japan was in partnership with the guy who owns San Diego's Nishiki. Along the way there was a, from what I heard, acrimonious split, but the owner of Nishiki kept the name. That's all I'm going to say about that.
I guess that didn't stop Mr Endo from opening a ramen shop here in San Diego. And yet, there wasn't too much hype about the place. But based on what I had heard, I was keeping an eye on the shop's website and "FOY" Junichi was apparently keeping up with Facebook. In fact, he posted the soft opening and grand opening information in the comments of this post.
So there I was two minutes to five, one of the first ten people in line at Menya Ramen Ultra. Folks that know me will think it rather strange, as it's not my thing to get all worked up about places opening.
I was seated at the counter....all the customers were Japanese speakers except me.....but I guess I looked the part as my order sheet was in Japanese.
It wasn't hard to decipher what I wanted...just the simple Tonkotsu Ajitama Ramen....but when I opened my mouth, the very nice young lady immediately turned the sheet over to the English side....even though I had already filled out my order.
The kitchen was going through its paces....Takashi Endo actually passed by and gave me a nod. Kind of funny. I'll give them this; they really staffed well for this.
My ramen arrived scalding hot. The fragrance was definitely that of tonkotsu paitan and really reminded me of Japan. There's certain funkiness to the smell of a good tonkotsu that I enjoy. I believe this version is a combination of pork and chicken as there seems to be a real hint of fowl in the broth. It's a bit lighter in the collagen area, but still fairly rich. It's very nice, not overly salty, and possibly my favorite version in San Diego right now.
The egg had a nice flavor, though I would have been happy with it being a bit less cooked. Also, it was served almost ice cold.
The noodles were just perfect in texture, at least for my taste, slippery with a nice chew, and look how the broth just coated those noodles. I didn't even have to order it "katame", firm.
The chashu as a single thin slice, but it had a nice balanced flavor and wasn't tough.
The overall impression of the bowl was that this was a good textbook version of tonkotsu ramen, which means it's already better than 99% of what out there. It's not flashy, there's no crazy hype, no exotic ingredients, which suits me just fine.
If they hold the course, I now have a place where I can enjoy a straight-up good bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Though that might be a bit more difficult based on the line of folks waiting for seats as I left last night. We'll see what the future holds.
I understand that Ultra's grand opening is tomorrow, they'll be open from 11am - 3pm and 5pm to 9pm daily. However, if you need your ramen fix tonight, they are still going though their soft opening paces from 5pm to 9pm tonight.
Menya Ultra Ramen 8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92111
The last time we were in Kyoto our visit was slightly interrupted by Typhoon Vongfong, I promised the Missus that we'd return and finish off the plans we'd had. And so we decided to visit during autumn, where we'd see the wonderful changing of the seasons.
But first, let's have a Mt Fuji break. As I mentioned previously, when leaving Tokyo for Kyoto or anyplace in Kansai for that matter, get a seat on the right side of the Shinkansen....... On a clear day, there's nothing more picturesque than passing a snow topped Mount Fuji.
We left from Tokyo Station quite early in the morning.....I call this shot; "Onigiri at Sunrise".
And a little something from the "Ekiben Stand".
One of the really great things about train stations in Japan is....well, besides being super clean, are the availability of lockers. We stowed our luggage in a locker and headed off, back to Tōfuku-ji. I guess checking out the autumn colors is serious business here as we walked past quite a line to get in.
Of course everyone wants to view things from the Tsuten-kyō Bridge (The Bridge to Heaven) which looked absolutely packed.
As were the trails....though things were covered by the autumn foliage.
And yes indeed, the crowds were no joke.
Though this is Japan, so things were rather orderly.
And views were quite stunning.
And in spite of the crowds, things were rather quiet. So you could find that little peaceful space to admire.
Satisfied we left and headed back to the station to catch the train back to Kyoto Station.
Stopping at a few temples along the way like Taiko-an.
Back to Kyoto Station, they were gearing up for Christmas.
The chill in the air called for ramen and we headed up to 10th floor of the Station Building to Kyoto Ramen Koji, basically Kyoto Station's own "Ramen Street". There are 8 different ramen shops on this floor. Having already had Seabura (Pork Backfat) Ramen, flame torched chashu Miso Ramen in Sapporo, and Iekei Ramen, I wanted some nice Fukuoka style Tonkotsu. So I talked the Missus into Hakata Ikkousha. Yes, I know they have a location in Orange County, but I believe the menu is slightly different.
They were also the busiest place on this floor. We went to the ticket machine and put our money in and got our ticket and waited in line for about 10 minutes.
As is somewhat typical for us; there's no way I can finish a whole bowl myself; we got the Ajitama (soft boiled egg) Ramen and a side dish to share. The presentation at Ikkousha is interesting. They lie four thin slices of chashu on top of the bowl, making it look like a single large layer of pork.
Man, that egg was just a perfect soft, runny boiled thing of beauty. The pork was not my favorite, especially after having so much during this trip as it was on the bland side and rather dry. The noodles were good, a tad past how I prefer them prepared, but way better than anything here in the states. The broth was rich, but I found it less satisfying than Ippudo (we'd go to the Kyoto location later during the trip). I found it less porky and not quite as rich, even though it seemed nicely viscous. It was not bad by any means; quite good, as it still had that "aaaah" factor.
The Karaage was decent, good flavor, but the texture was a little too soft for our taste. Again, we'd have our favorite version again while in the city.
Overall, a nice bowl, decent karaage, it was autumn, the air crisp, our bellies warm.....
Hakata Ikkousha Kyoto Ramen Koji Kyoto Station Building (West Zone), 10th ﬂoor
Noticed when I went to pick up lunch at Beauty Hunan. Ready for more ramen?
8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd Ste M San Diego, CA 92111
Continuing my "Hut Streak":
So, "Sandy" left a comment on my Noodle Hut post, after I mentioned doing "Two Huts in Three Days". She asked me: What's next - Pizza Hut? Apparently, Cathy read that comment and thought it was a hoot. So, I thought, "ok, why not"? The only problem was.....I don't recall the last time I actually saw a Pizza Hut and let Cathy know. She believes that I just block those places out. So, after doing a Google search, I found a Pizza Hut nearby....doesn't seem to have too many of them left, in Clairemont Town Square. I headed on over......by the time I reached the parking lot, I already had....hmmmm......how to describe it, "buyer's pre-morse"? And upon finding that it looked like a take-out only shop, I decided to turn around and head back to the car.
Yes...you could say that I....."chickened - Hut".
Still, wanting to keep my "hut-streak" going for one more day, I found a place that fulfilled the criteria.
It must have been fate, because I found a parking space in the worst lot on Convoy.
And had some Wings - "Naked"....sauce on the side. Nicely fried.
So there you go. I think three "Hut posts" in a row is enough.
While I'd been keeping an eye on the opening of the new 99 Ranch Market on Balboa, I never really made it until a couple of weeks ago. They opened while we were out of the country and when I got back, my schedule was a mess for a while. So, I finally made it over when I needed to pick up something on the way home from work. Krispy Krunchy Chicken is located in the food court on the east side of the building along with Saigon 5 and a location of Shanxi Magic Kitchen (those posts are coming up). I decided to grab something to go and the folks at KKC were really friendly...insisting I sample their chicken tenders.
So, I placed an order for 10 wings....which are currently on special for $7.99. I was told it would be 10 minutes for my chicken, which was perfect as it gave me a chance to dash over and make my purchases in the market.
I got the basic fried chicken wings.
These were indeed (C)Krispy, (C)Krunchy, hot, and very moist, probably since this was made to order. In spite of being fairly hefty sized wings, I thought the batter to meat ratio was quite nice. Both the Missus and I thought a more aggressive Cajun seasoning would make this a bit better. Much like Kirbie, I couldn't help but make the comparison to Popeye's. While you're at it; check out Jinxi's post as well.
I'm glad I didn't get the "Buffalo" version since I saw that it was simply doused with hot sauce.......the chicken would have been soggy by the time I got home. Both the Missus and I used a good amount of Crystal Hot Sauce to add a little kick to the rather mildly seasoned wings. Still these were not bad.
During this visit; I learned that KKC opened at 930am, which made it a perfect spot for a bite between meetings. Curious that the place makes Ramen; albeit a definite Chinese Style (Wuji) ramen; I thought I'd give it a try. So I ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen and was given a free chicken tender.
This had been sitting so while being fairly crisp, had dried out a bit and was quite bland.
The ramen was also mediocre.
The broth is thin, yet has a greasy mouthfeel. The flavor is slightly "tinny". The worst thing was that the broth was served almost lukewarm and was more salty than anything else. The chashu, while well flavored is fairly tough. The noodles were overcooked. The egg was nice and softboiled and might be; other than the very cheerful young Chinese kids manning the booth the best thing about this bowl of ramen.
A few days later, I needed to grab something before a 11am conference call so I dropped by and got a three piece meal with potato wedges.
Unlike my wings, this wasn't cooked to order and it suffered a bit. Especially the breast which was really dry and bland with the batter falling off. The color was also darker than the chicken on my previous visits. The potato wedges were also dry.
If I return, I'll probably go with the wings and hope they make them to order. And while the chicken here is larger than Popeye's, I enjoy the flavor at P's better. Like I said you can't help but make a comparison. Popeye's was founded in New Orleans in 1972; KKC, in Lafayette in 1989 and uses an injectable flavor/brine....which I think they need to use more aggressively.
I really liked the young people working here; they are very friendly, and always giving out samples. I believe they also have a location in the East Village.
Krispy Krunchy Chicken 5950 Balboa Ave (Inside 99 Ranch Market) San Diego, CA 92111
I'm finally catching up on things. A few recent observations.
More Ramen Coming to Kearny Mesa ?:
At least if the ABC notice is correct. Something named Menya Ultra. Some quick slapping on my keyboard yielded a clue.... and a bit more. I'm pretty sure that the folks at Nishiki Ramen can't be happy at the company name. But another Hokkaido ramen chain in San Diego? Well, I think there's room for that.
An acquaintance mentioned a ramen place opening in the East Village named BeShock and told me they were going through a soft opening. I was told the folks opening the place are from Nagoya; which made me a bit curious. So I trucked it down to the corner of 13th and Market street to see what was up.
For some reason, I expected a little neighborhood shop like the nearby Tokyo Deli. So I was surprised to see this large, spacious, very nice restaurant....I guess I "be shocked"?
The soft opening menu was a single page; with items like karaage, salads, and the like on the top....the middle was a collection of rolls, and five types of ramen on the bottom.
I was brought my water and some gratis edamame....
I saw Shio Koji Karaage; Shio Koji and Shoyu Koji are both staples in our household and using Shio Koji in karaage is pretty much an "open secret". So, I ordered the karaage and was surprised at what came out.
So, these were actually coated in masago arare; rice cracker beads. It adds an additional layer of crunch, but also gets soggy fairly quickly. The portion size was quite large. Also going down a bit of a different path; this was white meat chicken; though the marinating process give the chicken a texture like dark meat. Also, I quickly noticed that the flavor is quite mild......amost too mild for me; not enough shoyu-shio koji or any other (ginger-garlic-sweetness) flavor. It's pretty much about the masago arare.
I also ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen and was rather intrigued at what came out.
The broth was different; in fact, it might be the least salty ramen broth I've ever had....it didn't have much porkiness to it and I even thought it could be chicken. I was told that the folks here use a lot of vegetables in making the broth which really makes the flavor different. While it was fatty; I didn't think it was particularly rich, in other words, it lacked some of that "aaaaahh" effect. Everything else was good; the standard issue Nishimoto-JFC noodles were prepped well; the chashu had been torched before being placed in the bowl; it had a very nice porkiness to it. The egg was also by the book. Overall; a bit different...... I might try the Miso Ramen next time.
The folks here were really nice; the manager, who is from Nagoya, also spent time in Hawaii and we had a nice chat.
I returned a few days later. I had seen Chicken Tartar (i.e. tori nanban) on the menu; but when I returned it was gone.
So I went with the "Cajun Karaage" instead.
This wasn't very spicy and the batter was soft and gummy, though it was prepared and served in a more conventional way than shio koji karaage. The flavor just kind of fell short and this was definitely "b-list karaage".
I also went with the Chashu Bowl. Having had a few of these in Japan, I was surprised at how large and how much pork there was.
There's quite a bit of pork hiding under....well, all that pork. The pork was tender without being mushy. The flavor was good....again, not too heavy handed in terms of shoyu - saltiness - sweetness, but the pork flavor actually came through quite well. This time the flavor and the texture worked for the good of the dish. The shoyu tamago was decent; it could have used a bit more flavoring, but I have no complaints.
I really enjoyed talking to the nice young man in charge on this day.
While I thought the flavors somewhat mild and tame for my taste, sometimes people can make the difference. I really enjoyed BeShock, BeCause the folks here were so nice. I'll come back to try things out after their grand opening....which is BTW....today 10/17 at 530pm. They'll have Tori Nanban; though I'm not sure what they're going call it. The ramen style here doesn't seem to be my thing, though I will try the Miso Ramen to see if I prefer that.
The manager is a certified Sake Master and they have a bunch of boutique brews....so when I'm not driving.....
I hope they do well.
BeShock Ramen & Sake Bar 1288 Market St San Diego, CA 92101