Noodles

We are bangin’ out the new year with ramen. Noodles are a representation of long life, and is a perfect way to start off the new year. Ramen shops are expected to boom in Los Angeles for the year 2015 and Tsujita is leading them all. The shop is small, modern and quite relaxing. It’s easy to get in for a quick bite and get out. This is the year of the ramen.

What better way to start if off the new year with ramen, Tsukemen to be specific. Tsujita’s Tsukemen is touted as being somewhat of perfect. Honestly, the bowl was quite delicious. The noodles were nice and tender, thick, and perfectly cooked. Dipping the noodles in the thick broth, the noodles did a good job of soaking in the flavors. The char siu though was quite thick and juicy. It wasn’t dry or flavorless. The bite of the pork was perfectly fatty and porky — probably some of the best char siu I’ve ever had.

The broth was mild, not as salty as I’d like, and not as hot as I’d like. It was warm, but not really hot. The flavors of the dashi was prevalent but not overpowering. It was fatty and had a nice mouth feel to the soup. I just wish it was a bit hotter — that would have made the noodles and the char siu and noodles warmer when eaten. Other than that, the broth was quite flavorful.

My experience at Tsujita was great, and I’d come again and again for a bowl of Tsukemen. The broth was pretty good, but the noodles and char siu still managed to overshadow it. That’s how good quality this stuff is. They take pride in having the perfect noodles. Long noodles are a sign of long life. This 2015 and on, I want to wish everyone a nice long healthy life. Ramen may not be “healthy,” but its good for the soul. And anything good for the soul is a good thing.
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As someone who fancies authentic Chinese cuisine form the SGV, I don’t know how I ended up here. Maybe it was the intrigue, or the feeling of homesickness. Ultimately, I just wanted something completely different. I really don’t remember the last time I ate Chinese food or even a bowl of noodles in Vegas, if ever even. It’s always burger this or pizza that, and don’t even get me stated on the number of steakhouses. I took a chance on Noodles at the Bellagio, and I was pleasantly surprised. The prices were definitely not SGV cheap — the “Vegas Tax” essay evident. In the end, I was happy for my changing up the system.

After the Raku agedashi experience, I find myself ordering more and more. As an appetizer, and to be somewhat earthy, we decided to order the agedashi tofu. Theirs were fired in little nugget forms. The texture was quite nice. The warm pockets of hot tofu were silky smooth. Dipping it in the light soy sauce blend was all I needed. Nothing beats the agedashi at Raku, but this little appetizer did just fine.

Comfort food for me is either something really fatty and cheesy, like mac and cheese or a nice loaded quesadilla. Otherwise, comfort food comes in soup form. It has to have meat inside of course. The wanton soup at Noodles was surprisingly delicious. The broth was the star. I wasn’t sure if it had MSG in it or not, but the deliciousness of the broth indicates that it indeed did. The broth was warm, umamic (yes, there’s that word again), and quite savory. It wasn’t necessarily salty, but it had a nice quality to it. The wontons were nothing short of spectacular. Fatty and meaty, the shui mai like dumplings gave this soup bowl some substance. Even the noodles had a nice bite to them. This bowl of wantons and noodles was surprisingly the real deal.

We were on a protein frenzy, so we ordered the BBQ pork and duck. This to me was a mistake. The pork was overly sweet and jerky like. Too much crust and not enough actual tender meat made it difficult to enjoy. The duck, though nicely tender was a bit of a miss. It didn’t have that fatty/salty characteristic I’m familiar with duck. It was mild and a bit boring.


We ordered a bowl of congee to go with our meat. The congee itself was good on it own. The bland taste and blank canvas made it go well with everything. This was indeed a comforting bowl. For dessert, we ordered Thai tea. Milky, and somewhat strong, it was enjoyable — nothing worth mentioning further though.

All this Asian food and I started to wonder why we ate here. I mean, I could have this back home in the SGV, and it would be legit — it would be the good stuff. Why did I just spend almost double the amount for something that wouldn’t even hold a candle to the good stuff? Maybe I was feeling a little home sick. Or maybe I just needed to give it a try to see if I can really find SGV in the heart of Vegas. For a second though, I did forget I was even seconds away from the casino floor. That’s gotta count for something. Basically, I went to Vegas to step away from the SGV, and went to Bellagio’s Noodle to step away from Vegas.

Noodles on Urbanspoon

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It has been a while since I wrote a blog post on Orange County eats. Not that I don’t have love for the OC, its just not exciting to eat here anymore. All of the restaurants are too chain like. Except for a small few, all of the eateries are just average. To me, the most exciting thing is when restaurants far away make it close by to me. One such restaurant, a chain nonetheless is Santouka Ramen. With restaurants all around the world, I am happy to have them in LA and Orange County. I don’t have to travel to Japan to have good ramen.

The bowl of ramen was better than most. I appreciated the al dente noodles and the texture of the alkaline noodles at Santouka was perfect. It had a nice bounce and bite feel. The broth was a bit lukewarm, but still tasted amazing. My favorite of course was the char sui pork. It was fatty and deliciously tender. The vegetables were fresh and the bowl of ramen as a whole was balanced. This was a great bowl of ramen and competes with the best of them.

To some, ramen at a restaurant is foreign to them. All they know is the stuff that comes in a package or a cup. Ramen to me is comfort food. The warm broth and the fried noodles turned half pliable is all that I need on a cold winter night. Ramen broth and noodles is such a hard thing to perfect, especially from scratch. I wouldn’t know the first thing about creating the broth. Yes, having ramen from a bag or cup is quite satisfying and delicious. Just pop in a soft boiled egg and you are golden. Once you experience good ramen with legitimate broth, it makes all the difference.

Santouka Ramen on Urbanspoon

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It’s Friday, the work week is done, and you just a bit to eat with your coworkers. That is how it usually goes down, and I have to say, Happy Hour isn’t in our best interest. Some how, some way, we always end up at Daikokuya. That is officially our go to spot. Someone suggests that we grab some dinner after work and ideas start floating in the air — happy hour, burgers, a new restaurant, a quick bite in Koreatown. After a nice hour of indecisiveness, we decided! And no, it wasn’t Daikokuya. We were headed to our destination, which was actually in Little Tokyo. We found parking instantly right in front of Daikokuya (by fate), and we noticed that there was no line. The one time we decide not to go to Daikokuya, we found parking without hassle and there wasn’t a wait. We took this as a sign and went to our usual spot — Daikokuya.

As usual, I ordered the ramen combo, and it was filling. After finishing it, I was stuffed. Comparing it to the one in Monterey Park, the original one in Little Tokyo just tastes better. Maybe it is because its the original, or it feels more authentic, but the ramen just tasted better. One thing I did notice was the egg. The Monterey Park location has the egg over easy on the inside, but the egg temperature on was cold. The egg from the Little Tokyo location was warm. This may sound like nitpicking, but it makes a huge difference. Eating cold egg yolk is not a good feeling.

One new thing I tried here was the gyoza. The gyoza were nice and fried on one side, steamed on the other. The skin was nice and thin, yet tender, and the filling was filled with meaty, oniony goodness. Dipping it in the soy sauce, the bite I had was delicious. The contrast from the fried side and steamed side is what pleasured me. You have a crunch of something crispy, and the mouth feel of something chewy. This combines into a perfect bite with the succulent meaty filling. This was my first time trying the gyozas, and am now a fan.

Daikokuya in Little Tokyo is our go to spot. Sit at the bar with no wait, and you are transported to Tokyo. Chefs rigorously cook the noodles, fry the rice, and cook everything else in between — all in front of you. This fairy tiny ramen shop is popular amongst the Los Angeles community. Lines start forming at dinner time, so it is best to go early or man up and sit at the bar. Either way, get ready for some good/authentic ramen. For more reviews on Daikokuya including other items, check the post on the Monterey Park Location.

Daikokuya on Urbanspoon

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When Chinatown comes into a conversation, and the topic of lunch or dinner pops up, you can’t help but thing of Yang Chow. And when you think of Yang Chow, you can’t help but think of Slippery Shrimp. Chinatown can be a scary place to some, but smack dab in the middle of Chinatown on Broadway, is Yang Chow. Inside, it seems like a typical Chinese restaurant, and it is. The furniture and layout is very old school as it should. It’s a classic. The walls are scattered with pictures of local government icons and famous people. The restaurant opened in 1977 and has been a popular Chinese hotspot since.

Of course I ordered the Slippery Shrimp — It’s what they are known for. The shrimp was kind of smaller than you think, but the flavor was  massive. The batter was light and crispy. It was a bit on the sweet side, but the hot sauce that they had there balanced out the flavors nicely. Eating it with the white rice was simple and delicious — It was all I really needed.  Slippery shrimp and rice was like comfort food for me.

We ordered the Chicken Lo Mein as compliment to our shrimp, though I would have been happy with just white rice. The noodles were thick and the chicken was plenty. Again, I put some hot sauce chili oil over the noodles to give it some spice. Most times, noodle dishes can get greasy and oily. It was a great noodle dish.

Yang Chow is a Chinatown icon. The place is a popular spot for locals and visitors. It all started with five brothers who wanted to start a restaurant. Yang Chow was the name of their home town. How fortunate of us to have them bring their home town into Los Angeles.

Yang Chow on Urbanspoon

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Ever since I was a little boy, I made simple things at home.  My first dish would have been ramen.  Boil that water, put the packet in, crack an egg, and you got yourself “oodles of noodles”. That’s not really cooking is it.  I surely thought that it was home cookin’ — but I was sadly mistaken.

My cousin from Oregon was visiting and we always try to share good meals together whenever possible.  My brother, my visiting cousin, and I were trying to think of  place to eat.  I had the idea of taking them to eat ramen — neither of them have had ramen at a restaurant before.

Making ramen from scratch is actually really difficult.  A lot of ingredients come into play as well as time to make the broth.  Daikokuya makes theirs perfectly.  Why go to a restaurant for ramen when you can just make it at home for about 25 cents?   It’s all about the broth my friends.

Entering Daikokuya, one can’t help but feel like they entered a tiny ramen shop in Japan.  The decorative wall pin ups and accents really give this illusion. They serve everything from sushi to fried rice, but ramen is their specialty.

Each bowl of ramen can be a combo.  Each combo comes with a side salad and rice bowl.  I had the egg and chicken bowl, my brother had the unagi bowl, and my cousin had the pork bowl.  Each side dish was amazing.  My favorite was the pork bowl.  The pork was so juicy and tender, no signs of dryness.  The unagi was perfect with that sweet teriyaki sauce.  I love seafood so this bite was surely a treat.  My egg and chicken bowl was my least favorite of the three, but it was still good.  Maybe it needed some of that tasty teriyaki sauce the other bowls had.  My favorite is their side cabage salad. They put this dressing on that is a mixture of something like 1000 island and smelt roe.  It gave it a seafood taste that was so delicious.

 

The ramen at Daikokuya is something I yearn for every so often, sometimes all the time.  All these years eating ramen out of the package, this surely was an eye opener for me.  Their noodles didn’t taste stale and actually had some bite to it.  The best was the slices of pork they add in the ramen. I think it’s the same pork they use for the pork bowl.  It was so juicy — the flavor and fattiness went well with the saltiness of the broth.  Oh, and here is the kicker.  They added a hard boiled egg inside, and the yolk was slightly medium, but not runny. That truly takes talent, and you know how much I like runny eggs.  I always have the perfect bowl of ramen at Daikokuya.

Me and my family know how to eat, so we ordered some appetizers too.  My brother ordered the spicy tuna roll, and my cousin ordered the Chicken Karage.  The sushi was pretty decent, considering it’s from a ramen shop.  I did not have the chicken Karage, but the fried chicken filets looked good dipped in one of the many sauces they offered.

 

Come to think of it, we had already eaten the salad, the prok bowl, unagi bowl, and the chicken bowl.  My family and I were already full, and this was before the ramen came out. In the end of it all, overly stuffed, I knew my family was satisfied.  To think we almost skipped this place because we were scared of a long wait.

If I want ramen, this is my spot.  To get away from it all, get away from Los Angeles in Los Angeles, I just step into Daikokya. I can sit at the bar, order some authentic ramen, and enjoy it in “Japan”.  The packaged, dried, ramen squares just won’t do anymore.

Daikokuya on Urbanspoon

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