Monday, September 3, 2007

Santouka - Japanese Ramen - Torrance, CA

My wife and I have been to Mitsuwa Marketplace many times since we moved to SoCal. However, our trips there are rarely ever to shop in the market...we go there mainly to eat at the food court. Mitsuwa's food court has around 7 or 8 (currently) small food stalls, mostly Japanese with one Chinese place and one Japanese Style Italian place. All of the places we've tried make pretty good food...especially considering it's a food court. On top of that, everything is fairly cheap making Mitsuwa's food court a great, quick, and cheap lunchtime stop. While we've been to this food court on several occasions, for one reason or another I never tried the ramen at Santouka...a place tucked into one of the corners of the food court. What a shame...I had no idea what I was missing...

On previous trips to Mitsuwa I had looked at the menu at Santouka, and everything looked good, but I think my wallet always dissuaded me from eating there. You see, I always walk around the food court, peruse the offerings from the different places, and make the decision of what to eat based on, A.-What kind of a food mood i'm in, and B.-How much cash I have in my money clip at the time (these places are all CASH ONLY!). Now, I don't like to carry much cash around (if I have it my pocket i'm more likely to spend it more freely) so usually I only have a few bucks at my disposal. When I would compare the prices of what I would get at some of the other places ($5-6) to what I would get at Santouka ($11+), that decision would already be made for me. Now, I know what you're thinking...Yes, there IS a Bank of America ATM in Mitsuwa, and I AM a loyal B of A customer, but it always seems like every time I go there and try to pull out cash, the thing is always out of service. Go figure. I must just have crap luck or something.

Anyway, this time was different. This time I had cash in hand and was ready to go. My wife and I were out running errands and happened to be driving by Mitsuwa when hunger and the desire for food struck us both (which practically happens every hour, on the hour for me at least). So, we stopped into Mitsuwa for a quick bite. Just wanting a small snack of a meal, we decided to share a combo from Santouka. We ordered the B-set combination with Shoyu Ramen and Ikura Gohan. The Shoyu Ramen features a soy sauce based broth with slices of pork chashu ad fish cake garnished with a little seaweed and scallions. Ikura Gohan is basically a pile of salmon roe over a bowl of steamed white rice.

I tasted the Ikura Gohan first. Ikura (salmon roe) is a salt lovers wet dream. They're basically little balloons filled with a very flavorful salt mixture. Every bite is met with a delicious little "pop" as the roe bursts releasing it's salty goodness. The rice complements the Ikura perfectly and provides a nice balace to the concentrated salty flavor of the Ikura.
Next up, the Shoyu Ramen. My first bite was a chopstick full of ramen noodles. Mmmm...noodles were cooked dente...Just the way I like them (actually, I take that back, I like them slighty firmer). Good start so far. Next was a sip of the Shoyu broth. MMmmm...more salty goodness. Excitement level rising. Third, was a bite of the Chashu pork. MMMM!...fatty, tasty swine! Ding, Ding, DING! We Have a winner!! Wow, each of these ingredients could easily be enjoyed alone...but put them together into one salty and savory bowl and i'm in heaven. My taste buds received a symphony of textures and flavors that made for an incredible little meal. Nevermind that it's 90 degrees out and i'm slurping down a bowl of scalding hot ramen and broth and sweating my ass off. Whatever, it was well worth it. Wait a minute... are we sitting in a food court? That's proposterous! How is this possible? This just can't be. I must be dreaming.

Is this the best bowl of Ramen I have ever had? Hmm...I dunno about the best, but damn close. It's definitely neck and neck with my previous favorite ramen place...Hakata Ramen. The Chashu pork at Santouka is definitely far and above the pork used at Hakata though. It tastes like it was made at home by a very passionate chef. Fatty, tender, and loaded with flavor. Heavenly. However, I think what I really like about Hakata is the option to customize your ramen (noodle hardness, soup strength, oil, and other toppings). That really is the kicker for me. Regardless, Santouka makes an amazing bowl of ramen...especially considering it is in a food court. Scratch that, it's an amazing bowl of ramen regardless of whether it's in a food court or some fancy restaurant. A good bowl of ramen is a good bowl of ramen no matter where it's made...and this is a GOOD BOWL OF RAMEN! Now I just need to go back and try the Shio Ramen that everyone seems to rave about. People swear it's the best...we'll see about that...

Santouka Ramen
21515 Western Avenue
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 212-1101

1 comment:

Lori Lynn said...

Hi - I just found your site via Foodbuzz. I love this marketplace. Can't wait to try Santouka (maybe tomorrow).