Kappa Ramen opened in a sleepy strip mall in Anaheim back in September. And unless you live near it, or in Orange County, you might not have known. So when Marguarite of Marguarite Clark Public Relations invited me to dine there, I figured it'd make a good halfway point for me to meet up with lil' sis.
Did I really need a free ramen meal? Probably not. But, would I have ventured into Anaheim if I hadn't been invited? Probably not either.
That's how it works sometimes.
After exiting the freeway, I drove what seems like forever. Even though Kappa Ramen is located in the center of so many freeways, it's not close to any one of them. I wondered what kind of customers would come all this way for ramen? Even though I scheduled our meal for 1 p.m. so that it would be at the second half of their lunch hours, there were still a surprising number of occupied tables of several families and Japanese American customers. Always a good sign for a ramen restaurant.
Lil' sis ordered the Kyoto Style Ramen, a milky tonkotsu pork broth, $7.45.
I went with the Kappa “Signature” Ramen, the chef’s tonkotsu broth infused with organic kimchi and served with avocado, spinach, bean sprouts, tomatoes, and corn, $9.95.
The ramen had the nice milky, porky tonkotsu broth that lil' sis and I both love, with an added kick. Butter is often a frequent addition to ramen, and I think the avocado nicely replaces that, but in a healthier way. All in all, the melange of disparate ingredients surprisingly worked. I think I would have liked less spice, because while it provided a little kick in the beginning, toward the end of the bowl, I preferred lil' sis's non-spicy tonkotsu broth. The pork was nice and tender. And how cute is that egg half? It was a nice attention to detail that we both appreciated. While Kappa Ramen's broth doesn't have the unctuousness of other broths, that was fine with us since less fat and oil is always a good thing.
We also got a half order of the fried rice, $3.95 ($6.95 for a full order). Yummy and fully of porky goodness.
And two half orders of gyozas, four pieces for $3.45 (full order, $6), deep-fried, which came with sweet chili dipping sauce.
And potsticker-style, which we ate with soy sauce and vinegar. Definitely get the potstickers. We ordered both for comparison and I preferred the half-crispy, half-chewiness of the potstickers.
Nicely stuffed with meat and not a bunch of fillers.
We were really quite full at this point and the restaurant had emptied as it was the end of the lunch hours so I asked if I could speak with the chef. According to the press release, chef Eiji Kanazawa was born and raised in Kyoto, Japan, and moved to SoCal in 1986. He has worked and managed several Orange County Japanese restaurants, including Genkai in Irvine and Corona Del Mar, and Japon in Lake Forest.
I asked him how he came up with his signature ramen, and he said they were flavors that he thought would work well together based upon other restaurants where he worked.
I mentioned that I had recently tried my hand at making ramen again too and asked chef Kanazawa what he thought of all the ingredients I added to it (Since he wouldn't give me his recipe. Ha!). He politely said it sounded fine, but all ramen really needs is good pork bones. Darn it! I've tried simple pork bone ramen broth too and mine still doesn't turn out like the restaurants' versions. Oh well. That's why I go out to eat ramen, right?
So why did he open in this location? Apparently he's a local and when he saw that it was going to be available, he found business partner Nick Reid, who was raised in Tokyo and moved to Sydney, Australia where he became the biggest operator of Japanese restaurant concepts.
After I got back to our table, chef Kanazawa sent out complimentary kappa puddings, $2.50. Well, technically the whole meal was complimentary, but lil' sis and I didn't want to go overboard so we hadn't ordered dessert.
Yummy, soft and light almond pudding. A perfect end to our meal.
I loved these bowls at the entrance (chef Kanazawa said they all came from his hometown of Kyoto), and as I was taking a photo to show ya'll, he came out to point out the kappa to me.
Kappa are mischievous water creatures found in Japanese folklore which are fond of eating, troublemaking, sumo wrestling, and good manners. Haha. I'm not sure how troublemaking and good manners can be reconciled. They look like playful turtles to me.
One last shot of chef Kanazawa and his kappa.
Kappa Ramen is a bit out of the way, but if you're looking for a nice local ramen shop that's not one of the SoCal chains, do stop in and give it a try. If the porky goodness of tonkotsu isn't your thing, you can try the soy, miso, or chicken ramens.
Although the meal was complimentary, lil' sis and I did leave a $10 tip.
Thanks again to Marguarite and Kristi of Marguarite Clark Public Relations for setting up this luncheon.
March 31, 2012 Update:
Sadly, Kappa Ramen is now closed.
My other ramen posts:
Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo)
Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Monterey Park
Santouka - Costa Mesa
Santouka - Los Angeles
Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Gardena
Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Rosemead
3024 W. Ball Rd., Ste. F
Anaheim, CA 92804
Tuesday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
1 year ago today, Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ - Rowland Heights.
2 years ago today, Regional Recipes #2 (Japan).
3 years ago today, Chicken Noodle Soup that says, "Hi."
4 years ago today, Brown Sugar and Orange Juice Brine and two 18-lb turkeys.