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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Santouka - Costa Mesa

I know, it's way too hot for ramen. But Elmo of Monster Munching's recent post on rival ramen shops had me craving a hot steamy bowl. Ordinarily, I would just go to Daikokuya Noodle & Rice Bowl in Little Tokyo. And while I love their tonkotsu (pork bone) broth, I also wanted to try something different. The other highly regarded ramen shop in SoCal is Santouka, a chain based in Japan. Santouka has been getting rave reviews since it opened inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Costa Mesa a few years back. So when I recently found myself in Orange County, I knew where I was headed. I had heard horror stories about the parking and the lines, but on a recent weekday during the height of the lunch rush, it wasn't bad at all. I found parking quickly. And while the food court was busy, it wasn't jam-packed. The line was quite manageable as you can see. I love the Japanese plastic food! Makes it easy for me to decide what I want. I settled on the #1, a bowl of shio (salt) ramen for $6.49. Does the real thing look like the plastic version? They were out of mushrooms that day so I got a piece of nori seaweed instead. The broth is milky -- a good sign that the pork bones had been simmered a long, long time. The pork slices were fattier and thicker than Daikokuya's, but very tasty. The noodles were firm and chewy. There were more pieces of bamboo. I'm not a fan of the faux fish slices but I ate it. And slurped every bit of the broth. Of course, it's a smaller bowl than Daikokuya's, so while Daikokuya's ramen leaves me very full and sated, Santouka's leaves me wanting just a little bit more. Just a tiny bit, mind you. Oh, and that lovely red cherry tomato that seems to bring everything in the bowl into focus? Ack! I bit right into the center of a pit. It was a pickled plum or something. I liked it, but it was a bit of a shock when I was expecting a soft, sweet cherry tomato. It's a hard toss up which ramen shop I like more. The broths are different so can I just say I love them both equally for their differences? :P I've got to hit them up again so I can try their spicy miso ramen. Oh, and no, they won't let you take this to go. :( Who else ate here? Elmo of Monster Munching also ate the shio ramen at Santouka. Other ramen posts: Aji Man Japanese Restaurant - San Gabriel Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice-Bowl - Monterey Park Foo Foo Tei Noodle House - Monterey Park (Closed) Santouka - Los Angeles Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Gardena Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen - Rosemead Santouka (several locations) (Inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace) 665 Paularino Ave. Costa Mesa, CA 92626 714-434-1101 Open 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Cash only


  1. Looks like you got a little variety dish.

  2. I like shio ramen too and have been hunting around for a good bowl of ramen too :)

    Of course, the real thing is much better than the plastic but they do look similar.

  3. I tried my friend's spicy miso ramen, and it's awesome...maybe even better than the shio. I still have to get my butt to Daikokuya though.

  4. Tigerfish,
    I'm always amazed how those plastic foods look so real!

    Spicy miso ramen is definitely on my list for my next visit.

  5. Heya Wandering,

    I've tried Daikokuya, and thought the chashu was superb. However, I found the broth a bit watered down to my tastes. The side of fried rice was good, the fried spicy tuna was excellent. But I think the best broth is from Santouka. Its rich and bold and quite flavorful. I have not had any other that was better. Now.. if only I can get them to start serving a double bowl size..

  6. Polar,
    You've got me craving Santouka's ramen again with your description! I think that small bowl is a brilliant marketing ploy. Keeps you craving more. If they had a bigger bowl, we might get our fill of it more.

  7. Haha! Yeah that red thing is an ume (pickle plum). You're supposed to eat it first to cleanse your palate I believe... Shoulda gave it a squeeze like I did to establish if it was indeed a tomato =P

    I like Daikokuya better because of the pure unalterated pork flavor of kotteri style and that best pork ever of course! But I have to say that Santouka's broth is a lot more complex and have different flavor notes if that can be said.

  8. Q,
    I did end up eating it first. I thought it was good, just a bit of a shock since I was expecting a cherry tomato.


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