We have gotten to a saturation point where the opening of a new Ramen restaurant is no longer a big deal. It seems like only yesterday that I discovered threads on our old board where Rameniac and our FTC veterans were excitedly talking about legit Ramen opening up around Southern California. These days, after being blessed and then overrun with Ramen shop after Ramen shop, unless something sticks out immediately, it might take a while to gain traction and interest.
The newly opened Kashiwa Ramen caught our attention due to the fact that they serve Tori Paitan Ramen, a 100% Chicken Ramen, with a Chicken Broth base and even “Chicken Cha-shu”(!).
Kashiwa Ramen’s other claim to fame is that it partnered with Hideto Kawahara, the Ramen Chef-Owner of Hide-chan Ramen in Japan. According to their website, Kawahara-san has 20 Ramen stores across the world, including Totto Ramen in NY.
Walking in and looking into the open kitchen, we don’t have to worry about any bait & switch (@Sgee @Ns1 @bulavinaka @PorkyBelly @A5KOBE @beefnoguy) because the switch already happened: The staff was 100% Non-Japanese. We felt a little discouraged, but still kept hope that perhaps Kawahara-san trained the staff well. (I found out later that Kawahara-san was here for the grand opening but left soon after.)
Looking at the menu, it indeed was a more unique standout from most local openings recently: Kashiwa Ramen specializes in Tori Paitan Ramen (literally “Chicken White Soup”, a Ramen featuring distilled down Chicken Broth made from Chicken Bones). They also had a Vegan Ramen.
Chicken Ramen (Tori Paitan Ramen):
The Tori Paitan Soup looked thick and opaque. The initial sip: Thick, viscous, deep poultry flavors from a totally Torigara (Chicken Bone) base, with no Pork or Seafood. Wow.
Taking a second sip: This was almost as unctuous as a Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Broth, but it was all Chicken!
And it was delicious!
I was shocked.
Their “Cha-Shu” by default is “Chicken Cha-Shu” which turned out to be slices of Roasted Chicken Breast.
However, in fairness, it was actually tender and moist (not dried out). It had a decent flavor to it, but at the end of the day, it was Sliced Chicken Breast. But it fit the whole Chicken theme here. We later found out you can order this with Pork Chashu as well if you want.
The Noodles are from Sun Noodles (which seems to supply a vast majority of all Ramen shops around here). Slightly thick, wavy, they were cooked to a good Katamen (Firm Noodle) style. You can specify the firmness which is a nice touch.
Black Garlic Ramen:
Kashiwa Ramen also serves a Black Garlic variation on their Tori Paitan Ramen. This was basically their complex Chicken Ramen Broth base, with this Black Garlic Oil added.
This turned out to be a nice depth of flavor, a deep garlicky funk, adding more umami flavors to each sip.
The Noodles were cooked consistently to a medium-firm density.
Chicken Tsukemen (Tori Paitan Tsukemen):
Surprisingly, Kashiwa also offered a Tsukemen, or Dip Ramen.
The Noodles used here were slightly thicker than the Ramen Noodles, and still served with 2 slices of their “Chicken Cha-Shu.” As before, they were basically slices of Roast Chicken Breast and they were meaty and moist and fresh (great), but it didn’t have the unctuousness of a great Pork Belly Chashu seen at many other places locally.
Their Tsukemen Broth turned out to be the exact same Tori Paitan Chicken Bone Broth, but more concentrated. That’s it.
But squeezing a bit of the Lime and dipping in the Noodles… this turned out to be a legit Chicken version of the Tsukemen experience you might’ve had at Tsujita. It was tasty, a touch more salty (but you only dip the Noodles in, so you can control the amount of Soup you take in) and enjoyable.
Sadly, they don’t offer Soup Wari (a lighter broth to dilute the concentrated Tsukemen Broth so you can enjoy sipping it (ala Tsujita), and the staff seemed clueless when we asked about it.
Their Flavored Egg was cooked to a solid thick liquid custard yolk center. Great!
We wanted to make sure our last visit wasn’t a fluke and to see how consistent they were, so we headed back down for a 2nd visit the following week.
As before, the staff was 100% Non-Japanese.
Chicken Ramen + Pork Cha-Shu (Tori Paitan Ramen):
We ordered the standard Chicken Ramen again. It was as thick, intensely poultry as before. This was really satisfying and a great variation of Ramen to see locally (a Non-Pork option). Delicious!
The Pork Chashu turned out to be Roasted and Seared Pork Belly slices, which definitely were more satisfying than the “Chicken Cha-Shu,” but sadly it was a touch too salty. It wasn’t extreme, but definitely noticeable in how salty it was, and the Chicken Broth had enough salinity as is, so it just didn’t work.
If they reduced the salt on that Pork Chashu, it’d be a great match.
The Noodles (you can choose Straight or Wavy, we chose Wavy as recommended by the staff) matched the Broth perfectly and were cooked to a nice al dente firmness.
Gyoza (Pork Dumplings):
Their Gyoza are made in-house and feature a longer, rectangular shape. It had a mediocre sear on them unfortunately and lacked the crisped edges one might adore with good Potstickers. The Marinated Pork filling was a bit one note.
Despite not having its famed Ramen Chef manning the kitchen, Kashiwa Ramen is a surprise: Serving some legit, deeply rich, pure Chicken Broth Ramen that somehow matches a level of lusciousness and viscosity of Tsujita’s bowl of porcine heaven.
Their Chicken Cha-Shu slices feel like a slightly weak link, but for those that want a Non-Pork alternative to Ramen, it works, resulting in moist, meaty slices of Chicken Breast. (@TheCookie)
It’s encouraging to see a Ramen operation that has finished it’s “bait & switch” phase, leaving a staff behind that actually is putting out a quality bowl of delicious Chicken Bone Broth Ramen that stands out from many local shops. Perhaps because Kawahara-san has over 20 shops around the world, he might have managed to figure out a way to maintain consistency in new branches. Hopefully they can keep this standard going throughout the coming years and we’ll have a Tori Paitan specialist worth revisiting.
1420 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: (657) 232-0223