Kitakata Ramen Bannai (Costa Mesa)
We recently had a chance to stop by Kitakata again, visiting some friends in the area. Even within 15 minutes of closing, there was still a line to get in.
Boiled Gyoza (with Green Onion and Yuzu Chili Sauce):
The Housemade Gyoza featured thin-to-medium thick Gyoza skin. The Marinated Ground Pork, Green Onion and Yuzu Chili Sauce made for a distinctly different taste on Gyoza you usually find at local Ramen shops. Delicious.
Kitakata Ramen (Pork Broth, Shoyu Base, Toro Chashu, Bamboo Shoots, Green Onion):
While Ramen Bannai serves a Pork Bone-based Broth, it is nothing like the more commonly found milky, heavier Tonkotsu Ramen around L.A. Bannai’s version remains translucent and clear, with a taste to match. It is lighter, but still full of flavor with the Shoyu (Soy Sauce) and Pork Bone base. If you didn’t know better, you might even think this was a delicate Chicken Broth (but with more umami).
It remains delicious.
The Pork Toro Chashu is this marvelous balance of lean, tender Pork as well as fatty Pork. Not multilayered like Pork Belly, but the cut has a seeming split down the middle of half lean and fat and together it’s still fresh, bright and very tender.
Their Ramen Noodles are the same as before, machine cut fresh in the kitchen throughout the day. We stuck with @Porthos’ recommended “Firm Noodles” setting and it makes all the difference.
Green Chili Shio Ramen (Pork Broth, Shio Base, Shoyu Base, Toro Chashu, Green Chili, Napa Cabbage, Asian Chives, Red Onions, Green Onions, Sesame Oil):
Their wonderful Green Chili Shio Ramen has changed slightly: Instead of a pure Shio (Salt) Broth Ramen, it’s now a combination of Shio (Salt) base and Shoyu (Soy Sauce) base. The result is still quite tasty, but it’s different than before.
Even with the slight change their Green Chili Shio Ramen is still my favorite of the menu offerings at Kitakata Ramen Bannai.
Kitakata Ramen Bannai
891 Baker Street, Suite B21
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: (714) 557-2947
Hakata Ikkousha (Torrance)
We had been to the Costa Mesa branch of Ikkousha before, but never got a chance to visit the Torrance branch. I was hoping it might be a bit more approachable compared to our visit to the Costa Mesa branch.
Walking inside, the Torrance branch feels more haphazardly thrown together (nowhere near as nice, bright and updated as the Costa Mesa location).
One nice touch at both of the Ikkousha branches is their condiments station, where you have a Sesame Seed Grinder, freshly grated Garlic, Gyoza Sauce and Ginger, along with the best addition: Spicy Pickled Vegetables (Takana).
This adds a beautiful spicy pickled vegetal note to your Ramen.
Hakata Specialty Hitokuchi Gyoza:
Their Housemade Gyoza arrived with a pleasing pan-seared crunchy crust on the bottom. The actual inner filling was fine.
Special Fried Chicken (1 Piece):
Pictured above is their “1 Piece” order of Ikkousha’s Special Fried Chicken(!). It is a massive piece, but at the same time if you look closely it’s mainly because it’s been pounded and flattened out. But regardless, it is one of the best versions of Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) we have locally. Crispy crunchy texture and flavorful Chicken within.
Tonkotsu Standard Ramen (with Everything Topping):
This is Ikkousha’s signature Hakata-style Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) Ramen. We were already wary of what happened last time, so we were prepared to pace ourselves and not try to sip too much of the Broth.
The Tonkotsu Broth itself on first sip is very flavorful: Tons of porcine flavor, pork on pork on pork notes. It seems pretty tasty (initially).
The Pork Chashu slices are a disaster at the Torrance branch (see pic above). Dried out, lean, slightly chewy, they are pretty terrible compared to most of the great-to-best places around L.A. Disappointing.
The Noodles are the straight, thin, white Noodles that match the Tonkotsu Broth pretty well.
The Flavored Egg is overcooked though. Not to the point of hard boiled, but nowhere near the creamy, liquidy version at their Costa Mesa branch (to be fair we haven’t been back in over a year, so perhaps it’s a general decline).
But after a few more bites and sips of their Tonkotsu Ramen I started feeling what @Ns1 felt with Tsujita: I felt queasy and had to stop.
A year later and a different branch didn’t make a difference for me: Ikkousha’s Tonkotsu Standard Ramen is still pure LIQUID PORK (fat). I enjoy a great Pork Belly dish. I can eat a bit of fatty Pork with no problem.
But something about Ikkousha’s Tonkotsu Broth makes Tsujita’s bowl of Pork Madness seem tame in comparison. Ikkousha’s Tonkotsu has too much Pork Fat. It’s thick, viscous and hardcore. But there are plenty of fans of Ikkousha and that’s great. I just can’t handle this bowl of Liquid Pork at all.
Interestingly, Ikkousha’s bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen is the polar opposite of the recently arrived Ippudo (Santa Monica). Whereas Ippudo’s might be too light, delicate and thin, Ikkousha’s smashes you over the head with what feels like the entire Pig distilled into one bowl.
We still want to try the God Fire Ramen one of these days, but even if that doesn’t work out, I’d be glad to come back for their tasty Gyoza and especially the Karaage Fried Chicken sides.
Hakata Ikkousha Ramen (Torrance)
21605 S. Western Ave, Unit #J
Torrance, CA 90501
Tel: (424) 558-3953