I don’t take good noodle shops for granted here in the States. Wherever I spot and find one worth coming back to within a city, I do just that. Each time I visit San Diego, I make sure to stop by Mitsuwa; primarily for Santouka’s Tonkotsu Char Siew Ramen.
Santouka’s presence is often overshadowed by the more famous Orochon Ramen and Shinsengumi Ramen of Los Angeles. Possibly because Santouka is located in a food court setting. Don’t let this impair your judgement, good food can be anywhere. Santouka’s offering has just as much to offer.
A good bowl of tonkotsu ramen guarantees a thick, creamy broth, extracted from pork bones and fat via high heat and extensive cooking time. Another component (among many other, far subtler ones) is a noticeable presence of cuts of pork belly. Santouka offers you a few broth choices; I always stick with either the miso or soy base.
My better half ordered Niku Soba / Beef Buckwheat Noodle from Kayaba, a neighboring restaurant of Santouka. Both are located within a common area of Mitsuwa. The broth is handled well, thin, light and flavorful. The generous helping of beef is delicately flavored and always to our liking: Soft, light yet flavorful and tender, never chewy.
I find the niku soba to be a good change of pace. While Santouka’s Tonkotsu Ramen is packed densely with flavor, you can say Kayaba’s Niku Soba to be a more subdued experience. Both have their own merits and my preference for either of the 2 usually depends on how much tonkotsu ramen I’ve had recently.
Here’s a reminder as to why Santouka’s holds a special place in my stomach: The option to have a side bowl of short-grain rice with a layer of salmon roe over it.
Each roe is a springy burst of delicious. It’s commendable that we are given the option to wash a layer of ikura and a bed of rice with a rich, pork-bone based broth. A simple indulgence like this should never go unappreciated or unexplored.
We were also taken to a breakfast place we’ve never been to before, Opera Cafe. Their Salmon Bennedict to be my brunch of choice.
Everything was handled delicately, from the texture of the salmon, the poached egg, the hollandaise sauce and the dough used. The portion is ample, two of these with a side of sweet potato fritters. There is only an eligible picture of one because I had not anything to eat yet.
San Diego is one major city of California and these samplings are barely scratching at the surface of what the whole state might have to offer. As always, I look forward to my next visit and findings.