Saturday, February 16, 2008

Asameshi Maeda Honten - Costa Mesa

If you're reading this after February 18th, 2008, you might as well stop: Asameshi Maeda Honten will have already packed up and left for San Diego, its next tour destination. Sort of like a band that belts out noodle soups instead of tunes, you can find this Japanese ramen shop here, at the Costa Mesa Mitsuwa until Monday the 18th, as part of the supermarket's "Legendary Ramen Fair".

Well, that last part is a misnomer. It's not a "fair" as much as it is a rotation of three popular ramen chains out of Japan exhibiting their wares. And as far as the Costa Mesa Mitsuwa is concerned, only Asameshi Maeda Honten is involved, and only until Monday.

According to Rameniac, the food blogger who broke the news, the other two in the trifecta aren't stopping here at all, just at the Torrance or San Diego Mitsuwa. The official tour schedule reads as follows:

Asameshi Maeda Honten
Feb. 15 - 18: Costa Mesa
Feb. 22 - 25: Torrance
Feb. 29 - Mar. 3: San Diego

Chibaki-ya
Feb. 15 - 18: San Diego

Sumire
Feb. 15 - 18: Torrance
Feb. 22 - 25: San Diego
But if you happen to run across this post before Monday, here's a bit of info. First, if you don't read Japanese script, finding Asameshi Maeda Honten might be difficult. To the casual observer, it will look like any other stall, especially since it has temporarily taken over Sanuki, the shop that normally serves udon noodles at the corner of the food court. I only found it by playing a game of one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others.

Once you do locate it, you'll know because the shop will serve only one dish: their signature shoyu ramen for $6.99. You walk up, you pay, you get a scrap of paper with a number, and you wait as the kitchen pushes out the hot bowls faster than Lucy Ricardo can eat chocolates.

The soup is a glorious brew culled from long-simmered pork bones and soy sauce; a rich and salty staple of Hokkaido, where Asameshi Maeda Honten hails. But the most glaring feature you'll immediately notice is the thick layer of liquified fat. In addition to flavor, ramen aficionados purport that the fat has a practical purpose: it insulates the broth so that the soup maintains its temperature until the last drop is sipped.

It coats every strand of the chewy noodle I lift out of the bowl and slicks my lips to an oily shine. And if that weren't enough, there are wispy shavings of roasted pork meat which also seems to slowly melt its lipid reserves into the liquid. There's no escaping the pork liquor.

The porcine power of the soup almost makes you forget all the other good and worthy attributes of the bowl: the snappy strips of bamboo shoots, the herby scallions, the perfectly-boiled quarter slice of egg, and of course, those slurpy egg noodles.

If this all feels like test marketing, it may very well be. The bowls play like a singles track meant to hook customers into buying the rest of the album. But really, Costa Mesans and other OC-dwellers shouldn't fret. In the same food court stands Santoka, the ramen joint that many consider the best on our coast. And they're playing full sets of their noodle soup hits and staying for a permanent run.

For a limited time only:
Asameshi Maeda Honten
665 Paularino Ave.
Costa Mesa CA 92626

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Com Tam Tran Quy Cap - Fountain Valley

22 Comments:

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

What? What? Limited-time ramen at Mitsuwa? Thank god for a 3-day weekend so I have plenty of opportunity to get my ass over there.

 
At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does it taste compared to the other ramen place in the food court?

 
At 5:06 PM, Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

Hmmm. Fight through weekend crowds for ramen warring with my desire to boast that I was one of the few who ate the limited-time-only ramen? What to do? Darn you Elmo!

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Eric,

Yes! Yes! This offer won't last! Get 'em while they're hot! Batteries not included! May cause drowsiness!

Anonymous,

As far as I'm concerned, there's only one ramen shop in that food court: Santoka. Asameshi was great, I liked it, but my loyalty is still lies in Santoka's milky tonkotsu shio broth.

But then again, I liked Asameshi's noodles a lot better...softer, silkier. And that egg actually makes a big difference.

If Asameshi Maeda Honten were to set up shop there permanently, next to Santoka, I'd probably alternate between the two...until I die of clogged up arteries.

W.C.,

Decisions. Decisions. But guess what? There's word that Daikokuya is opening up across town at the Costa Mesa Marukai. There's a ramen war a' brewin'!

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger Scotty Tran said...

Sounds grossly unhealthy, but at the same time, oh so delicious. I'll be stopping by on Sunday for an eat of this limited time stuff. Thanks for the heads up on this Elmo.

 
At 12:12 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I think I will stop by on Monday for lunch :-D Thanks!

FYI - when I make my pho I leave the fat in to prevent moisture from escaping but when I server it I take out the fat. Otherwise my heart would not forgive me. ;-)

 
At 1:47 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

What? They aren't stopping and the Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights, IL? (Literally next to where we used to live.) Of course, Michigan is getting ignored, too. The Midwest gets dissed again. Okay. I'm sort of kidding. But we are becoming quite diverse here. Our town alone has four Japanese restaurants, several Chinese restaurants, a few that are actually good and authentic), a great Indian restaurant, a Chinese market, a Korean Market (we shop at both weekly), and many Indian markets. The population is largely Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Indian. We are slowly becoming the Irvine of the Midwest.
Sorry for going off on a tangent. I'm done now.

 
At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

Elmo, where did you hear this rumor about Daikokuya opening up at Marukai? That would be amazing if it were to happen, although shame that the Marukai food court is sorely lacking in options and seating.

 
At 4:14 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Scotty,

Hope you got some today! If I weren't going on vacation tomorrow, I'd come in for a second round before they head out.

Bill,

You're right about pho. For some reason, I'm not so crazy about fatty pho as I am about fatty ramen. Not sure why. Perhaps because I rely on pho to refresh and ramen to nourish?

Juliet,

Well, don't feel too bad. Only this one is stopping at the Costa Mesa Mitsuwa. I would've liked it if the others did too -- simply because I'm an OC advocate!

Eric,

I heard in on Chowhound, actually. If you Google "daikokuya marukai", it'll be the first hit. But really, I tried the Little Tokyo Daikokuya a few months ago, and I must have caught them on an off night -- it didn't do much to sway me from my devotion to Santoka. Plus, the wait was ridiculous!

 
At 4:44 PM, Anonymous White On Rice Couple said...

I had a hard time not walking over to my regular Santoka, but tried Asameshi anyway. I was pleased with the floating fat - something I enjoy having in my soup often for the extra flavor. We were there on Friday and it was PACKED ! Thought we could beat the crowd ...wrong ! Hey, maybe you were there at the same time we were!

 
At 4:46 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

W.O.R.C.,

I made sure I beat the crowd on Friday. Crowds don't make good pictures! HAHA! So I got there at 11:30 on the dot! By the sound of it, I just missed the glut of people. Phew!

 
At 1:43 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

I tried Asameshi for lunch on Sunday with two friends, and we were all pretty impressed. Kinda surprised that at 12:30 there wasn't much of a line either, and the ramen came out within minutes. My main complaint though was that the broth left me really thirsty. MSG, perhaps?

Just because of convenience, we returned to Mitsuwa for dinner, and a couple of my friends got Asameshi again while I got the spicy miso ramen at Santoka, and I was much happier with Santoka's broth.

Elmo,

I only remember really enjoying Daikokuya. I had to wait a long time as well, but felt it was totally worth it. Their fried rice was really good as well.

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Had Asameshi for lunch on Monday.
Broth was very rich and hearty soup was mildly shoyu but perfect. I wish the meat was of a thicker cut but I think Santoka is a bit better.

 
At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Marvin said...

Ack! Sad I missed out on this. I was actually in the OC for part of the weekend! Danggit!

 
At 11:44 PM, Blogger liz said...

Hmm... I'm in SD so I'm going to have to check out this event. Thanks for the post.

 
At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i came on Monday around 3pm, they already closed :(

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger dumplings said...

I get mails from Mitsuwa, and IF I am reading this correctly, they will be at Torrance this weekend, 2/22 - 2/25 as well as in San Diego from 2/22 - 2/25 and 2/29 - 3/03.

 
At 7:47 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

It's Feb 20th...and I tried to stop reading, but alas your words were too tempting, "liquid fat...pork liquor" DROOOOL? Yes! ;)

 
At 9:41 PM, Anonymous Cap said...

Oh the horror. I need to check my blog feeds more frequently. Guess its the 30 minute drive to Torrance instead of the 15 to Costa Mesa. All for a "limited-time" ramen. Talk about being a sucker.

 
At 8:17 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Eric,

I also got thirsty after my bowl, but I figure it was the salt! But then, I have no problem with MSG. It puts an "Accent" on things!

You're right about Daikokuya's fried rice. It's almost worth the wait for me.

Bill,

You're right about the razor-thin slices of pork. If it were thicker it would be better. But then, I guess it's just their style. If anything it made it unique!

Marvin,

Ah, don't worry. I think we who love Filipino food (especially sisig, lechon kawale, and crispy pata) are better off staying away. We get enough pork fat in our diets.

Liz,

You're lucky in SD. You have all three ramen joints stopping by!

Anon,

AAAAW. Sorry! You tried though!

Dumplings,

You should let me know if anything else is happening at Mitsuwa. I don't get those mailings, and even if I did, I can't read Japanese.

Kathy,

I knew you couldn't resist! And I don't blame you.

Cap,

Dude, you got some dedication if you're willing to drive to Torrance. But hey, it's closer than SD!

 
At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Sandy said...

I went to Mitsuwa in San Diego on Monday, only to find that the Sumire ramen had been sold out. So I trekked back to Mitsuwa today, and got the Asameshi Maeda Honten ramen.

The San Diego Mitsuwa has only one restaurant in the "food court", so it was easy to find the ramen.

There was no line, and my bowl came out pretty quickly. In fact, it looked just like the one in your photo!

The broth was on the salty side to me. The noodles were yummy!

 
At 5:36 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Sandy,

The salt and fat of the broth fufills our human cravings for...well, salt and fat. But you're right the noodles were very yummy! Cooked to the correct consistency.

 

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