Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tsukemen at Kashiwa Ramen - Costa Mesa

This is Kashiwa Ramen’s tsukemen. It’s, by far, my favorite thing to eat there. It wasn’t mentioned in my OC Weekly review because it wasn’t yet on the menu at the time. They were likely still developing the recipe, tweaking it to get it just right. But when I got around to having it in later visits, I realized it was worth the wait.

Kashiwa’s tsukemen is a ramen for all occasions. In the summer you can request the noodles be chilled; in the winter, heated. Either way, the strands has the al dente bounce of pasta but with a lightness that doesn’t weigh you down.

And since they’re coated in sauce rather than submerged in soup, tsukemen (if you’ve never had it) is halfway between a plate of spaghetti and a bowl of ramen. The dish is the best of both universes.

When you dip and slurp it, you experience and then appreciate all the nuances of all the components: the acid tickle of the squeezed lime, the concentrated umami of the reduced-to-gravy soup, the chewy comforts of the ramen.

Kashiwa Ramen
1420 Baker St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(657) 232-0223

Bistro Provincia - Dana Point

Friday, June 14, 2019

Sushi Imari - Costa Mesa

There was something specific I really liked about the original Sushi Imari in Costa Mesa. It wasn’t the complimentary items that were doled out at random. It wasn’t even the sublime piece of uni nigiri I had there several years ago. It was actually the size of the dining room.

Sushi Imari was tiny and cramped. And because it was, it felt intimate and cozy. It was as though I stumbled into a hidden spot no one knew about. The reality is that, of course, everyone knew about this place. It’s one of the most reviewed sushi bars on Yelp, largely due to its generosity with those complimentary apps. People love free stuff.

It got so popular, in fact, it recently felt the need to move to a bigger space on Harbor, in what used to be I Love Sushi and EON. And in so doing, I think it has lost what made it special. It now looks like a diner and for reasons I cannot explain, the sushi has taken on the personality of those made en masse at an all-you-can-eat joint.

I didn’t like what I had here at this new location nearly as much as what I had then, at the original place. The rolls tasted pedestrian and the uni I tried had an off flavor. An appetizer of gyoza is offered as the complimentary item. But since the things are fried in huge batches and every diner gets one as soon they’re seated, it felt more like it was done to fulfill an expectation than something that’s supposed to be welcoming.

At the new Sushi Imari, bigger isn’t better.

Sushi Imari
2340 Harbor Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 641-5654

F & H Shack - Anaheim