After sampling a few brews at Otaru Brewery we walked back to the JR Station. Just to the right of that station stands a rather nondescript street and a very discreet doorway. Behind that door is Sankaku Market. It really doesn't look like much from the outside, but walk thru that door and you'll enter a bustling little market.
Full of some of the most wonderful seafood I've ever had a chance to see.
Opposite the stands are restaurants....more like stalls with tables. One of them had a crazy line of people waiting to eat. I looked at the menu and saw that it was the cheapest place in the market.
Right before that stood another shop, this one was also busy, but we decided to just take a chance. The woman in charge gave us a paper with a number and we stood off to the side to wait.
I went for a walk to the loo....which is how I noticed that the crowds here gather around the area where the restaurants were.
After about 15 minutes, the woman in charge found us and we were seated and a little bowl of ika; which looked like it was colored with squid ink was placed before us.
We were given menus and here's where I'm glad I took a photo of the menu since folks here don't believe the prices we paid for lunch.
Not realizing how much rice was in these bowls we ordered three! Later on during the trip, Kat mentioned that we could order half portions of rice. Which we'll do when we return.
We shared the three bowls. The first to arrive was the most expensive one (2000¥) a bit less than $20. Geez Louise, look at all of that sweet crab!
Which I thought was the weakest item in the bowl. The salmon was nice and mild in flavor, fatty, with a wonderful texture. I've had Hokkaido Uni before and thought it to be very briney and intense in flavor, but this was so creamy, slightly sweet, with the wonderful flavor of the ocean. Like you took a bite of the cleanest, sweetest, water of the Pacific. The ikura were perfect, briney, not overly salty, with a wonderful snap to them. For around twenty bucks!
We also ordered this which cost 1300¥. More of that wonderful ikura and those scallops were super sweet.
The ebi were tender, but very mild in flavor and not particularly interesting....but that ikura.
I was curious what a 980¥ (about $9.50) bowl of salmon would look like. Sheeesh......
10 pieces of fresh and delicious salmon. I'm very cautious about getting salmon in restaurants; but the stuff in the market looked so fresh and of good quality. We really didn't need the wasabi as everything tasted clean and fresh, just a bit of soy sauce for the salmon. We did feel bad having so much rice left over, but we'll know what to do in the future.
This was one heck of a meal for under forty bucks....remember, there's no tipping in Japan. I came back and mentioned how good the Hokkaido Uni was to Tommy at Catalina.....which he wasn't too happy about, but what the heck.
Man, we left fat and happy. We managed to get back to Sapporo and squeeze in a nap and a nice walk before dinner, which was to be at the oldest crab specialty restaurant in Sapporo. We sure were eating well!
Full of historic buildings that are now glass and souvenir shops, tons of restaurant, and a little sweets kingdom known as LeTAO.
We loved the charming streets, the buildings just gave off a nice vibe, especially since things weren't especially busy.
We were getting a bit chilly, the warming effects of the umeshu was wearing off, so we decided to stop in at this charming little coffee and tea shop built in the former location of the Kubo Store, which was built in 1907.
The Missus got a nice cup of matcha and I a well made pour over, very smooth, but with enough of a nice kick for me.
The barista was a wonderfully dignified looking woman, who just rocked her lavender highlites perfectly. A study in aging well, gracefully, but with just the perfect amount of hipness and edge.
Refreshed and energized, we ended our little walk at LeTAO, which several folks told me I "had to" visit when going to Otaru.
This a multifloor deal, with a sweet shop upstairs, a very popular hot chocolate stand....but the item that LeTAO is known for is their cheesecake.
The cheesecake portion of the shop actually looks more like a jewelry store.
For some reason, I wasn't too keen on the stuff here, but of course, I don't have much of a sweet tooth.
LeTAO 7-16 Sakaimachi Dori Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan
We headed back around and took Rinkosen Street back to the canal area. There was one last stop I wanted to check out before heading to lunch. I'd enjoyed the bottle of Otaru Weisse I had in Hokkaido. I also recalled Kat's post on Otaru Brewery, so I thought we'd give it a try. The place has quite the Bavarian Beer Garden look and makes some interesting claims on the English menu.
Hmmmm.....not hangover with the beer here, eh? Well, let me have at it! I ordered the Dunkel, which had quite a head. The finish reminded me of caramel-burnt sugar with a touch of stone fruit mixed with a bready yeasty fragrance. Not bad at 5.2 ABV....clean finish, sugary flavors lingering, not too bitter.
The place filled up pretty quickly as most folks were starting up on lunch. Several large parties; all Japanese came in, and a couple looked like they were doing some kind of brewery tour finished up as well.
For some reason, I just wasn't motivated to eat here.....we were in Otaru and I wanted to finish up with some seafood.
The Missus got the Weisse and like the bottle I had previously, it had that banana thing going on. I read that in addition to the classic Weisse wort used for the product, it's also sticking to the traditional brewing method and tightly controlling the 4 VG level (4-vinyl guaiacol), hence the increased banana flavor (iso-amyl acetate) and less of the spicy clove that I'm used too. It's quite a pleasant beer, easy to drink, light, high carbonation, very nice overall.
We enjoyed stopping here, it was relaxing, though he place started getting really busy when we left.
Since we're supposed to have record heat this weekend, I'd initially planned on doing yet another Bun Bo Hue post. But in the end, common sense prevailed and I decided that doing a short little post of our early winter visit to Otaru might be a cooler option.....
We had a fun time in Asahikawa on our first day in Hokkaido. On our second day we hit the rails again; this time to the charming port town of Otaru. We headed out with no firm plans, not quite sure of what to expect and in the end, in spite of the place being rather touristy, we really enjoyed ourselves. It's a short 30 minute train ride on the Hakodate Line from Sapporo Station to Otaru. As we walked out of the station, we were greeted by light flurries of snow....those little dots in the photo below.
Chuo Dori is the street that goes straight from the train station to the canal. It's lined with hotels and other interesting diversions.
Along the way, there are more than a few markets/shops where you can pick up seafood which they'll cook up for you.
At the intersection right before the canal stands what I was told is Hokkaido's Oldest Standing Commercial Warehouse, built in 1893, which now houses the Tourist Information Office, some souvenir shops, and a pretty interesting "Christmas Tree" made out of glass floats.
I'm fascinated by those because I'm old enough to remember finding the small glass floats from time to time on the beach back home!
Inside was a tower made of wine glasses. Otaru is known for their glasswork, so I guess this makes sense.
Meanwhile, outside was a certain character I remember reading about in Kat's post. That nattily dressed statue is of a famous firehouse dog named Bunko. According to this post, Bunko was a brave mutt who would help the firefighters and apparently rode to a thousand fires. I actually saw the children's book about Bunko!
Crossing the street we reached the canal, but really had no plans.
It had warmed up to a balmy 34 degrees Fahrenheit.
Upon crossing the street and noticed a bit of hustle and bustle as folks walked into a parking lot. It looked like some kind of festival was taking place. Then I came across the sign and read the one little English sheet on the poster, "Looks Strange Tastes Good", then below, "Shako"......oooh, Mantis Shrimp!
I guess this was a mantis shrimp festival! Talk about my lucky day. Man, when was the last time I had mantis shrimp?
Things were just starting up when we arrived.......
But there was a fairly long line forming on the other side of the parking lot. The Missus, not one to miss an opportunity grabbed some money and went straight into the line.
I walked up to the front to have a peek......
And noticed the gentleman dumping baskets of mantis shrimp into a cauldron.
Yep, this was the right line.......
Miso soup with a very sweet mantis shrimp; quite nice! Of course, man (nor the Missus) lives on miso soup alone. We wanted something to warm us up a bit, even if it was only 1030 in the morning!
We could not ignore the simple three letters H-O-T....plus the Missus could make out some of the Kanji.
Nothing like a nice steaming cup of umeshu to warm you up. Just the right thing to make you almost forget about the cold!
Just then, there was a little commotion on the other side of the parking lot. It was a Taiko Drum Group!
Man, it was freezing......but check out the folks in shorts!
Of course, it's the "old timers" who really have a good time!
We stayed for the whole performance and slowly drifted away after. Here's the festival website.
We saw the interesting "fellows" above while headed to Sakaimachi Hondori. At first we thought he was just a rather eccentric local walking his dog. Then he whipped out a camera and starting taking photos. So I'm not so sure....does he travel the country with his faithful canine? Then the Missus read the dog's jacket which said "In Memory of....." with a caricature of a dog.....so does this dog wear a sweater in memory of this guy's previous dog? Hmmm....... Well, at least we were finding that Otaru was far from boring!
While Kirk and Cathy are doing important things like working or resting, Ed (from Yuma) is posting today.
Usually, after I've written a post on a place in Yuma, I don't visit again for a while, maybe feeling a little burned out. And when I do visit, I don't bring my camera. So when I had lunch at Crouse’s Flat Top Grill in early March I didn't have my camera with me, so I didn't take this picture of the entrance that day:
I ordered one of the sandwiches that I hadn't tried, the smoked brisket. When it arrived it looked something like this:
It was a great sandwich – a crunchy long roll filled with two thick smoky slices of brisket, crowned with abundant sweet grilled onion, and served with a choice of barbecue sauces on the side. Even the potato salad, which I had largely ignored before, was wonderful, the sour spicy crunchy pickle pieces adding true zest.
It was a meal so good that Tina and I have been eating at Flat Top Grill regularly, and of course I've been bringing my camera along.
Although the restaurant has a very modest wine list:
and a limited number of changing taps,
I can always find at least one or two interesting beers
On our most recent visit, Tina ordered an amazing watermelon, mint and jalapeño Margarita:
The rim of her glass was coated with Tajin, and that lime chili salt added one more level of complexity to the cocktail. Spicy, sweet, sour, cool, and smooth, with a touch of salt and a hint of mint. A real winner.
Since that last post, we have eaten a bunch of different things. For example, we were dining there with friends and they wanted to try the loaded JoJo's:
That could be somebody's dinner. The potatoes were nicely cooked and there’s bacon, cheese, and sour cream. Glad our friends had their teenage son with them.
Tina enjoys the tri-tip salad:
The fresh lettuces are nothing special, but the meat is well flavored and she loves the cilantro lime dressing that adds a Sonoran accent.
Of course, we often have sandwiches. Recently, Tina had the hot dog – split in half, grilled, placed atop a strip of bacon, and thickly covered with guacamole:
That same night, I had the guacamole bacon burger – we must have had guacamole on the brain:
In the last post, I complained about an overdone burger; this one was on the verge of under cooked, but the flavorful hamburger, ground on premises daily, had excellent flavor. And bacon and guacamole.
My favorite burger is the green chili burger:
8 years ago I posted about the mutant green chilies found in some Yuma Mexican restaurants, which are always made with beef, usually finely diced or ground. The green chili here is another variation on that theme. The beef is coarsely ground and is the focus of the dish. The chili has some good heat and green chili flavor. It is topped with melted cheese, pico de gallo, and chopped scallions (also with sour cream, but I ordered that on the side).
We have eaten several entrées as well. The Turkey dinner is an amazing combination of familiar and unusual:
On the left side of the plate, covered with gravy, was first rate red skinned mashed potatoes. The Turkey breast slices, like the ones on their turkey sandwiches, were grilled and pretty ordinary, but the waffle made with turkey dressing underneath was something I'd never seen before:
Kindof a Thanksgiving dinner like no other.
And yes, during evenings The Flat Top Grill does have good old-fashioned greens as a side dish. I'm talking serious greens, smoky and meaty:
A little less interesting – though still very flavorful – was the chicken with mushroom gravy. Two thick slices of grilled chicken breast rested on a bed of those mashed potatoes, all covered with delectably creamy mushroom gravy:
On a couple of weekend nights, we ordered specials not on the menu. Once it was the rib special:
Wonderfully spiced, deeply smoked, and fall off the bone tender. Though there is barbecue sauce on the side where it belongs, it really wasn't needed. We took the leftovers home and had biscuits, ribs, and eggs for breakfast. The corn was a little tough and flavorless, but I was still happy.
And if you are ever at Flat Top Grill and they are serving chicken and waffles, you should be eating chicken and waffles:
The waffle was crispy chewy and served with two different syrups, one maple and one spicy. The moist chicken was encased with a flavorful hard crust. Wonderful deep frying technique.
I have a few acquaintances who love the Michelin Star/Best Restaurants in the World kind of thing. And earlier today, one of them sent me this link, telling to look at #13....it was Maido, where we had just eaten last month. What I thought was a bit strange was that Maido was several notches above Azurmendi. Just goes to show you the fickle "sport" of ranking restaurants and also why, while I take all those things into consideration, in the end, I try to figure out the food, how the place suits us, both in cuisine and service (those restaurants where staff is constantly hovering is not for us), before making a decision. A few hours later, "SomTommy" who sometimes comments, sent me an email mentioning the same thing. I replied that I thought this was both interesting and surprising. He then asked me what my favorite restaurant in the world was. What really surprised me was how easy it was typing out my reply; it was Suzunari which we visited during our first trip to Tokyo. The place just suited us; Kaiseki, perfectly prepared, elegant, but not fussy, without pretense, in a casual atmosphere, the customers were all Japanese. Oh, and while it was basically a husband and wife team, with one assistant, this tiny shop had acquired one of those "star" thingies.
Funny thing was, we enjoyed our previous experience so much we returned the last time we were in Tokyo. So I thought I'd do a quick photo post, out of chronological order, but it seemed somewhat timely. We had our good friend Reiko make reservations for us before our last visit; we also insisted that she come along. Even though we knew the pacing of the meal, pretty much in line with traditional Kaiseki, it was still fabulous.
From the steady silent interactions of the chef, his wife, and the assistant. To the sincere service, we loved sitting at the bar, and watching the flawless execution.
The Hassun, just fantastic.
Reiko, a Tokyo native told us that this was the best meal she's ever had and we were so glad to have been able to share it with her.
I'll always remember overhearing some advice from a Japanese National who advised the young couple that if they really wanted a "true" experience, to bypass the multiple Michelin Star Kaiseki places and work a bit harder to find the places that Japanese would go to when they had a nice meal. This lead me to researching a bit and finding Suzunari. My favorite restaurant.
Suzunari 7-9 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo
Later during the morning I sent an email to Ed from Yuma and Cathy regarding the list. Ed's response was priceless: "Rereading the post you did, it is amazing that the place had so many little shortcomings. But you are picky." I really don't think I'm picky, but I do know what I like, and after all these years, I think I'm pretty good at mentioning those things I don't care for. Funny thing about places like Maido. These places take chances, are innovative, they have a vision, and move toward that vision. There might be items that aren't your cup of tea, but, at least for us, the highs are amazingly high.
Maido, or even Etxanobe perhaps. Suzunari? I'm pretty sure we'll be back.
But it's a big world and we've only been to 23 countries. The Missus has told me that the US can mostly wait until I'm old and decrepit. Which might be anytime now. And while all these places are great....even the occasional banquet or two.....
I decided to drop by and grab a bite. The shop is fairly small, with a few tables off to one side and stacks of pastry receptacles lining the path to the counter.
Even though most of the containers were empty, that these were for grabbing take-out items like spring rolls, croissants, and various salad dishes. There was also a decent selection of VN coffee, boba, and smoothies as well. There was a stack of banh mi and baguettes in a basket to the side.
I gotta say, the folks working here were really friendly, though the turnaround for orders were a bit slow. The great thing I found out was that they bake their own bread here! Nice! Competition for Cali Baguette Express?
I decided to try the Dac Biet, the "special".
Priced a bit more expensive than other Banh Mi shops at $4.49, I was immediately aware that the sandwich was a bit more "hefty". Returning to the office, I noticed that there was a bit more meat in this. First things first, the bread here is more crusty than flakey and is on the chewy side. It also doesn't keep very long, getting almost rubbery after a short time....I'd find out that for myself when I bought a baguette during another visit. Paris Bakery currently makes my favorite bread for Banh Mi and even to have with cheese in San Diego.
And while I've always said that it's about proportion rather than fillings when it comes to Banh Mi, I really liked how this was put together; the amount of pate was perfect and the meats' especially the cha lua, which can be rather rubbery when sliced too thick was excellent. I thought the carrots and daikon weren't pickled enough to cut the richness of the meat and pate, though the jalapeno was nice and sneakily spicy. Typical stringy cilantro.
Pretty good sandwich overall, so a couple of days later I decided to return. Calvin was interested and decided to join me.
I love eggs in my Banh Mi and the menu said they make Banh Mi Op La ($3.49), typically fried eggs, but here they told me it was easy over. And when I opened the sandwich, you could tell by the mess it was!
Egg yolk oozed all over my paperwork, but that's ok. Initially, I thought they hadn't sliced the sandwich, but then I noticed it had been sliced 2/3 way through. I realize a lot of people are freaked out over runny egg yolk, but this was pretty good, if a bit messy. As a bonus, there was a nice thin slice of ham and a good smear of pate as well. As I ate this rather quickly, the bread held up pretty well.
Calvin ordered the Xiu Mai, the meatball, which, after many bad versions, I'm leery of, but he told it was better than average.
Having to work on a recent Sunday and wondering if three time's a charm , I decided to head over and get the Banh Mi Cha Lua ($3.99).
Nicely set-up sandwich, though the bread was a bit chewy and perhaps because it was Sunday seemed to be a bit on the stale side. Pickles were still a bit too mild for me, but like how thin they slice the cha lua and the amount of pate on the sandwich. The cilantro (I know folks tell me I'm kind of weird about that) had more leaves than stems this time around.
Overall, my three visits were satisfying. It's good to have another decent banh mi option in the area that makes their own bread. While I prefer the bread at Cali Express, I prefer the egg banh mi here. Also to note; if you order egg on a banh mi as an extra, it'll be fried well done, but you can tell them you want the egg easy over they'll do it for you. Be forewarned, it'll be quite messy. I think I'll check out the beef jerky papaya salad and perhaps some of the other dishes in the near future.
Banh Mi Bakery & Cafe 9353 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Suite H1 San Diego, CA 92123
I finally had a chance to have a day off; so things seem rather hectic this weekend. Last night I crashed and burned at 8pm. So here's a COMC post for you. I'll have someplace new tomorrow!
Shan Xi Magic Kitchen:
My first couple of visits to Shan Xi Magic Kitchen were pretty good. Our coworker Lily who has since transferred is from Taiyuan and she really wanted to have lunch at Shan Xi Magic Kitchen before I left on my trip. So the trio of YZ, Lily, and myself found a day where we all had times on our calendars. I gotta say, things weren't quite as good this time around, except for the Yang Rou Pao Mo, which was actually better. Some of the seasoning was out of balance and the service was rather slow.
The best items were the eggplant and the yang rou pao mo.
Shan Xi Magic Kitchen 4344 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
It had been a while since I last at Spicy House, but my good friend Akira and his lovely wife Diana were in town. I hadn't seen them in nearly two years, when we all last ate at Spicy House, which Akira really likes, so why not? We made better choices this time, but I gotta say; even though I buy into the adage that "oil is the pathway to flavor", some of the dishes were borderline greasy. Especially that Shui Zu Yu (water boiled fish) and nothing really had enough zip.
I actually think the intestines with chilies might have been the best executed item as it had some of that "ma-la" thing going.
It could have been a bit crisper, and was slightly offal-y, but not bad.
I actually don't mind the Zi Ran Yang Rou (cumin lamb) here, but it needs a bit more cumin, is cut too thick, and needs a bit more of the nice flavor of the wok.
Still, it had been two years since I've seen Akira and Diana, whose wedding I attended in Ciudad Obregon and it was great seeing Akiko and her hubby, that food was really secondary. I truly had a wonderful time.
Spicy House 3860 Convoy Street #105 San Diego, CA 92111
It was early in the afternoon when we returned from Asahikawa and it was time a nice afternoon nap. After the light snooze and freshening up, we decided to head out for dinner. Walking through the lobby we noticed, not one, but three weddings taking place!
I guess the Old World charm of the Hotel Monterey makes it a hot spot for weddings!
We noticed that it wasn't very cold out as we walked to our dinner destination. I was told that we absolutely should try Jingisukan (Genghis Khan) while in Sapporo and while it was kind of touristy, we should at least check out the Sapporo Beer Garden. It was a pretty relaxing, quiet walk.
There are several restaurants on the premises. We chose the very casual "Kessel Hall", which has a large beer cauldron, made in 1912 looming over it.
While the place seemed a bit busy, we had no problem getting a table. In an interesting move, we were given large plastic bags for our jackets.....which should have been a hint as to what we'd be exposed to.
After a rather large breakfast and ramen for lunch, we weren't very hungry, so while the all-you-can-eat option wasn't even in the plans, we just ordered a single portion of the mutton with vegetables.
And some other items from the menu that we were curious about. Loved the nice piece of fat used to coat the griddle.
We also got a mug of the Sapporo Hokkaido Limited which I thought was a bit lighter and sweeter than the usual Sapporo lager I have once in a while.
In an earlier post I mentioned Hokkaido produce and dairy products. We had a chance to try a few items from the menu; first Hokkaido baked potato....which, unlike the potatoes in Peru and Spain, were really mild in flavor. Also, being cheese lovers, we jumped at the chance of trying Hokkaido cheese, this one being a nice and creamy, but very mild in flavor. We both prefer Camembert with a more full bodied riper flavor.
The mutton actually had a pretty strong, gamey flavor which we both enjoyed.
The fat basted the bean sprouts and the onions added a mild pungent flavor. It was just enough for the Missus and I.
There was one interesting downside to eating here. Remember I mentioned the plastic bag for our jackets? Well, we should have actually worn plastic over our clothing as the place has no ventilation.
It was so thick that it could almost knock you over. We ended up quarantining our clothes from this visit until we had access to a washer in Tokyo!
Sapporo Bier Garten 9-2-10, Kita7Jo, Higashi-ku Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
There was one thing we learned about at information center. A very nice woman was giving out samples of Hokkaido corn soup, the stuff is made from a powder, so I've always been leery. It was actually very good! The Missus really wasn't interested in trying it, but I had Her try a sample and She was hooked. We bought a couple of boxes home with us and though we can't find the exact same brand here in San Diego, we found one that is a reasonable facsimile. It's great as a little snack or even breakfast on a colder morning.
We took a short detour on the way to the hotel.....trying to stay downwind from folks as we visited the basement of Daimaru looking for some snacks.
There was a Hokkaido Products shop along the way and I purchased a little "nightcap" for me.
This was a nice Hefe, for some reason the fragrance reminded me of bananas! It was a mild, but refreshing beer, which I enjoyed. We were headed to Otaru in the morning and I recalled Kat and Satoshi had visited the brewery a few years earlier. So we now had another item for our agenda!
And no, we weren't headed to Asahikawa for the weather, which was actually pretty nice at about 36 degrees Fahrenheit when we left Sapporo, but for more hedonistic endeavor.
The weather changes quickly here....from the mild near freezing drizzle and the rainbow above, to the sudden snow during our 90 minute ride to Asahikawa.
But things had cleared pretty quickly by the time we had arrived.
When we mentioned visiting Asahikawa to folks who knew about the city, the first thing mentioned was Asahiyama Zoo; though they really couldn't fathom going there at the end of November. And when they found out what our real purpose was....well, they kind of thought of us as being a bit, well, as my Mom would have said, "きちがい".
To get to the first destination, we had to leave the train station and cross several streets to one of the many municipal bus stops. From there, it was me, using my terrible, quite limited Japanese, to ask if the bus passed the destination. Once on the bus, I used Google Maps with pocket wifi to figure out when we were getting close. Lucky for us; the wonderful and friendly driver remembered that I had asked about the place and made sure to let us know. And when we started walking in the wrong direction, stopped, opened the door of the bus and pointed us in the right direction. You gotta love Japan!
So where was this? Well, while I have a favorite splurge sake that I enjoy, my favorite (not) everyday sake is made by Otokoyama. If my liver could only speak. Sam used to call me Mr Otokoyama ages ago and Ed from Yuma and I really enjoyed our Otokoyama in our younger days eating at Sakura.
So a visit to Otokoyama Brewery was a must.
The sake museum was interesting, I didn't know that Otokoyama has been around for almost 350 years!
You get to see the brewing facilities, a collection of scrolls, and vintage brewing tools.
Loved the various displays of various awards and the world wide distribution....heck, I even recognize some of these places!
And then of course, there's the tasting area......
Just when we started tasting various sake, a busload of Chinese tourists invaded. The Missus was laughing as many of them complained about having to use the steps to go upstairs! We decided to take a break and sit at one of the desks; which had a collection of reading glasses of various magnification....I don't recall seeing anything like this before.....
When things calmed down a bit, having tasted most of the free samples, we went to taste the "good stuff" which you had to pay for.
It is a tiny shop, a few simple tables and bar seats.
As with most ramen places we've been to in Japan, you help yourself to the ume and pickles.
What did we order? Well, that was a no-brainer. Shio Toroniku style of course. Which was delivered in the signature thick sided donburi, designed to keep the broth hot during your entire meal.
There some slight, though significant differences with regard to the ramen. The noodles were even more chewy and just had a wonderful texture. The pork cheek was sliced much thicker than what we've had here in San Diego, and yet started to fall to pieces when dipped in the broth. The big difference? The broth tasted less salty, but had a mild seafood flavor, this totally reminded me of the flavor of Sanouka's shio broth when they first opened. I don't really pick that up in recent bowls in San Diego.
Since we'd had a rather large breakfast, we shared the single bowl, and also ordered a boiled egg and some rice, which was cooked perfectly, and went well with the pickles.
One constant between Santouka here and Santouka in the states is.....the boiled egg is still mediocre as it's hard boiled. At least this one didn't have that sulphuric tasting green ring around the yolk that indicates a terribly overcooked boiled egg.
In regards to the ramen, the Missus claims this is the best bowl of ramen She has had to date. Me? Well, I'm not so sure..... Still, I can now say I've been to the original Santouka.
We walked back to the train station with bellies full of warm ramen.
The train was pretty empty, I guess it was the slow time of the day.
My friends actually did pretty well, since I bought them a bottle of the Otokoyama Kitamiduki, which I was told you can only purchase in Asahikawa. They told me it was delicious. For some reason, I think that we'll return to Asahikawa one day. After all, the Missus loves Santouka!
I was in for a couple of surprises. First off, the configuration of the place had changed, with the register and counter now on the west side of the place.
Another big surprise; was the menu. There was a larger variety of dishes, with items like Bo Luc Lac and....gasp...Hainan Chicken!
So you know I just had to order it. I wasn't sure what I was going to get and was a bit shock at the portion size of this as it was just eight bucks! Man, that chicken was succulent and tender, but the flavor was really lacking in chicken flavor, nor the mild ginger or salt. I'm used to two different sauce with Hainan Chicken, the scallion-ginger sauce, which was absent, and a chili based sauce, with lime, chicken broth, and a touch of sweetness. This sauce really lacked zip. The worse part of the whole thing was that it was served with regular jasmine rice.....a ton of rice mind you, but I really missed the typical chicken-mild ginger flavored rice.
I was bummed, but the pork bone soup, porky and salty saved the meal for me. Ly Heng serves a falling off the bone chunk of pork rib in the soup which is just fine by me.
I returned a couple of weekends later, with the thought of trying something else new from the menu, but decided to just stick with the Pho Nam Vang......
Which turned out to be the right move on this day as I've mentioned before, in spite of tending to overcook the noodles a bit, of all the places that serve this in the area, Ly Heng is my favorite.
And that bone soup on this day was delicious.
And at $5.99, I ain't going to complain too much.
Perhaps I'll try some of the other dishes one of these days, but right now, I'm happy with that Pho Nam Vang.
Ly Heng 4451 University Ave San Diego, CA 92105 Hours: Thurs - Tues 8am - 8pm