A while back, I went to Ramen Yamadaya in Gardena and fell in love with it. After all, ramen of this caliber is few and far between in Orange County, but then, who has the time to drive all the way up there for a bowl of ramen when the cravings hit?
Well the answer to that is you don’t have to anymore. Ramen Yamadaya opened a location in Costa Mesa not long ago and I very quickly paid a few visits to see how it fared alongside its sister store. However, don’t attempt to seat yourself because you’ll be faced with someone who is cleaning the table to yell at you telling you that you have to wait to be seated.
SERIOUSLY???? If you want us to wait to be seated, then PUT a sign at the doorway and we’ll do that! Don’t yell at your customer when they try to seat themselves and especially DO NOT give them the “talk to the hand” stance!
On my first trip, Tonkotsu Kotteri ($8.45) sounded so good on paper with its black garlic oil infused broth but when it arrived, the broth was so thick and somewhat greasy it made it hard to continue slurping. The thin ramen noodles were on the soft side which took away the pleasure of the chewiness I enjoy when I eat ramen.
Second time around, I tried Tonkotsu Ramen ($7.95). The broth is really good, rich and hearty without the heavy greasiness. Once again, the noodles were overcooked and soft.
However, even though I’m not a fan of the noodles, I found the Tsukemen ($8.45/7oz) absolutely delightful. This is served, noodles in a bowl and broth in another, somewhat like zaru soba except the broth is hot and dotted with bits of pork. These noodles are different from the ramen noodles and have a really great al dente bounciness to them. Delicious!
There are also different sides you can order as well as rice dishes. Gyoza (4.30/6pc) was so-so, the meat filling was a little mushy and the wrapper was toothy.
Cucumber Ippon is simple yet delicious. Sliced cucumbers are served alongside a miso dip which is sweet, salty and light. My friend, who grew up in Japan told me it was a very traditional miso and nodded with approval.
I’m not a fan of Takoyaki but my friend ordered it and I tried one. It was okay as far as takoyaki goes, but I couldn’t find much tako (octopus) in the fritter so mostly a mouthful of goo isn’t my idea of deliciousness no matter how you look at it.
Chicken Kara-age ($5/10pc) on the other hand was the BEST fried chicken I’ve had in a long time. Each piece is perfectly crispy on the outside while retaining its moisture on the inside. I would order this with a bowl of rice if I wasn’t craving noodles every time I’ve come here, but it’s a great dish to order for the table. The Gardena store offers mayo as a dipping sauce along with the chicken but here, there is none.
It’s about time a decent ramen spot joins Santouka in OC. Let’s hope more establishments decide to come on down and follow suit this year! They just have to work on the inconsistent service and way they serve things up from location to location.
1175 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626