Monday, August 10, 2009

Ramen California (Torrance)

There has been much hype about this little ramen shop in the Torrance Crossroads Plaza. My friend Shazia and I decided to try it out to see, firsthand, if it lived up to its glorious-ness. For fun, I also brought my brother because three dishes is always better than two.

Ramen California boasts an all-organic, all local fare. Their menu tells us that they visit the Torrance farmer's market twice a week for their groceries, which is pretty admirable.

Unfortunately, there were only a handful of different ramen dishes to choose from, as all the fancy small dishes and appetizers were only served during dinner (lobster ravioli, Parmesan bread sticks, etc.). However, I was a little confused as to why a ramen place would serve un-ramen like things...Granted, it is a California "fusion" restaurant...but still. The decor was what you imagined a "California" bougie place to look like: ambient lights, large windows, and wood furniture.

Anyway, each ramen comes in three sizes: a small (which I think only a child could eat and be full: 15 ounce), a regular (20 ounce), and a large (40 ounce). When our waitress showed us the bowls ("A small is really really small. Maybe you should look at the bowl sizes..."), a regular looked like it'd be perfect. However, after a few minutes of finishing, we were still pretty hungry.

We started off with a fresh salad of spinach, garnished with a little flower. The flower was a nice touch and the salad quite refreshing. I did wish they put just a liiiiitttle more salad dressing as I could barely taste it after a few bites. From what I could discern, though, it was a subtly sweet vinaigrette--always welcome.

My brother, Tim, decided to get the restaurant's signature dish, the "Californian." The menu boasted that this dish had more than twenty different "garden fresh" vegetables, no doubt all from the Farmer's market nearby.

Apperance-wise, it looked to be a bounty of vegetables. Each vegetable tasted great, carefully cooked before being placed on a giant spoon on top of the ramen.

I loved the way that the beets and and cauliflower pop out and stain the broth.
Shazia chose the heirloom tomato ramen. The menu described this dish as topped with a "tomato salsa" although it was less salsa and more...tomato. What I mean is, they were whole tomatoes, which actually may be better. The tomatoes were cooked really well, with a hint of spice.

Shazia with her salad and Heirloom tomato ramen.
As for me, I got the Grilled Chicken ramen, supposedly sprinkled with garden vegetables (at least that's what the menu said).

And by vegetables, they really mean mint and spinach.

All ramen dishes have the option of adding chicken for a few dollars more, and I would really recommend it if you're a meat-lover (as this is the only meat least during lunch). The chicken was quite tender and flavorful but I really wish there was more chicken in my ramen.

All three dishes used the same broth and noodles. Although the noodles were quite good (cooked al dente), the soup left MUCH to be desired. I will be honest and admit that I was expecting a tonkotsu (pork) broth instead of a chicken broth. The chicken broth, when tasted by itself, was a bit jarring as it really just tasted like chicken noodle soup...but with ramen. In addition, the more I ate, the saltier the broth tasted until it was almost like I was just eating salt with hot water.

I will give Ramen California props for being innovative (they had a "Masala" ramen, topped with curry, and Reggiano Cheese Tofu ramen, made in house) and for using locally grown vegetables. Overall, it was an OK experience. Next time I have a hankering for ramen though, I'll just pop over to Hakata Ramen over in Gardena. However, if I do go to Ramen California again, I'd go during dinner time to sample the different innovative dishes.

Ramen California
24231 Crenshaw Blvd. #C
Torrance, CA 90505
(310) 530-2749

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