A couple of weeks back, to gather ingredients for the sea urchin pasta
, I trucked out to Mitsuwa Marketplace. When shopping for sea urchin, you don't want to mess around with second-rate product. And though it's a bit of a haul from downtown, Mitsuwa is the place to go. 'Sides which, I'd been looking for an excuse to give their food court a try since my first visit
a couple of months ago.
It actually takes up about a quarter of the store, housing six establishments if you count the sushi counter. Two of the stands... Mama House and Jockey Express... serve Korean and Chinese, respectively. But it seems silly to hit a Japanese market for Korean and Chinese. As for the Japanese stands, there's Daikichi Sushi, the aforementioned sushi counter, Otafuku-Tei for things like okonomi-yaki and curry, Kayaba for tempura and katsu, and the one strikes me as the cream of the crop, Santouka Ramen.
To be clear, it's a food court. There's a lot here that's underwhelming. But some items look pretty darn tasty, and one in particular was fabulous. My ladylove and I started off with a bit of sushi. Daikichi Sushi doubles as a food court stand and the grocery's takeout counter, and the selection is huge. Unfortunately, while inoffensive, it was fairly unexciting... a cut above supermarket sushi, but weak when judged by any other standard. From there, we moved on to a bit of Otafuku-Tei's katsudon, a panko-coated and deep-fried pork cutlet with rice and egg. I think I could have made a better choice. I observed some other folks with the plain tonkatsu and dipping sauce and it looked mighty fine, but the katsudon was somewhat underseasoned. So far, a decent lunch, but nothing to inspire a return trip. The ramen, however, changed all of that.
Ramen is not an area of expertise for me. In fact, despite the fact that I've been to Japan somewhere in the neighborhood of ten times, it's quite possible that I've never had a bowl of ramen there. But no matter how Santouka Ramen stacks up in the authenticity department, there's no denying that they make a damn tasty soup. And while I may or may not know ramen, I do
know my pork... but more on that in a moment. You can choose from salt ramen, shoyu ramen (flavored with soy sauce), miso ramen and hot miso ramen. Then you choose whether you want pork, which type, and what size bowl you'd like it in. I went with the toroniku shoyu ramen. There was absolutely no resisting the toroniku. I mean, how do you pass on something that's translated as "special pork"? The soup and noodles were great... salty, full-flavored, warm and comforting. But it was all
about the pork. I've devoted far too much time to railing against overly lean, tasteless American pork. I don't know where this pork came from, but it's exactly the sort of thing I'm always saying I can't get in the States. The soup comes with six or seven thick slices of the stewed pork, which is incredibly moist, tender and above all, laden with the kind of pork fat that melts away and fills your mouth with succulent richness. I always encourage people not to fear the fat, and this toroniku is an excellent object lesson. It doesn't achieve the giggleworthy levels of porky goodness I've had in Asia, but it's quite excellent and a wackyload closer.