Thursday, March 26, 2009

Revising the Best Noodle Question @ Ichimian Bamboo Garden (Torrance)

Last night, I get a chance to meet my hero, Eat Drink & Be Merry at a social function hosted by our man Teenage Glutster. For some time, I have been using his "other" noodle site for reference guide in my noodle adventures. For an unforeseen turnabout, ED&BM decided to ask me what was the best noodle I had recently and where at.

I fluffed and gave him an answer of Monterey Park's Daikokuya. The ramen-ya was actually very good and much better than Little Tokyo's branch, but the best noodle I had recently belongs to the cold soba from Ichimian Bamboo Garden.

Last month, a group of us decided to do a whirl wind tour of Japanese eateries around South Bay areas in Los Angeles County (ie Torrance, Gardena, Redondo Beach, etc.) hosted by Burumun of Gourmet Pigs. Members of this illustrious group also included Choisauce from Folie à Choisauce, Aaron from Food Destination, Kung Food Panda, Mattatouille, RumDood, and Teenage Glutster.

After a brief stop for an Okonomiyaki meal and pastry place, we decided to make soba as our noodle dining stop before ending the trip with an Izakaya meal. Yes, I can feel a heated question coming up about our soba destination choice.

Tea Station

Why or better yet, how come come we chose to come here instead of Otafuku for soba? To make a short answer, we tried to go to Otafuku on Saturday afternoon for lunch, but we didn't check ahead of time so that we may discovered that Otafuku does not open for lunch on Saturday. Yikes!

Another respected foodie blogger, Exile Kiss had mentioned about this tiny shop that have also hand made their noodle every day. This tiny delightful little shop only opens for four and a half hours every day (Monday-Friday at 11am - 3:30pm) or until they ran out of noodles. They are open on Saturday (11am-5pm) and closed on Sunday.

Ichimian (translation to Bamboo Garden in Japanese) specialized in these hand made noodle that are made from Buckwheat mixed with certain types of flour. The little noodle house is part of the franchise owned by the famed Ichimi Group who is trying to usher in soba as the new healthier product and market soba as the best Japanese fast food choice (as oppose to Yoshinoya?).

Soba can be offer in two ways: cold served with chilled dipping sauce or hot in a soup. The most popular option for cold soba to be served on was on top of a zuru plate (bamboo sieve-like tray) and provided with a tsuyu dipping sauce that closely resembled a sweetened soy sauce. To fully enjoy soba, it was often suggested you dipped it in the tsuyu sauce, swish it like you would in a shabu shabu, twirl the soba noodle like a yarn, and enjoy it cold as it was meant to be.

Uchiatate Zuru Cold Soba - $5.90

The soba noodle was firm, chewy, and elicited strong rich flavor when you dipped into the tsuyu sauce. The aforementioned sauce contains dash of dashi, mirin, and sweetened soy sauce. The tray also included fresh green onions and wasabi to enhance the flavor profile of the sauce. One big advantage to this cold noodle was that even if it was served cold, the noodle was not stiff like it was al dente style cooking. That was quite pleasing to me when the noodle was tender.

I decided to share and get the cold soba noodle with tororo on top. It resembles a soft puree made of Japanese Yam with a dash of seaweed. The soba noodle is already in its bowl of soup with a big spoon for your scooping needs.

At the end of the meal, if you still have left over tsuyu sauce, you can go to the tea station and add in hot or cold tea to the leftover sauce for your drinking consumption. That was actually not bad and a refreshing drink to boot.

Tororo Cold Noodle - $6.90

One of the interesting segment was that our entire group almost unanimously picked cold light colored enriched soba as the choice. Mattatouille decided to go against the grain and went with a hot soba instead. I think he chose the Tanuki, where the soba was accompanied with deep fried tofu. Not quite sure if that was it, but you can see that below along with a bowl of Negitoro Rice ordered by Choisauce.

Hot Soba Bowl

Negitoro Rice - $3.55

Here's the answer to the question most people will want to know. How is this place compared to the other handmade soba place in town, Otafuku? Since, the Panda and I had soba from both places on the same day, I would say my answer is that I preferred Ichimian's soba noodle over Otakfuku.

I thought the texture of the soba at Ichimian was much more firmer and had a better flavor profile. The flavor tasted less doughy comparing to Otafuku, but I think it was very small of a margin in that regards. This doesn't mean it ends the soba battle discussion, but for one night I did tasted a clear difference in which place has a better soba noodle.

If you are tired of ramen and Neu Ro Mein, the buckwheat soba from Ichimian can satisfy your craving needs for fresh and enriching appetite without being heavy. It in fact was trying to position itself as the prefer choice of best Japanese fast food. Good luck with that versus Yoshinoya.

So ED&BM, to withdraw the previous answer and inserting new one to the noodle question: this would be my place for the best recent noodle I have had.

Ichimian Bamboo Garden
1618 Cravens Ave
Torrance, CA 90501
(310) 328-1323


Ichimian Bamboo Garden on Urbanspoon

Ichimian Bamboo Garden in Los Angeles


mattatouille said...

yeah, this place was pretty good, except that it's so far and out of the way I wonder when I'll ever come back!

Anonymous said...

ooh i miss the chewy texture of those yummy soba noodles! (definitely prefer the texture of the cold vs. in hot soup). i look so happy and relaxed in that picture (probably still thinking about the previous stop at egaja bakery..haha) and matthew looks like hes picking his nose. hahaha

EatTravelEat said...

Beautiful presentations! It is interesting how they are only open for several hours and have a special tea station! I've never seen that before in a restaurant.

Right Way to Eat said...

Hi Mattatouille,

This is also very out of the way for me as well. I really wanted to come here more often, but they closed very early in weekdays and the weekend is hard for me to stop by as well. I wish they have a more flexible schedule.

Hey Choisauce,

Yeah, I prefer the cold over the hot soba as well. You do looked relax, I think Matthew was sneezing (I think). LOL

Hi EatTravelEat,

They are somewhat small of a diner with only 10 counter seats and three small tables in the inside. The tea station is very neat and all of their dishes are beautifully presented. I just wished they extend the hours a little bit longer.

rameniac said...

hah! i was hyping ichimi-an honten on chowhound before there ever was a rameniac. nobody paid much attention lol. it's all about the mentai-oroshi soba, oomori, with a chikuwa-ten on the side. the end. how's it going pepsi?

Right Way to Eat said...

Hey Rameniac,

I'm doing good! The soba you chose sounds good! I think Chowhound readers were not going to appreciate Ichimian back then because your suggestion way ahead of the time. Even with this review, I felt a lot of people will still overlook this place, which is too bad.

Any more great suggestions out there?