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Ramen Zetton. Serious New Contender in OC

My friend had mentioned it before but once it was confirmed by Professor Salt, I had to go.

With the slow and steady decline of Yamadaya and a pretty mediocre bowl at Santouka just 2 days prior, this instantly became my new local favorite.

They had shio and shoyu made with pork and chicken, tsukemen, and tan tan mien.

I opted for pork shio and tsukemen.

Pork shio was good. Sounds silly but the broth was a bit too salty for me. Noodles were thick like the ones Yamadaya uses for their tsukemen. Stayed chewy until the end. Chasu was nicely flavored but just a touch dry. Will try the chicken and pork shoyu soon to compare. Wish the egg was a touch more runny but Yamadaya's is fully cooked now so it's still an upgrade.

Tsukemen. Excellent. They offer it warm or cold. I picked cold and the waitress also recommended cold. Blew away Yamadaya's version that I had on Monday. Noodles have dark flecks in them and I'm not sure what they are made from. Nice and chewy. Chasu was pan seared and actually more tender than the chasu in the pork shio. The dipping broth was delicious. Complex, touch of seafood brininess, ginger, etc. Really good. I'm not sure it's thicker and more concentrated than the regular pork shoyu. Seemed about the same concentration and saltiness as the regular ramen. At any rate, lots of flavor and complexity. My new go to spot for tsukemen in OC.

With Ramen Zeppon, I think I've had my last bowl of ramen at Yamadaya OC.

Cash only.

 
 
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  1. Dark flecks, sounds like maybe some buckwheat flour mixed in? Hayatemaru's tsukemen noodles had similar flecks and slight grit. Maybe next time I go in I'll ask if its buckwheat.

    4 Replies
    1. re: PeterCC

      Also considered buckwheat but the noodle was smooth, no grit. Very nice to see some individuality and specialization.

      1. re: PeterCC

        I've seen a traditional ramen noodle making technique where ashened cherry wood is soaked in water and that water is then mixed with the flour to produce the dough for the noodle. I assume the ash water lowers the pH (?).

        1. re: Xan7hos

          I would think raise the pH.

          1. re: jaykayen

            More alkaline means a higher pH.

      2. Round 2 today.

        -Pork Shoyu. Very good. Not as salty as the shio but still a bit too salty for me. Will have to try ask ask for light salt next time.

        -Chicken Shio. Rich stuff. Pretty much the same richness as the pork. Again, a touch too salty for me.

        -Tsukemen. Again outstanding. The broth is very different from the pork shoyu. Complex, great fish brininess. Wish I could get a bowl of regular ramen with this broth. I asked about the noodles and they said it was made with tapioca. Don't think I've ever had tapioca ramen.

        Eggs were better today. Custardy and liquid center.

        Definitely my favorite OC ramen for now.

        I did just get a lead on a place called Meiji Seimen that supposedly does good udon and ramen just down the street. Will look into that later this week.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Porthos

          Tried Meiji Seimen tonight. I prefer Ramen Zetton by a comfortable margin.

        2. they serve hainan chicken???!!!

          5 Replies
          1. re: dreamcast18

            I know right? Haven't tried it yet. Maybe today. Very curious.

            1. re: Porthos

              The hainan chicken picture on yelp looks wonky.

              I tried their tantanmen ramen a while back, it was a decent attempt but I'd never want it again. Maybe I'll go back and check out their chicken ramen, or a tonkotsu.

              Right now I'm liking Jinya and Iroha best.

              1. re: BrewNChow

                If you go back, do the tsukemen.

                Otherwise ask for the other ones less salt.

                1. re: BrewNChow

                  Took one for the team and tried the "hainan chicken". Chicken is actually very tender and flavorful. Topped with a mound of scallions, ginger, sesame seeds, and shoyu. The rice doesn't have chicken broth flavor. Pretty tasty if you just view it as a chicken bowl.

                  1. re: Porthos

                    good to know..thanks!

            2. "too salty" is a very common review theme on yelp btw.

              Where is this place on Baker?

              1 Reply
              1. re: ns1

                Next to Ikko. Just behind/before Mesa.

              2. Glad you liked it. It's definitely quirky, both in the manga-inspired identity of the little mascot, as well as in the food.

                I've been a handful of times, and tried to get something different each time. I liked most of them, except for the allegedly spicy miso made with habanero or something. It's spicy in the Japanese sense of heat, which is to say it isn't spicy at all. I'd bypass that one, and keep working through the menu.

                12 Replies
                1. re: Professor Salt

                  Stupid question:

                  But is there any vegetarian ramen places around town ? la included too.

                  1. re: kevin

                    Jinya has a vegetarian ramen, at least the Costa Mesa location does.

                    1. re: Professor Salt

                      YMMV but I disliked that ramen. Very boring.

                      1. re: BrewNChow

                        I'm not vegetarian, so I personally wouldn't order the veg ramen over the pork or chicken broth.

                        Thanks for taking one for the team and reporting back.

                    2. re: kevin

                      Unless I'm dreaming, I think that Porthos said that Ramen Zetton has vegetarian ramen. Correct?

                      1. re: josephnl

                        I don't know if he did.

                        Porthos, where you at ??????

                        1. re: josephnl

                          Yes. They have a vegetarian option.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            Yes, I can also verify they have a vegetarian option. Been back a few times and although the noodles aren't my preference otherwise it's a stellar spot, and the chewier noodles really are a preference, nothing wrong with them per se. Tsukemen is a great order there so thanks to Porthos for the suggestion, although I always seem to make a huge mess eating it :)

                            Santouka and Ramon zetton are my tops still in OC, just depends on what vibe I'm looking for, if I have cash or not, and if I want a beer and a game of pool after at the oddly addicting dive bar down from Ramen zetton.

                            Yamadaya's pork is inedible on the other hand and officially off my list which is unfortunate since their tonkotsu broth is absolutely spot on.

                            1. re: PHXeater

                              What's the name of the dive bar ?

                              Thanks for the verification on the vegetarian option.

                              1. re: kevin

                                Oh, right, that's the most important part. The Huddle, has that delightful dive bar feel where everyone ignores you and nobody is caught dead dressing up, it's so nice to escape the Newport scene once in awhile...

                                1. re: PHXeater

                                  I do hate that they open at 6:30 for dinner. I like to get ramen a lot on my way home in the evenings, so small complaint, but relevant for any early birds like myself. Nothing more frustrating than having no cash so Santouka is out yet Zetton isn't open yet...the horror of my life sometimes.

                                  1. re: PHXeater

                                    I'll check out the huddle.

                                    Of course sometimes and usually the drinking is more important than the eating.

                      2. Back again today for lunch and ordered pork shoyu with less sodium. This was perfect. I was finally able to finish the broth which was so unique and complex. Rich without being as heavy as Yamadaya. Simply delicious. Easily #1 OC ramen for me and right up there with Tsujita (except the egg).

                        1. Wow. What a difference 1 month makes. Today it's packed at 1pm with a wait list. The pork shoyu today (ordered less salty) again hit the spot. Egg though not runny is soft and custardy in the middle. For me, this is top dog in the OC. I should stop talking about this place so much or risk winding up on the wrong side of a 1 hour wait.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Porthos

                            Better than it going out of business. Ramen shops have not been faring well http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/909182 http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/896498

                            1. re: BrewNChow

                              Wholeheartedly agree. Always nice to see a good product do well.

                          2. Okay last update on the place or I'll talk myself out of a seat.

                            They just expanded their menu by at least 300%. There are a bunch of new appetizers including buta kakuni, new rice dishes like bibimbap, chazuke, soboro bowl, etc.

                            Got the special chicken shoyu broth with less salt, kakuni, and fried rice. Kakuni isn't the "meltingly tender" kind. It's more firm but still tender and comes with a glaze reminiscent of shanghai red braised pork. I actually prefer it a little more firm and toothsome.

                            Fried rice is straight forward but tasty and less oily than the Yamadaya version. Broth on the special chicken shoyu is again perfect after ordering it less salty.

                            Looking forward to trying the chazuke.

                             
                             
                             
                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Porthos

                              what's kakuni ?

                              do they have anyting seafood only or veggie only if i happen to bring someone else ?

                              thanks.

                              1. re: kevin

                                braised pork belly.

                                1. re: kevin

                                  They do have a veggie only ramen.

                              2. Update and over 10 bowls later. The salt content in the broth is dialed back and now perfect. No need to order with less sodium anymore. Egg has improved vastly and is now liquid custard in the middle.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Porthos

                                  Thanks for the updates on your Zetton marathon.

                                2. Did a beach run in the OC and was able to pay a visit. Ordered the Pork Shoyu ramen and am glad to say that it's solid. It might not be as refined/sophisticated as Tsujita's tonkotsu or tsukemen, but it hits all the marks as to what solid ramen ought to be. First of all I made the cardinal sin of not sipping slowly. In my eagerness my eyes neglected the slick of fat and slurped the lava temperature broth. Delicious however definitely near the 160+F mark, which made me realize I have never had a ramen broth this hot in life (or perhaps I've never had a ramen with so much hot fat on top of the broth). This of course, is a great thing. The noodles were a good thickness and cooked very al dente, it was very toothsome with a slight bite and crunch. Maybe a bit too al dente for my taste, but it does justice to how ramen ought to be. Chashu slices were solid as well; tender but not mushy, good fat to meat ratio, and I think most importantly, not overly salted; marinated and cooked properly.

                                  Overall I found the broth to be delicious, the flavors were homogenized in the sense where everything was in balance...yet no one ingredient really stood out. For comparison, @ Tsujita you're able to taste the naunces of the seafood flavor and the deep, rich porkiness of the broth. Here, you just taste a delicious umami-bomb where no one ingredient really shines, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

                                  Definitely ranks high on my favorite ramen joints, and while I can't say it's better than Santouka at the moment, it's certainly a good compliment and is making the OC ramen scene that much better. Plus you can't argue $7.75. I would have appreciated a little bit more ramen to go with my broth, but then again I'm sure you can ask for a refill for a couple bucks.

                                  13 Replies
                                  1. re: Xan7hos

                                    Glad you liked the place. Did you get the pork shoyu or the special pork shoyu? There is an option to get the special for the pork shoyu, pork shio, chicken shoyu, and chicken shio. The difference is more bonito bits which gives it that fishy, saline deliciousness you may be looking for. If you go back, give the tsukemen a try and one of the broths laced with extra bonito bits.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      Ordered straight from their new menu. #6 Pork Shoyu, no special requests. Thanks for the recommendations I'll definitely try it...I know @ Benton Ramen in SG I wasn't really digging their tsukemen until I mixed in all the condiments, in particular the bonito powder(?) added that extra umami kick that made it decent.

                                      1. re: Xan7hos

                                        The version with more bonito is right under the version without on the menu.

                                        The tsukemen broth already has a nice bonito flavor to it. They will ask you if you want it cold or warm which is confusing. They are referring to the noodle. The broth always comes hot. I recommend the cold noodles. The chasu for the tsukemen is grilled which is a nice touch and I think also makes the chasu more tender.

                                      2. re: Porthos

                                        Throwing caution to the wind with katsuo-like ingredients in the broth is what seems to set Japan's ramen houses apart from LA right now. Witnessing the finishing of the broth a couple times last year made my jaw drop when I saw how much katsuo was being filtered out of the broth and going into the waste bin.

                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                          That extra fishiness is what makes me a big fan of the broth here.

                                          1. re: Porthos

                                            I'm a fan of that as well http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/880745

                                            I gotta get there soon. It's high on the list. Soon.

                                            1. re: BrewNChow

                                              OK I went there. Thanks for making me go back, without your rec I'd have probably left it alone after trying their tantanmen, and judging a ramen shop by a tantanmen within weeks of the shop opening hardly seems fair.

                                              I also thought the noodles were the weak point, but not because they were too hard. The chasu is awesome, glad I got extra.

                                              I got the Porthos special, special shoyu pork ramen. I liked the fishiness of the special broth and might even add more next time. Salt content was fine.

                                              Overall it's a solid bowl but not something I'd describe as eminently flavorful or addictive. I'll go back and try the special chicken ramen next time but unless that wows me, I'll still put Zetton below Iroha. Comparisons to Tsujita were, IMO, rather extreme.

                                              But it's a very solid bowl of ramen all around and the chasu is fantastic.

                                              1. re: BrewNChow

                                                Try the tsukemen.

                                                The special chicken shoyu isn't too different from the pork version. I usually get the chicken because it seems less fatty and I get to drink all the broth with less guilt.

                                                1. re: BrewNChow

                                                  Just polished off another bowl of special chicken shoyu and hainan chicken plate. Can't find any fault with the noodles or broth :-)

                                                  What would you recommend at Iroha? Since you gave Zetton another go I'm game to try Iroha. Any recs? Preferably not tonkotsu based (too rich and cloying these days for me). Do I have to order noodles extra thick and more chewy like at Jinya?

                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    Noodles are very thick at Iroha. They only have three soups and I like the black the best, but it's a close race. Red = white+chili sauce. They have chili sauce at the register.

                                                  2. re: BrewNChow

                                                    So this is why the ramen here reminds me of the ramen at Tsujita. It's because the Tsukemen at Tsujita and the ramen at Zetton are both supplied by Sun Noodle. Noticed the clippings at Zetton this weekend advertising the use of Sun Noodles coupled with the report from a friend that a guy just dropped off a box of Sun Noodles at Tsujita while he was there. The tsukemen noodles at Annex are thicker in caliber but chew and taste is the same as the ramen at Zetton. Looks like comparisons to Tsujita weren't extreme after all but spot on :-)

                                                    http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/...

                                                    1. re: Porthos

                                                      I haven't been to Zetton yet, so I can't say whether they remind me of Tsujita or not, but keep in mind that Sun Noodle has dozens of noodle recipes, with very specific ingredients and ratios, for different customers. So the noodles they make for one restaurant may or may not resemble the noodles they make for another.

                                                      More on Sun Noodles:

                                                      http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/09/be...

                                                      http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/09/ra...

                                                      1. re: TheOffalo

                                                        Yes, from the link that I provided:

                                                        "the factory makes 160 kinds, to customers' exacting specifications — 31/2 tons a day, or enough for 30,000 servings"

                                        2. Went last night after starting a weekly ramen night and really enjoyed it. Pork shoyu with egg was ordered along with chicken shio. Pork and broth were spot on but noodles were too thick and chewy for me personally - not sure if that was their standard or just an off night. No saltiness issues for me although I always prefer stonger flavors.

                                          Will need to make it back to Santouka next week since that was first in the lineup and it's been awhile. Santouka and Zetton are definitely my top two so far in the hunt.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: PHXeater

                                            I had a similar experience where their noodles were definitely the "hardest" ramen noodles I've had...it was swaying closer from chewy to crunchy territory, so I'm assuming this is how it's meant to be (given that all legitimate ramen shops have a set timer as an essential kitchen tool to get consistent cooking). I imagine another 15-30 seconds of cooking would have produced the ideal consistency for my tastes.

                                            1. re: Xan7hos

                                              Whoa whoa whoa! Love the thickness and the chewiness of those noodles. Definitely perfect and no need for any more seconds of cook time. Definitely intentional. Otherwise it would end up soggy and soft by the last slurp. Totally spot on for my tastes :-)

                                            2. re: PHXeater

                                              Have you tried Iroha? Their black and white ramens are both excellent.

                                              1. re: BrewNChow

                                                Iroha is actually on my list, either next week or after I revisit Santouka.

                                                Porthos, as far as the noodles...not saying they're wrong, just that it wasnt my preference :). I plan to go back and try the tsukemen quickly though. After moving from Phoenx (land of mediocre ramen) I'm so thrilled with even having good shio and shoyu that I've been sticking to that for my very unofficial ramen comparisons.

                                            3. Update. Special chicken shoyu (#4). Perfect bowl today in every way: broth, egg, chasu, noodles.

                                               
                                              1. Paging Porthos! What's going on at Ramen Zetton? Tried going just now and they were closed. There's a sign out saying they're closed Wednesday's for the month of November (which I found out last time I tried to go), but today's Thursday! Consoling myself with trying Ikko finally..not a bad compromise :)

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: PHXeater

                                                  Dunno. I got busted on a Wednesday also. I think it opens at 6pm so you may have been early or the guy was a bit late?

                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    Yup, crisis averted, just opened late. What's with these both Ramen Zetton and Ikko not opening until 6 (or apparently later)?

                                                    Disappointed not to be able to try it again but Ikko even at 5x the price was a pretty great deal and pretty nice spontaneous Thursday night! Soon I WILL make it back to Ramen Zetton.

                                                    1. re: PHXeater

                                                      Give the special chicken shoyu and/or tsukemen a try. Get the tsukemen "cold". The broth still comes hot. It's confusing when they ask if you want it cold or warm.