Benten Ramen - San Sabriel
Thanks to TonyC for the heads up..went for a late lunch...owner said they were almost out of broth!
What we got:
1. Tonkotsu Ramen
Had both the red and green tea.
#1 was abit too heavy for me but the missus likes it.
#2 was excellent..abit too salty but works with the side of rice.
Red tea > green tea.
Excellent change from Ton Chan is my 0.02.
Grand opening in 2~ 3 weeks.
I'm mostly looking at two things, the noodles, and the soup. Judging by your photo, it looks like the thin hosomen style of noodle. Did you ask for katamen (hard noodles), and if so, were the noodles cooked properly? Ideally they should have a snap to them when you bite. Do they taste better than the noodles at the other places? Do they have a flour-y consistency? (Ippudo NY's noodles tasted great, but the flour-y consistency was a little unpleasant.)
And the soup, is it a cleaner style of tonkotsu, like Men Oh, or funkier, like Horon or Ippudo? I would also consider the tonkotsu at Men Oh and Yamadaya (Torrance) rich, at least for LA ramenya. Your reply suggests you don't feel the same.
You can get a much bigger piece of pork belly at Yamadaya, so that alone doesn't do anything to convince me Benten's tonkotsu is better. Whether or not the pork belly is fresh is more important. Yamadaya doesn't make theirs every day, so sometimes you get a piece that's dry because it's been sitting around a couple days.
Actually, there is one more thing, the egg. Was the yolk hard or runny, or kinda in between?
the egg in the spicy miso ramen was hard boiled and pre-sliced.
the egg served with the tsukemen was...amazing! soft boiled, fully cooked white with runny yolk, injected with flavor (tasted like soy to me). see other's posted photo below.
the chunky pork that came with tsukemen was not your typical chashu, pretty lean actually. and the pork in the miso bowl was more like thin slices of pork belly.
I just realized we were there at the same time!
I asked if they are related to the benten chain in japan, and the waiter said no. So I think they may be doing the "chinese thing" and borrowing the name to open in socal, which would work assuming the real one never comes over.
Only got to try the tsukemen. I have not eaten enough tsukement to say I know what it should taste like, but the meal was very enjoyable, and like you said, the rice helped out a lot. I also really liked the flavor injected egg. Though i probably should have tried to actually taste it instead of stuffing it down.
The sides for the tsukemen were interesting, i wasn't sure exactly how to eat the sides, so i ate 1/2 of the noodles normally, then proceeded to add the sides one at a time. Overall the tsukemen was a lot more filling than I thought.
Got their mint yuzu drink, it was like a no-fizz virgin mojito, too light on the yuzu imo. Will try the honey citrus drink next time.
Also will be back to try their ramen. Thanks tonyc for the info!
actually the side condiments are different depending on the type of ramen ordered. for the tsukemen, they are nori bits soaked in soy, bonito powder, chili paste. for the spicy miso, same except for miso sauce instead of bonito.
i too ate all of the rice, which at 1st seemed weird to be served with ramen, but i discovered how tasty it was with a little tsukemen broth.
i'm looking forward to going back soon to try the shoyu and tonkotsu ramen.
"I asked if they are related to the benten chain in japan, and the waiter said no"
well SHIT they made a liar out of me. the signage is verbatim, and then logo is even a riff on the japanese og shop.
thanks for reading/taking one for the team blimpbinge/dreamcast. question: what was the tsukemen noodle's temperature upon service?
I went again today and they ran out of tsukemen (the noodles?), they said since last night? He also said they won't have it again til tuesday. They also ran out of the citrus honey drink.. well actually they have not had it since thursday and I don't know when they'll ever have it.
Had to "settle" for tonkotsu and spicy miso.
Speaking of which, tonkotsu is somewhat oily with a decent amount of flavor, but I wasn't able to really test it because I was just trying some of my bro's bowl. From just a sip, i'd say it's closer to shin sen gumi and yukino-ya's level, than tsujita or santoukas level
Spicy miso, combined with the temperature of the broth/noodles, made it impossible to actually taste anything. I wouldn't order spicy miso again, it's just covered in spicy oil.
we were visiting the sgv and had a chance to try out Benten. it was thanx to this thread that i even knew about this place. :> quick thoughts:
i confirmed w/ the staff that this Benten Ramen has absolutely nothing to do with the Benten in Japan. (darn)
their Tsukemen was a bit straightforward and basic. it had a solid pork and shoyu taste to it, but it lacked the magic of something like Tsujita (Sawtelle) or a few places i tried in Japan. also, this one was tonkotsu and torigara based w/ no seafood in the base. it was also surprisingly spicy, which overpowered the senses a bit.
the egg was soft boiled but really soft boiled (and injected with a secret sauce according to the waiter). it wasn't as creamy as an ideal hanjuku tamago. the noodles were thick and chewy and seemed Ok.
the most disappointing thing was the chashu, though. Their chashu was chalky! :< and it tasted like it was sitting in the fridge for a week (really gross).
i'd go back if i had a hankering for some tsukemen and was in the sgv, but it's nothing i'd see myself going out of my way for. still i was glad to try it out, thanx. :>
Thanks cs1999 (and others) for the reports (and TonyC for the original tip). Do you think they were operating under less than ideal conditions and that affected the food? Would you try it again after things have settled down? Kotoya took a while to get its footing. Hayatemaru WLA didn't have as much growing pains but it was their second location so they probably had lessons learned from their Torrance location.
oh no doubt. i'm sure they still have growing pains as they are brand-new. but it's kinda sad that in making that first impression, they flubbed the chashu so badly. but yah i'd go back and try again, but i don't think i'd be in a hurry to drive all the way to the sgv just to try it a 2nd time. if i'm in the area, sure. :>
Had the tonkotsu and tsukemen.
In the grand scheme of ramen joints in the SGV I welcome it. Too long have we had to deal with either Aji-sans or Chinese pork bone soup as a sub for true tonkotsu broth.
In the context of LA, I'll still make the drive to the west side for ramen.
Tonkotsu broth was decent not great. Noodles had a lack of bite and were maybe a tad overcooked. The chasu seemed more like an afterthought or perhaps a byproduct of the stock itself, lacking the marinated flavors that other joints have.
Tsukemen broth was decent as well and improved when I added the nori sheets as well as all the condiments (ground bonito, soy marinated nori, spicy chile paste). The noodles were really good though. Chasu was slightly fattier than the one included with the tonkotsu. Compared to Tsujita there's a lack of the rich seafood-y umami flavor. Frankly nothing has yet to compare to Tsujita's tsukemen IMO, but I'm happy to at least see this style being served by others.
Soft boiled egg spooked me because the injected sauce made the yolk darker to the point where I did a double take and smell test to make sure it wasn't a rotten egg.
The bowl of rice is a very odd side and doesn't make sense to me, however I did have some remaining egg and chasu and ended up scarfing the whole bowl.
My first trip to Benten. I used to regularly visit Tonchan, so was happy to see its demise rejuvenated by this new place.
When I went in for lunch, the place was quite full - much fuller than I had ever seen Tonchan. It remained quite full till I left around 1pm.
I had the red roiboos tea and the spicy miso ramen. I am not a rameniac, so cannot discuss the fine points of the chashu or eggs, or noodles, or the broth, except to say that I liked the spicy broth very much.
It came with microscopic amounts of three artfully presented sides, in decreasing order of amount - a yellow miso paste, what seemed to me like pickled nori, and a hot sauce - the last was practically the amount that could be fit on a pinhead!
My spicy ramen did not need any of these flavor enhancers. Next time when I try the other two ramens or the tsukemen, I will have to ask for larger amounts of these sides.
One interesting note: they provide a disposable bib at all tables. It came in handy to protect my white linen shirt!
I will have to go back to sample their other 3 ramens.
Today was my third visit to Benten. I have now had their spicy miso ramen twice, and love it.
However, today for variety I tried their shoyu ramen - and for my novice ramen taste buds, it was not as enjoyable as the spicy miso ramen. Yet to try the tonkotsu ramen or tsukemen.
The place has been fully occupied - and at 1:30pm when I left, there were people waiting with their names on the list. This is a far cry from when it was Ton Chan Ramen. I hope the place gets continued patronage from SG Valley.
One of the men working in the kitchen has come out on both my subsequent visits to thank me for coming back. The other gent came out and chatted with 2 Asian customers at another table. A little customer service goes a long way in building loyalty. That is also different than my experience with Ton Chan.
They have installed a badly needed floor fan - the place has no a/c and on hot days like now, it can be a bit too uncomfortable.
Now if only the parking in this mini-mall was better - even with the redesign of the center lots, it is difficult to find parking, except on Wednesdays when Golden Deli is closed.
After many visits, today I was the only diner from 11:30 - little after 12 noon. On previous visits, the place was crowded, with almost all tables full. Slowly the density has decreased. I wonder if it is headed the way Tonchan was.
Anyone else notice the drop-off in business, or was today an exception?