Ramen: It’s a touchy subject in Orange County. With a surplus of places to choose from, it’s no wonder that so many places can have such diehard fans (but seriously guys, shut the fuck up about Shin Sen Gumi, you’re wrong). As I’ve said before, most great food finds usually occur in the tiniest, most unexpected places. Adhering to this mantra, Kairakutei Noodle House doesn’t disappoint on the great, tiny, and random fronts.
Kairakutei is cozy as hell, with only about 16 seats awaiting you past the cave-like entrance. It has a mom & pop out-in-the-boonies-of-Japan feel to it, like you’ve been transported to the middle of a Kurosawa film, rounded out by soft lighting and some requisite Japanese accents. One lone obachan runs the dining area, simultaneously seating customers, filling cups of complimentary tea, taking orders, and serving food. The menu is beautifully simple: The main focus is on ramen of course, but a bevy of tantalizing side dishes are there to tempt you as well. Despite the melting heat, I’m in the mood for something spicy, so I order the Tonkotsu Miso Ramen. I also order the Pork Kimchi Bowl…because I saw the word “Pork.”
The noodles in the ramen are real ramen noodles, freshly made and hand-pulled in-house, leaving them not too chewy or soft with an eggy aftertaste. These perfectly al dente waves swim in an unnaturally smooth ocean of sweet, salty, spicy, and porky broth topped with a helping of seaweed, green onions, beni shoga, and sesame seeds — plus half of a marinated hard-boiled egg, two slices of char siu, and a piece of nori. Grease is usually a turn-off for me with most ramen, but Kairakutei makes their broth almost grease-free, allowing me slurp down my broth after all is said and done. I move on to the Pork Kimchi Bowl which is gone in minutes since it has all my favorite ingredients: pork belly, rice, and something spicy. The rice was a bit hard, possibly old, but otherwise it’s a dish I could see myself having intimate relations with.
Since it’s family-owned, it does suffer from some of the problems that plague similar small businesses: Cash only, closed randomly (sometimes for days), occasionally slow service, patio that could accommodate a lot more people if they ever opened it up (no I’m not mad about it why do you ask?) and long wait times. It has, however, been in the same location for over 10 years, and if that doesn’t say something, the food certainly will. It may not be the best ramen in Orange County, but with the quality you get for the low prices they charge, Kairakutei has certainly earned my fandom.
Mile-High Club First-Class Business Economy
Check ’em out at:
Kairakutei Noodle House
17292 McFadden Avenue
Tustin, CA 92780
Mon, Wed-Fri 11:30 am – 2:30 pm
Mon, Wed-Sat 5:30 pm – 10 pm
Sat-Sun 11:30 am – 3 pm
Sun 5:30 pm – 9 pm