Mitae Ramen is a small Japanese restaurant located at 750 Saint Clair Street, in Costa Mesa, Orange County, California. (For locals: this is just off Bristol Street, close to the big freeway triangle where the 55, 405, and 73 don't quite intersect.) The food is cheap, the servings generous, and the service pretty quick. The sushi is kind of mediocre --- it doesn't help that I've been spoiled by the excellent Hapi Sushi in Laguna Beach --- but then again, the place isn't called Mitae Sushi, now is it? No. Go to Mitae for noodles, and you will not be disappointed.
Those of you who know ramen only as the prepackaged just-add-water noodles available in most American supermarkets and the staple food of college students are in for a surprise. Real ramen involves a combination of noodles and broth, yes, but there's a lot more to that broth than salt and rehydrated soy sauce extract. It comes in a huge bowl (bigger than my head!) with vegetables and meat and miso, depending on what kind you order. If you care to pay a little more for additional (optional) toppings, there can be boiled egg, tofu, corn, butter, and wakame (seaweed), as well. I have tried the shoyu ramen and miso ramen at Mitae, and both were excellent for under $7.
The really excellent meals, however, are the combinations, which usually involve (duh) some combination of salad, an entree, fried or curry rice, gyoza, inari, and/or a small portion of California roll. Entrees include chicken teriyaki, beef teriyaki, yakisoba, ramen, and --- joy of joys, hiyashi soba. Ordering this combo meal will result in your receiving four pieces of California roll and an enormous plate of delicious cold soba noodles in the vinegary sauce of my dreams, topped with raw cucumber diced into matchsticks, strips of omelette, slices of that weirdly sweet red-edged meat that turns up in Japanese food from time to time1, and ringlets of green circled onions, with a healthy dollop of wasabi on the side to spice things up as much as you like. It's fantastic. You could add a bowl of miso soup if you absolutely need something warm, but I couldn't finish the entire plate last time I ordered this.
The most expensive item on the Mitae menu is a sushi special for $9.99. Other specials include vegetable and shrimp tempura, crunchy roll and/or California roll, or a halfsize order of shoyu ramen with crunchy roll (the latter is nice if you're looking for just a little bit of sushi). In addition to the hiyashi soba I praised so highly earlier, there are a few other cold dishes: chicken salad over cold noodles, tofu salad on cold noodles, and hiyashi chuka (chicken, tomato, cucumber, corn, and wakame) on cold noodles. All meals come with pickled cabbage and iced tea; Mitae also has a liquor license, so you can have sake or beer with your meal, if you so choose. Enjoy.
- After some discussion with gn0sis, I have decided that this substance is chaashuu, roast pork. Unfortunately there's not much on this tasty treat at the node of the same title, so I may be mistaken.2
- Update: sneff (whom I have never known to be anything but utterly right in matters of food) suggests "What you and gn0sis are referring to is char siu, or Chinese BBQ pork, the red comes from food colouring, most often Cochineal. Traditional recipes for this pork eschew the dye and hence are not lurid red. Yummy stuff."
- Finally: chaashuu and char siu are different names for the same thing, Chinese BBQ roast pork. Yay loanwords! Yay borrowing! And yay sneff and gn0sis for helping me figure it all out!