Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai

891 Baker Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714-557-2947
Critics' Pick
Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai

Jennifer Fedrizzi

Details

  • $
  • Kid Friendly, Takeout
  • Reservations Accepted
Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai is a Japanese restaurant in Costa Mesa. It makes great noodles, perhaps the best of the entire bunch. The strands here are particularly bungie-like and elastic, with an imperfect crinkle that’s wide in parts, flat in others, curly throughout—and sort of bloated if you compare it to the noodles at Santoka, Yamadaya, et al. It’s that way because Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai—partly named for the small town from whence it came—makes its noodles with a lot more water than usual. The resulting product possesses a considerable chewiness with a line weight just a few degrees below udon and a textural similarity to Chinese hand-pulled noodle. Another distinctive feature of the bowls from this area is the broth, which is clear, not milky. When you sip Ban Nai’s soup, it will be light—virtually spring water when compared to the rich oily sludge of the Hakata-style broths popular around these parts. This isn’t to say it’s not flavorful. It is. But you don’t drink your sustenance here; you eat it in the form of those noodles and the thick roasted pork belly slices of toro chashu layered on top. This meltingly tender pork belly is another trademark of ramen of Kitakata style. Ban Nai adorns all the bowls with the toro chashu in near perfect squares. In its most expensive option, the chefs carpet the entire surface of the soup so completely with pig, it blots out everything else beneath.
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