Eat This Now: Karaage Don at Menya Keishi
Yes, this is considered a "side" dish.
It sounds counterintuitive to recommend a rice bowl at a ramen shop, but here goes: the karaage don at the new Menya Keishi in Costa Mesa is what you should order, not the ramen.
Menya Keishi, if you didn't already know, is actually the chicken-broth offshoot of Hakata Ikkousha, which pours hearty bowls of pork-based ramen across the street. Don't get me wrong: I've tried the chicken ramen at Menya. It's not bad. But let me put it this way: if I want a BLT, I wouldn't go out of my way to find a place that does it with turkey bacon, you know?
Menya's chicken karaage don is another matter. First, it's a bargain since the cooks in the back pile a massive portion of chicken on top of that teetering bowl for the current price of $4. If you can believe it, the thing is considered a ramen "side" dish. But most important of all is that the morsels are also shellacked—nay—soaked in a tasty, sticky, salty-sweet sauce yet still somehow crackle with crispness when I bit into them. It's almost as counterintuitive as my recommendation to try them over the ramen in this ramen shop.
Menya Keishi, 675 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 754-1844
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