Our Irvine friend suggested that we try Shin-Sen-Gumi's Hakata Ramen, and so during a recent trip to Irvine we did! Shin-Sen-Gumi is easy to locate in this large strip mall thanks to its boldly colored signs. The colors actually represent "two" restaurants; one is dedicated to Hakata ramen (yellow) and the other to robata and yakitori (orange). Although there are two separate entrances and two separate rooms (connected by a small walkway), it is still possible to eat in either end of the restaurant and enjoy ramen.
We were seated in the robata and yakitori side of the restaurant since the other side was full. (Thankfully, we did not need to wait for an open table) It was exciting to sit here, as occasionally there would be chefs cooking fried rice or preparing other dishes.
Since my Irvine friend recommended the ramen, both my companion and I ordered ramen sets. At Shin-Sen-Gumi, they allow the customer to customize their ramen by adjusting the hardness/softness of the noodle, the strength of soup base, the oiliness of the broth, and the addition of various toppings (with an additional cost). More noodles can also be added for an additional cost.
Above is a half-size Hakata Ramen, part of the "L" set (1/2 size ramen, Takana fried rice, and salad for 7.50 USD). My companion requested for the hard noodles (since my Irvine friend recommended that), light soup base, less oil, and ginger and green onion (both are free toppings).
The chewy, thin, angel-hair like ramen was quite tasty with some extra shakes of sesame seed and some of the light, porky broth. The pork slices were lean, yet were tender and delicious. I would have preferred thicker slices of pork though; thin pork slices do not have that substantial chew that I like.
The salad provided a pleasant contrast to the hot fried rice and ramen, but the serving size was quite small.
The Takana fried rice on the other hand was nicely portioned; the fried rice was shaped into nice half circle and was garnished with some pickled ginger. We didn't care for the oiliness of the fried rice and that the vegetables were preserved vegetables (at the time, we did not know that Takana is the name of the preserved vegetable in use), but the fat granules of rice were tasty.
I ordered the C-Set ramen, which comes with a regular Hakata ramen and Takana fried rice for 7.75 USD.
With the full size ramen, I got to enjoy more of everything in the half sized ramen- a few more pork slices, some more green onions and ginger, a larger serving of noodles, and some more broth. The taste however was the same as my companion's bowl of ramen; my bowl was just saltier since I chose normal soup base instead.
For the most part, we liked trying the various items at Shin-Sen-Gumi and our extremely pleasant, friendly waiter (who apologized for any error and asked how the food was), but the closing to the meal did not impress at all. Another server did the check instead and had the courage to ask whether or not we wanted our change back; this does not seem to exemplify the "human development" that Shin-Sen-Gumi strives to develop in the workplace! Never have I seen a waiter ask that question before; it was laziness/greediness on his own part since he did not take care of us during the meal. My companion left Shin-Sen-Gumi quite unhappy due to that incident.
Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen
18315 Brookhurst St, #1
Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Tel: (714) 962-8971