Eat It, Columbia.
Menkoi Ramen House just opened in the Vista, on Gervais St near Assembly. I’m told it’s the owner of Inakaya, which I always found to be decent enough, though I did try tonkotsu ramen there three or four years ago and never desired to order it again.
Menkoi is a true ramen-ya, a little shop with a handful of tables, and a bar for individual noodle slurping. The menu offers many kinds of ramen, vegetable, shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), spicy, and tonkotsu (“pork bone”), though a sign reads that all broth contains pork, chicken, and beef.
Tonkotsu is famous with ramen-heads due to the fatty nature of the broth, which is proprietary to every raman house, but is generally made by boiling pork bones until the collagen converts to gelatin and eventually emulsifies into the broth, resulting in a broth so fatty you could go snow skiing and you wouldn’t need ChapStick for the rest of the day.
Menkoi’s is almost rich enough to qualify, but not quite. Not overly salty, and a touch sweet, I wonder if they make this broth separately, or if there are quick ways to “hack” a tonkotsu broth. All their other types of ramen are simply the base broth with the addition of a few other elements.
Regardless of nitpicking, it’s a super exciting development for Columbia’s food fans and I hope it is supported adequately.
Don’t miss the onigiri if you do go – rice triangles filled with a small amount of fish. They wrap them in plastic to keep the nori crisp, and I found it to be quite effective.
Also, I revisited Sun Ming near Irmo for the first time in years. It’s a non traditional mix of Cantonese and Sichuan classics, but many dishes are a far cry from the Americanized bastard dishes we all know so well. There are some real gluttonous and pleasurable dishes to try. The ma la chicken had neither ma nor la (hot and numbing), but the salt and pepper shrimp were plump and crispy and perfect for eating whole, shell and all. Mapo tofu was nice, though served in more of a stock based gravy than a traditional chile oil. Vegetables were notable, but the shrimp toast appetizer (currently a hot item at Son of a Gun in LA) kicked ass. A must try. Pics below.