Another ramen contender has joined the fray with the arrival of Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai, which recently opened off Convoy Street amongst a new stretch of storefronts located between the Costco Business Center and Target.
The ramen chain has a long and storied history in Japan, opening its first shop in Kitakata city back in 1958 and expanding steadily there over the last six decades to now span more than 60 locations. Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai also has a small handful of stateside restaurants in Orange County and the Chicago suburbs.
While San Diegans might be most familiar with the types of ramen from Hakata and Sapporo, known for their tonkotsu and miso broths respectively, Kitakata ramen is an equally popular style that originated in the northern Japanese prefecture of Fukushima. Made from long-simmered pork bones, its shoyu-based broth is relatively light and clear compared to its heavier counterparts. Made in-house, the noodles are hand-crumpled for an irregular, curly texture and have a softer, more silky chew. The classic Kitakata bowl is topped with slices of toro chashu, or soy-braised pork belly, with optional add-ons like seasoned egg, boiled Napa cabbage, corn, and tofu.
Besides its standard shoyu broth, Kitakata Ramen Ban Nai features bowls ranging from a shio, or salt-based soup spiced with fresh green chilies to spicy miso ramen and a rich tan tan ramen that has a glistening slick of spicy garlic oil. It also offers a gluten-free noodle option.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, the new restaurant’s menu extends to beer, sake, and starters such as pan-fried gyoza, takoyaki, and karaage, aka Japanese fried chicken.