Ten Gu Ramen

Ten Gu Ramen is located at 5397 Gosford Road.

Those tiny restaurants that are hard to find but offer decent food are like hidden treasures. You’re so happy when you find them that it feels like you hit the jackpot on a slot machine.

Ten Gu Ramen is a new place that’s like that. Located off Gosford south of White Lane near Sam’s Club, it's dwarfed by all the big, high-profile places nearby like Chili’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s next door to a T-Mobile store, and south of the Chipotle and Del Taco that have big signs on the busy street. If you do locate the place, what you’ll find is a pretty homey place with great ramen and udon as well as a few others things.

We selected a lot to sample on our visit: the vegetable ramen ($9.99), the tempura mix appetizer ($6.50), the barbecued pork rice bowl ($4.25) and the dumplings, typically called potstickers ($5.99). We also ordered a glass of house chardonnay ($6) and what was supposed to be a draft of Kirin ($5.25) but ended up being a bottle for reasons that were not made clear. Most of what we tried was good enough to inspire return visits.

The dumplings, filled with minced pork and vegetables, were about as good as it gets, crispy on one side, still moist and soft on the side that didn’t hit the wok and served with a choice of dipping sauces (hot or not). Also on the table is a bottle of Nanami Togarashi, finely ground chili pepper (powder, really) that goes so well with everything available here. There’s an emphasis on presentation. A lot of the food served here was exceptionally photogenic, almost looking like something you find in food magazine, and it matches the pictures on the menu. (Editor's note: A request to shoot photos for this review was declined.)

The food sort of came to the table in random order, so we dined on this and that throughout the experience. My companion selected the vegetable ramen and the stock was light but not too salty (a pet peeve of hers) or oily in the least. There were bean sprouts, julienne carrots, bok choi, corn and the thinnest strips of mushrooms. It was complex yet light, and the texture of the noodles perfect. After the dumplings, it was hard to get past this impressive duo.

The tempura was fine but not very varied — only five shrimp and three onion rings. Small-restaurant problems, I guess. The rice bowl featured pork squares that had been seasoned and grilled, including some squares that were all fat. The better for flavor, I guess, and the chopped green onions on top were the only garnish. The white rice was perfectly moist, and the whole bowl just invited you to sprinkle some soy sauce in it.

Now you might think for a small place there’s no atmosphere, but that isn’t so in the least. The walls are covered with art of the food, Japanese writing and a wall near the door has a Japanese street scene. One of the tables is made from a beautiful large tree plank, with all the brown grain visible. There’s also a small counter near the exhibition kitchen, and a stacked wood wall in the back. Ambitiously tasteful is how I’d classify it, and given the prices it seems pretty cool. There’s a small peace-inducing fountain near the door and red lanterns outside the front door.

Service was fine, especially since it appeared there were only two working in the kitchen and one woman out front. If enough people find this place, they might need to hire some folks.

Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at pftittl@yahoo.com.

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