>> Mazesoba Hero | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday, 3 June 2022

Mazesoba Hero

JAPAN 🇯🇵
Grand Avenue facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The restaurant is fully open for indoor dining. Staff and most customers are wearing masks.

There were almost 70 years between the first bowl of Taiwanese-inspired mazesoba being made in Nagoya, Japan and its arrival in Southern California thanks to Menya Hanabi. That chain, originally forming in Japan in 2008 opened up a location in Arcadia in 2019 and until now has cornered the market. Much further east in the San Gabriel Valley, Mazesoba Hero opened up in the middle of autumn 2021.

As you walk into the new space, the large wall on the opposite side of the restaurant is dominated by a mural of a fighter simultaneously chasing a dragon whose body consists of noodles and slicing an egg perfectly in half with a large sword. These two ingredients are the most important in a bowl of mazesoba, from which the dragon's noodle body emerges. Do not stare too long, it makes less sense the more you try to decode!

Ika sansai seaweed salad

Since mazesoba is a soup-less noodle bowl and comes coated with egg and plenty of starchy goodness, bowls can be thick and it makes sense to look through the appetizers and get at least one salad or green to the table. A simple seaweed salad or edamame with sea salt will do the trick, but the move here is to enjoy the ika sansai seaweed salad ($5.50, above), with thin slices of chewy squid laid over the fresh sea greens.

Hot appetizers like karaage and shrimp tempura are also available before the mains come out, or this takoyaki ($6, below). The small pieces of octopus buried within the creamy pancake ball are almost difficult to find sometimes, but the dish is enjoyable nonetheless as a vehicle for takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayo.

6 pieces of takoyaki

Classic mazesoba (spicy)

You may have noticed by this time the words "Saucy Ramen House" outside under the name or on the menu, probably added to make people feel comfortable coming in even if they have never heard of mazesoba. Lovers of dry ramen dishes like mazemen will remember that maze means "mix" and always alludes to a lack of soup, but once that mixing takes place these bowls are indeed saucy (see below).

The thick and chewy noodles underneath all the chosen toppings will remind you of those used for tsukemen dipping ramen, and indeed these noodles are made of wheat flour and not buckwheat like most soba. The classic mazesoba ($12, above and below) is a good introduction to the restaurant and is available in either non-spicy or spicy (seen here) versions. The poached egg is laid on top of a bed of ground pork right before serving, all to be mixed with the shredded seaweed, onions, and garlic.

Classic mazesoba (close on mixed noodles)

There are technicalities that keep mazesoba from being called ramen, but that discussion is probably a dissertation on its own. Lovers of either will most likely enjoy their meals here, and it is at least worth a try especially for a region of the city that is mostly populated by run-of-the-mill bowls of tonkotsu ramen.

There is a list of 21 add-ons that range from $1 to $4 and are available for any of their various bowls of mazesoba. This makes the amount of variety here enough to keep you busy for quite some time if the style ends up being to your liking. Corn, cheese, black garlic oil, chashu, creamy crab sticks, and even marinated pork ribs (the $4 item) can be thrown on top.

Saikoro mazesoba

A list of four signature mazesoba creations are on the back of the menu, which include many of those 21 topping options, but the saikoro mazesoba ($13, above) looked more tempting on this day. This is limited to a certain number of bowls per day and probably more available for lunch, substituting braised pork belly for the ground pork and adding crisp red cabbage.

While the thick starchiness is not perfect for warming up later, these "mixed" soba noodles are pretty addictive in person. If nothing more, it is something very new to try in a town that has almost everything.

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