Every college student is all too familiar with the infamous Cup Noodles. While these cost-friendly instant meals are a student’s best friend during stressful times, college students can now look forward to the arrival of local authentic ramen food to Isla Vista (I.V.). Located right next to Buddha Bowls on Embarcadero Del Mar, Kaiju, a Japanese restaurant, recently opened, offering customers a taste of traditional Japanese ramen and curry.
Stepping into Kaiju, the ambience is fairly quiet. Playing in the background is soft music, setting a calm atmosphere to match its minimalistic aesthetic. Similar to the interior, Kaiju’s menu is also basic, offering the typical options of ramen and Japanese-style curry. Along with the main entrees, Kaiju offers a selection of appetizers, such as gyoza, to share with friends. For my first visit here, I decided to try the miso ramen and tonkatsu (pork cutlet) curry plate.
From first glance, the ramen looked promising; however, after taking a bite, it just meets standard. The noodles had a nice firm chew, but were reminiscent of UC Santa Barbara’s dining commons’ ramen noodles when they attempt to cook Asian cuisine. The broth itself was also lacking. There was no distinct miso flavor expected from the soup which was rather disappointing. Although just a simple broth, it paired quite nicely with the toppings, especially the chashu (large pieces of pork), adding a rich, fatty pork flavor that made up for the lackluster broth.
One of the best components of a traditional ramen bowl is a perfect soft-boiled egg. Sadly, Kaiju’s egg was more hard-boiled and was missing that special runny yolk, but it was still a delightful addition to the overall bowl. Considering all the factors of Kaiju’s ramen, their version of one of the world’s most famous noodle soups had no mind blowing characteristics. For $13 a bowl, the ramen was mediocre at best.
Compared to the ramen, Kaiju’s curry plates take the cake in terms of value and taste. The plate also costs around $13 and consists of plain white rice, fried cutlet, and curry. Personally, I was especially excited to try the curry dish because growing up, warm curry and steamed white rice was a simple but yummy comfort food for me and Kaiju’s rendition did not disappoint.
Genuinely surprised at how big the plates were, the portions were substantial for the price compared to the size of the ramen. Along with the great value, the taste of the curry plate surpasses Kaiju’s execution of the noodle soup. The curry was delicious and its savory flavor was on point. Not too dry, the pork cutlet was also tasty and added a pleasant contrasting crunchy texture to the softer rice and curry.
Overall, this dish exceeded my expectations in terms of I.V. food. The only suggestion I would have for this dish is to have a spice level option, to the likes of popular Japanese-style curry house CoCo ICHIBANYA, to really amp the curry flavor and provide a unique eating experience for customers who love experimenting with heat.
With the growing dynamic of the Asian dining scene in I.V., Kaiju is a nice addition. If you’re craving delicious authentic ramen, a car trip to Nikka Ramen in Santa Barbara would be your best bet with its more diverse menu and better quality food. However, if you just want a simple bowl of ramen or have a bite of rice and curry around I.V., Kaiju is a contender.