Restaurant Review: Rokuan

Josh Chou, Contributing Writer

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A calm, simple ramen and sushi spot nestled alongside busy restaurants and stores, Rokuan offers a classic collection of Japanese favorites, great for a quick lunch or dinner.

Rokuan is well hidden within the bustling Stater Bros. Plaza. The plain, inconspicuous storefront bears a misleading red sign that says “SUSHI.” Only when you reach the front door, however, you will find the word “Rokuan” lettered neatly in white on the glass.

Walking inside was almost like entering the eye of a hurricane. The white walls, softly lit lamps and dark wood paneling and tables create a calm aura. The store is simply decorated with Japanese calligraphy paintings on the wall, a strip of artificial grass in the waiting area and shelves lined with knick-knacks behind the sushi bar, which effects a minimalistic, comfortable eating environment.

With only six tables and a sushi bar, the enclosed, brightly lit space is  cozy, yet not too crowded. Due to the small number of tables, we had to wait for a short time, but not too long considering it was the Saturday lunch rush hour. The menu mainly focuses on different variants of ramen and sushi, but also offers other traditional Japanese fare such as teriyaki and tempura.

My family ordered three different ramen bowls, about $9 each, an order of rainbow rolls for $10 and tempura shrimp and vegetables for $6.50. Service was pretty fast, and within 10 minutes, everything that we ordered was on the table.

The rainbow roll consisted of six pieces of California roll, rolled in sesame seeds. Each piece was topped with various raw fish and avocado slices. The sushi was served with pink pickled ginger and wasabi. I found it quite average, as nothing about it made it stand out from other versions that I’ve tried, and the portion size wasn’t very large for its hefty price of $10.

The tempura, on the other hand, was amazing. When I bit into the fried shrimp, the crispy batter gave away to the tender shrimp, which melted in my mouth. The tempura zucchini and sweet potato were also quite delicious, as even my normally vegetable-hating brother enjoyed it.

Despite the tasty side dishes, the highlight of the meal was easily the ramen. The spicy black miso ramen was topped with chashu (pork belly), bamboo shoots, kikurage mushrooms, fish cake slices, green onions, fried onions and a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg. My mom found the broth too salty, but I found it balanced, dark and very spicy. Although my mom and I enjoyed it, the soup was too spicy for brother and dad, who have a much lower tolerance. The noodles were springy and a delight to chew. In addition, the chashu was definitely the best I’ve ever tasted, as it was rich yet tender.

The tonkotsu ramen came with the same great toppings as the black miso, only without the egg. Everything about it was amazing, but I especially liked the soup. I had previously tried several other versions of tokutsu broth, but this rendition was one of the best. Milky and savory, the soup wasn’t overpoweringly fatty, but was still rich enough to satisfy my taste.

The Champon ramen with seafood and vegetables did not disappoint either. The tender shrimp, fish cake and squid as well as the stewed vegetables made the broth very fragrant and flavorful. However, I thought that the ramen overall wasn’t unique or notable. The only difference between this dish and a standard Chinese seafood noodle soup were the special, chewy ramen noodles.

The quality of the food overall was definitely better than most Asian cuisine restaurants. The components of the fare were prepared masterfully, and the ingredients were fresh and high-caliber. Despite the wonderful taste of the dishes, I think that Rokuan is still too expensive for most high schoolers.

As with most Japanese restaurants, the portion sizes in general were a little skimpy for their price, to the point where it wouldn’t be worth it for a teen’s wallet. But for the tasty Japanese cuisine and the restaurant’s calm aura, I would definitely consider coming back here for a family gathering, when adults are present to foot the bill, for a great time.