PICTURED: Shoyu (left) and spicy miso ramen from Kitanoya. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

 

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

nshaffer@timespublications.com

Kitanoya Sushi and Ramen
1651 S. Victoria Ave., #130, Oxnard
805-382-1222
$4-$60


Ramen done right is a deeply satisfying dish. Savory broth, tender slices of protein (meat, fish, tofu — all great options), flavorful little extras like bean sprouts, seaweed, green onions and garlic, plus oodles of noodles to slurp up. What’s not to love?

Hot summer days don’t call for soup, I admit . . . but a restaurant that can serve up really good ramen has an appeal that goes beyond the season. Kitanoya Sushi and Ramen, in Oxnard’s Seabridge Marina Center, is one such restaurant.

Kitanoya offers plenty of options for exploring Japan’s beloved noodle soup. Shoyu (soy sauce), miso or flavored salt (shio) broths, available in your preferred spice level. Fried chicken, chashu pork, shrimp, squid, fish cake or boiled egg to add to it. Vegetable choices are numerous, and include bamboo shoots, both green and fried onion, fresh or fried garlic, bean sprouts, cabbage, corn and carrots. In addition to noodles, you can add wontons or rice. 

With so much ramen to choose from, Kitanoya could have easily limited its menu just to soup. But it also offers a wide variety of sushi, tempura, gyoza and even a bento box. Not a comprehensive tour of Japan’s culinary offerings, but a decent collection.

Shrimp tempura crunch roll from Kitanoya. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

For a recent takeout order, I chose to sample across the menu. A few sushi rolls, two kinds of ramen, tempura and gyoza . . . because the whole family loves dumplings. Everything arrived hot and the noodles and other toppings were packaged separately, which made building the perfect bowl fun and easy.

Our order included Shoyu ramen, to give something simple and traditional a try. The sauce is flavored with soy sauce, and was light brown, warming, earthy and pleasantly — not overly — salty. Into the broth went the noodles, some slices of braised pork, bamboo shoots, deep-fried onion, a few chicken wontons (one of the optional add-ins) and slivers of green onion. Together it made for a lovely bowl of soup: delicate but not bland, tender noodles, a bit of sweetness from caramelized onions and freshness from the green. The stars of the dish may have been the chicken wontons, which were fantastic and looked handmade; highly recommended. 

The spicy miso ramen offered a different flavor profile: deeper and richer, and definitely not shy with the chili. With the kids in mind, we went with spice level 2 (it goes up to 5), and that brought plenty of heat. I’m curious to try level 3 sometime; not sure I dare go any higher. We added corn and deep-fried garlic to this dish, both of which went great with the noodles, pork, green onions and bamboo shoots. 

Kitanoya provided generous servings of both broth and ingredients — we easily got two bowls out of each order. Ramen alone would have made for a decent meal; combined with everything else, we had a feast on our hands.

The shrimp tempura crunch roll (shrimp, cucumber, avocado and crab topped with crunchy tempura bits) was popular with the kids, who loved that sweet eel sauce. They weren’t as fond of the spicy Kitanoya roll, but us grownups happily consumed the mix of softshell crab, avocado, spicy tuna and spicy sauce. The tempura was pretty good, too, although the texture suffered a bit during takeout traveling. We barely had room for the lovely chicken gyoza, but we managed (although I found the dipping sauce excessively salty).

Chicken gyoza from Kitanoya. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

I am by no means a Japanese food aficionado, but I know good food when I taste it. Kitanoya has some very respectable sushi, tasty tempura and great gyoza, full stop. But what really sets it apart is the truly excellent ramen, which can be customized for just about any palate. Spicy or delicate, meaty or vegetarian, fried garlic or fresh, there’s a delicious bowl of noodle soup just waiting to be slurped up with joy.