Finding Japanese Comfort Food in Costa Mesa at Meiji Seimen
I've passed by Meiji Seimen numerous times, but haven't found my way in until recently. The short strip plaza on Baker Street doesn't have anything fancy going like the Stater Bros plaza a few blocks down, but its unassuming appearances makes it such a treat to dine in.
The restaurant is small, but bustling on most nights with locals and Japanese patrons. This is already a good sign! Even in Costa Mesa, where Japanese cuisine is plenty, not all restaurants stack up evenly, you know what I mean? So, this place is legit and I love how everything feels so comfortable, home-style and relaxed.
Started the evening with a favorite and a couple of small bites. Izakayas typically have a lot of small plates for drinking and eating, so my brother and I selected quite a few things to fill our bellies.
Takowasa. Raw octopus with wasabi stems with some soy sauce mixed in. So, I actually had some trouble picking up the pieces because I don't hold my chopsticks properly, lol. The chopsticks here are shaped differently with pointed tips. The ones I'm accustomed to are round and thick, the ones you typically find in Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants. I guess I could have blamed the slippery octopus, but sometimes types of chopsticks make a difference too!
Tuna Tororo. Raw tuna with grated mountain yam. Our server recommended that we throw some soy sauce in, but we were already ahead of the game on this one. Instead of dipping in wasabi, we mixed it all together. I soaked the wasabi with soy sauce before tossing it all in so that it was evenly dispersed.
Homemade fish cake with edamame beans and carrots. Lightly fried til golden, the fish cake was SO yums! It was paired with grated ginger and a little bit goes a long way.
Beef Tongue jerky with miso. OMG! Although the pieces seem a bit tiny, they pack a ton of flavor and the pepper on top really helped offset the salt from the miso. In terms of texture, the jerky seemed a bit dehydrated and slightly chewy, but not overly done.
Dashimaki served cold. Egg omelet with a bonito fish stock and topped with grated radish. The tamago was so fluffy and sweet!
And because I totally dig this spot, I came back a few weeks later to try more things. Well, actually, it was my brother's birthday, so we celebrated with a few drinks here too. Asahi is on draft for $5 and we picked up a bottle of Otokoyama sake too.
Started with fried squid legs that was served with a side of sweet mayo. Lightly battered and fried to a golden crisp, these were such an amazing snack to have with our drinks.
Grilled ox tongue topped with chopped green onions. I don't believe this was marinated very much, but the spritz of lemon helped balance out the game-y flavors. This doesn't bother me, but it may be a little forward if it's your first time. I recommend getting the jerky if available.
Braised beef tendon with stewed radish. This dish reminds me of a Vietnamese dish, thit kho, which is braised pork in coconut water and other seasonings. The meat was absolutely tender and the daikon radish brought a bit of sweetness.
We also got a couple other items worth mentioning that are pretty self explanatory like cold eggplant and natto kimchi rice bowl. The Natto is pretty fermented in comparison to other places I've had natto, but we just added some chopped green onions to the mix. If you don't have extra from other dishes, I'm sure asking for extra won't be an issue. The staff is super nice and helpful.
For dessert, my brother got the caramel flan and I went with the hot red bean and mochi (Shiratama Zenzai), which are all homemade! The flan was served in a bowl, so as my brother began to scoop from the top, the sweet caramel collected at the bottom was untouched until the final scoop. Haha..talk about a sweet ending! The shiratama zenzai was not as blended in comparison to the ones I'm used to, with the red beans kept whole instead of broken down into the dessert. Meaning, the dessert was less starchy and creamy until you chew through the beans.
It was only after coming here, I started looking into Meiji Seimen a little more. Introduced to Costa Mesa as an udon shop that serves freshly made noodles aside from Sanuki Seimen located in Mitsuwa, the restaurant also serves rice bowls, ramen and other home style dishes. Looks like my next meal will have to be udon!
1113 Baker Street, E
Costa Mesa, CA 92626