Lunch at Ton-Chan (San Gabriel, CA)—CLOSED

After taking care of some personal business, we stopped at Golden Deli to have pho. As usual, the place was packed and there was a waiting list (15-20 minutes, the lady said). Then, we noticed right next door a Japanese restaurant, called Ton-Chan, that specializes in Tokyo tonkotsu ramen. So rather than wait, we decided to give this place a shot. We’re glad we did because the ramen was excellent. The tonkotsu broth was really good, very milky and porky. There are only three variations: shio, shoyu and miso, though this is not traditional. Plus, you can dictate the heat level, anywhere from no spiciness to a whopping 6 (more on this later), another departure from convention, probably to appeal to chili heads more than anything. All of us ordered the miso. They all come with toasted nori, green onions, a half a boiled egg, and meltingly tender (and fatty) chasiu.

According to the waiter, the tonkotsu is made fresh every day, using a whole pig. Regarding the quality of the broth, I’d rank it pretty high. Like I said, it had the requisite milkiness and porkiness of flavor that you associated with the best ones, though not so extreme that it could be off-putting to some. You can choose two additional toppings for free. The egg was perfectly cooked: the whites were firm and the yolk just past runny, slightly hardened from the hot broth. The chasiu evidently was sliced from the sacrificial pig. And the ramen noodles had good texture.

Sapporo miso ramen

Sapporo miso ramen (with optional corn and baby bok choy)

Regarding the heat levels, the range is from 0 to 6, with 6 being classified as “my eyes are tearing.” If you can put away a double order of 6-level ramen, it’s yours free, a challenge that, if you succeed, will get your picture posted on the wall board. There were only a handful of pictures. Like I said, this adding of chile paste is not traditional. I suffered through the “4” that I ordered, sweating bullets and burning my tongue. Be forewarned that as you increase the heat level of ramen, your tongue increasingly loses its ability to discern subtle flavors.

Complimentary at meal’s end is a delicious dessert called an-nin, silken tofu topped with lychee syrup.

The restaurant opened in December of last year, so word hasn’t spread very much yet. It won’t take long.

So this strip mall has Ton-chan, Golden Deli, and Southern Mini Town. If Newport Seafood had stayed here (they moved down the street on Las Tunas), it could arguably be the best food haven in the San Gabriel valley.

Ton-chan (** CLOSED **)
821 W Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

Slaw Dog (Pasadena, CA)

The O.G. Thai Slaw Dog

The O.G. Thai Slaw Dog put Slaw Dog, a hot dog restaurant located in Pasadena, on the food scene in So Cal. The Food Network chimed in with a segment. The menu strikes you with this: choices, choices, choices. Not only is the standard list extensive, but you can even create your own from a staggering list of not only wieners, sauces and veggie toppings, but also other kinds of meat, cheeses, even kimchi.

The Thai dog consists of a split chicken sausage topped with a satay dressing, peanuts, sriracha aioli and a slaw (cabbage, carrots and cilantro). Pricey as it is at $6.59, it isn’t the most expensive. That honor goes to the TNT Super Dog (from their menu: “12-inch rippered dog, chili, cheese, bacon, pastrami, fries, grilled onion, wrapped in giant tortilla, fried egg upon request”) at $8.88. The Thai dog arrived so smothered with toppings that I had to eat it with a fork and knife. For such a resplendent creation, it wasn’t possible to judge it as a hot dog where the flavor of the wiener should be predominant, with condiments that support, not compete. I barely tasted the sausage.

Are we genuflecting before the gods of excess? When is too much, too much?

My advice? If you come here, keep it simple. Give me a Costco hot dog any day, with deli mustard, a small squeeze of relish, and minced onions. Plus I’d save $5.

Slaw Dog
720 North Lake Ave. #8
Pasadena, CA 91104
Also locations in Woodland Hills and Duarte