Double dipping

Kansai Ramen & Sushi House

Kansai Ramen & Sushi House

2992 65th St., Ste 288
Sacramento, CA 95817

(916) 455-0288

A bowl of good ramen traditionally includes broth, chewy alkaline noodles, a soft-boiled egg, some sort of protein and a variety of additional accoutrements. Good sushi is even harder to define, but its most essential ingredient is the cooked and vinegar-seasoned rice—and after that, raw fish. Both dishes require hours of preparation, a mastery of certain cooking techniques and have become experimenting grounds for many innovative chefs.

Kansai Ramen & Sushi House serves its own take on both of these popular Japanese dishes, with varying degrees of success.

Due to the recent rain, a hot bowl of ramen seemed like an appropriate place to start. On my first visit, I ordered a bowl of kakuni ramen, which is exactly the same as the house ramen, but with a twist: three thick slices of braised pork belly in lieu of thin slices of chashu. The pork belly was a great choice. It had a nice, sweet marinade, which chashu lacks, a tender consistency, and its excess flavor and aroma started seeping into the opaque but dull house soup broth as soon as I started slurping from the bowl.

There was also a perfectly executed soft-boiled egg (cooked egg white on the outside, raw yolk on the inside) in the broth and—unfortunately—overcooked, soft ramen noodles. Bamboo shoots, spinach, corn, green onion, bean sprouts and a square of seaweed rounded out this run-of-the-mill soup. My dining partner ordered an ahi-katsu ramen, which was identical to the kakuni, but served with a few slices of battered and fried ahi tuna in instead. The ahi didn’t match the flavorful kakuni, but did add a hint of oil and seafood aroma to the bowl—still not enough to overcome the blandness of the chicken-and-pork-based house broth.

On another visit, I decided to amp it up by ordering spicy tan tan men. It delivered. The house broth was completely eclipsed by this spicy, beefy and seafood-tinted soup base that teemed with flavor. Better yet, a scoop of ground beef enhanced the broth. Also, I remembered to order the noodles lightly cooked this time, and they arrived nicely al dente. This bowl seemed near perfect, a far cry from the previous two.

Next up, appetizers: chicken karaage and seafood lettuce wraps. The wraps appeared slightly haphazard, with chunks of fish overcooked and overseasoned in soy sauce and scooped onto cups of iceberg lettuce. The karaage, on the other hand, was a perfectly fried piece of chicken, with a simple breading and not too oily.

Finally, I tried a few sashimi specials (pepperfin and poke), and a couple of sushi maki (the Kansai and the Mufasa roll). Kansai’s poke, a Hawaiian raw-fish salad, had a little too much salt. It also featured wakame (seaweed), daikon radish and sesame oil, but the copious soy sauce would’ve been balanced better with a bit of Sriracha sauce and perhaps some sweet onion. Fortunately, the pepperfin dish (albacore tuna, sesame oil, jalapeños, scallions) achieved a much lighter flavor with a simple lemon ponzu sauce that accentuated superb diced raw fish.

Though described as “maki sushi,” the rolls here are Western style—a.k.a. loaded with toppings. That certainly describes the Kansai (soft-shell crab and tuna inside, avocado, seared tuna, fish eggs and sauces outside) and the Mufasa (crab and avocado inside, salmon and sauce outside). The Mufasa is particularly tasty, seasoned in sesame oil and baked—a somewhat unusual technique for sushi. Both rolls were loaded with many complex flavors, making for a delicious experience.

There’s a nice little drink selection at Kansai, too. A Hana brand flavored sake (white peach) recommended by a server paired well with the salty poke and ramen. Echigo Stout, a Japanese beer, paired well with sushi rolls.

Overall, this is the kind of place that should leave diners with a handful of nice memories, thanks to friendly service, good ramen and an inventive sushi chef.