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Thu11142019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What: The original Musashi tonkotsu

Where: Ramen Musashi, 44491 Town Center Way, Suite G, Palm Desert

How much: $14

Contact: 760-674-7299; ramenpalmdesert.com

Why: The broth is stellar.

Food trends usually arrive in the Coachella Valley about five years later than they arrive in bigger cities. Take ramen, for example: You can’t walk several blocks in any of the major West Coast cities without coming across a ramen shop or three—but here, they are few and far between.

I love a great bowl of ramen, which why I was excited when I learned several months ago about the opening of Ramen Musashi. One of the reasons for my excitement was the pedigree: It’s a sister restaurant of Musashi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, which has been open in Palm Desert since 1996, making it one of the valley’s oldest Asian restaurants.

I went to lunch there one recent weekday with my friend Debra. While Ramen Musashi offers vegetarian, chicken and even cold-ramen options, along with a variety of appetizers, Debra and I both ordered the original Musashi tonkotsu—featuring creamy pork bone broth and thin noodles, and topped with braised pork belly chashu, onion, marinated egg, marinated bamboo, kombu, shitake mushrooms and garlic chips.

After the fantastic server delivered the gorgeous, steaming bowls of food, we dove in … and wow: The ramen was revelatory. All of the ingredients were perfect. The pork was tender and delicious; the egg was a creamy delight. The garlic chips and onion did not overwhelm, and the noodles were just right.

But for me, ramen is all about the broth—and this tonkotsu broth was stellar. It was packed with umami, seasoned masterfully and soooooo delicious.

Thanks to the amazing ramen and the great service, Ramen Musashi is pretty special—as good as any of those major-city ramen shops.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The lunch special

Where: Joyce’s Sushi, 36101 Bob Hope Drive, No. E1, Rancho Mirage

How much: $13.95 with three choices (as shown); $11.95 with two

Contact: 760-202-8186; joycessushiranchomirage.com

Why: It is tasty—and provides useful information.

Whenever I visit a “normal” Japanese restaurant for the first time, I find it helpful to order a bento box. This allows me to sample a variety of the restaurant’s fare, while giving me information on the restaurant’s overall quality, and an idea of what I might want to order next time.

This is not a perfect system. For example, on my recent, initial visit to Joyce’s Sushi, the three-item lunch special (Joyce’s bento box, essentially; you pick among nine items) told me nothing about the restaurant’s udon or ramen or appetizer offerings, nor did it tell me much about the quality of some of the more elaborate sushi rolls on offer at Joyce’s Sushi.

However, the lunch special (slightly larger dinner specials are also available, at a slightly higher cost) did tell me a lot:

• The quality of the fish at Joyce’s is pretty darned good. I chose the three pieces of sushi over a four-piece California or spicy tuna roll, or the six pieces of sashimi (which come with a $3 upcharge). The tuna, salmon and shrimp pieces I had were all fresh and tasty.

• The tonkatsu is decent, if not spectacular. I selected the fried, breaded pork over the teriyaki options (chicken, beef and salmon), and while the meat was delicious, it was a bit dry.

• The mixed tempura (one shrimp piece, and three vegetable pieces) was all fantastic. The tempura batter was flavorful but not greasy, and the food under the batter was cooked perfectly. The broccoli piece I got was tender—and it still tasted like broccoli.

• The accompaniments were all pretty standard. I liked the addition of mushrooms to the miso soup, but the salad—which looked like it came straight out of a pre-mixed bag—was nothing to get excited about.

Thanks to the lunch special, I learned that Joyce’s Sushi puts out quality food, and the next time I go there, I’ll definitely first consider the sushi and the tempura.

See? Helpful!

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Grilled Miso Cod Set

Where: Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise, 105 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $17.95

Contact: 760-325-3005; otootorestaurant.com

Why: The price is right—and the fish is splendid.

Several of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed have been at Nobu, the extremely high-end Japanese restaurant chain owned by Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa.

Nobu’s house specialty is black cod in miso, a stunningly delicious piece of fish that is at once sweet, savory and velvety. It’s often included in the omakase tasting menus at Nobu ($100 to $200 at the Los Angeles Nobu)—or if you want to order the black cod with miso à la carte, it’s $32.

Pricey? Yes—and Nobu is two hours away, to boot. But the news is good for local foodies who don’t want to leave the valley and/or fork over $32, minimum, for a piece of fish: Gyoro Gyoro, in the heart of Palm Springs, is now offering miso cod.

Is the miso cod at Gyoro Gyoro as delectable as the version that made Nobu Matsuhisa a household name? Not quite … but it’s not that far off, either: This grilled cod is a flavor and texture delight—and it’s almost half the price of Nobu’s version.

But wait … there’s more! The “set” (it’s basically fancy bento box) that includes the cod also comes with miso soup, a lovely salad, a side dish (an impressive cold radish-noodle dish when we were there) and rice. (I spent $3 extra to upgrade that rice into four California roll pieces; I was glad I did.) Not bad for $17.95 (plus that $3 upgrade), eh? You can get a larger entrée portion—sans the set, but with veggies and Japanese Satsuma sweet mashed potatoes—for $21.95.

I recommend getting to Gyoro Gyoro a little early and taking advantage of the restaurant’s nice happy hour. Daily from 3 to 6:30 p.m. (or 10 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday), enjoy discounted treats such as a lychee sake-tini ($4.95) or a splendid spicy tuna roll ($5.95).

Add the cocktail, the roll and the miso set together, and you’re still spending less than $32. That’s a great deal. Hooray for Gyoro Gyoro!

Published in The Indy Endorsement