Kotoya vs. Hayatemaru: Ramen Showdown

I finally tried Kotoya this Monday, and then went back to Ramen Hayatemaru (twice) this week, so I thought it’d be fun to do a quick “showdown” between the two newcomers to the Westside ramen scene.  This won’t be an apples-to-apples comparison, as I did not order all the same dishes.  My goal here mostly just to play with the standard review format for a post and have some fun!

First, a quick (alas non-photographic) comparison of some of the non-food factors…

Decor @ Kotoya: I really like the more contemporary design of the restaurant.  The small cast-iron lanterns overhanging the bar were a classy touch.  The wood tile-work on the walls were interesting but not distracting.  The bathroom looked newly remodeled and had that more upscale glass-bowl-on-counter type of sink.

Decor @ Hayatemaru:  As I mentioned in my last review, the restaurant was very clean, but did not look to be fully renovated before its grand opening.  The drop ceiling was a bit dingy from age, where a somewhat rusty air vent conspicuously stuck out.  Bathroom, also very clean, with a pleasant pump-bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap, but definitely not remodeled.

>>> Decor Winner:  Kotoya!

Service @ Kotoya:  The lone waitress at lunch time seemed a bit distracted and overworked.  The food was a little slow coming out of the kitchen, but the chef was solo as well, and never stopped moving.  The gyoza I ordered took quite a long time and arrived after I had finished my ramen.

The restaurant was at 75%-90% capacity while I was there, which was maybe unanticipated for a Monday at lunch (I don’t know), but they definitely could have used one more body each at the front and at the back of the shop that day.

Service @ Hayatemaru:  Did I mention this was an apples-to-oranges showdown?  My first trip to Hayatemaru this week was Monday evening, ~6:30 PM, rather than during the lunch rush.  Two other tables were occupied, and the sole waitress, along with the chef and second kitchen worker, had no problems keeping up with the customers.  Food came out at a decent pace.  (Second visit was Tuesday ~7:45 PM and mirrored the first in service.)

>>> Service Winner:  Hayatemaru!

Now that that’s done, on to the food!  Instead of comparing whole meal-to-meal, I’m going to go dish-to-dish, and actually ingredient-to-ingredient on some level.  I only ordered ramen and gyoza at Kotoya, so I will only compare those to their equivalent that I had at Hayatemaru.

At Kotoya, I ordered the “white” ramen, which is the standard (non-spicy, which would have been the “red”) tonkotsu broth.  It comes in one of three tare, or sauces:  shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso (uh…miso–j/k, fermented soy bean paste).

Shio Ramen @ Kotoya (© 2013 The Offalo)

Shio Ramen @ Kotoya (© 2013 The Offalo)

I opted for shio, and added on a nitamago (flavored egg), soft-boiled.

At Ramen Hayatemaru, I had already tried their “Hokkaido” (shio/tonkotsu) ramen on my first visit, so I opted for the white miso ramen on my second visit, as I had heard that miso was more authentic for Hokkaido-style ramen.

Miso Ramen @ Ramen Hayatemaru (© 2013 The Offalo)

Miso Ramen @ Ramen Hayatemaru (© 2013 The Offalo)

I also added on an ajitsuke tamago, a.k.a. ajitama (seasoned egg, synonymous with nitamago), soft-boiled.

Toppings @ Kotoya:  The toppings for the shio were fairly standard,