The ramen scene has been growing in San Francisco but still not as exciting as San Mateo or San Jose. Now things might be changing with the arrival of L.A.-based Ramen Yamadaya.
The ramen restaurant group, with five locations in the Los Angeles area, opened its first Northern California spot earlier this year right in the heart of the city’s Japantown. Yamadaya specializes in the rich tonkotsu broth, made with pork bone. Yamadaya says it cooks its pork bones for 20 hours to get the rich, creamy broth.
Last Saturday, I went for a late lunch with one of my longtime blog readers, Arlene aka Cheapskate, and we didn’t have a problem getting a table. The bright, shiny spot is on the second level of a building and is made up of booths surrounding the room and a large communal table in the center.
They only serve variations of the tonkotsu ramen (regular, soy, extra rich aka kotteri, and spicy) as well as tsukemon, the dipping noodles. Along with a variety of extra toppings, you can also order extra thick noodles for 50 cents, which I highly recommend to really get the chewy noodles. (The regular noodles are more on the thin side, but that never makes me feel like I’m eating ramen.)
There are also a variety of rice bowls and combinations. We started with some gyoza, which were nicely pan-fried with a thin skin. I got a mentaiko rice bowl and salad with my ramen for an extra $4.75. Mentaiko is spicy cod roe served with rice, and it was my first time trying it. Even though I love sushi, I admit that this cod roe was a bit on the fishy side in flavor, making the taste and texture difficult to swallow.
Still, the main event is the tonkotsu ramen, and I ordered the spicy version ($9.45), which comes in three levels. (I started with level 1, which was just enough spice for me.) The threatening blob of red spice in my bowl got mixed with the rich pork broth, making it a substantive broth with heat.
I loved the thick noodles, as I said, but also enjoyed the tender chashu. The only thing I didn’t enjoy in my bowl was the menma, or marinated bamboo shoots, because it had an off-putting pickled taste.
The Last Bite
Despite being a transplant, Ramen Yamadaya has found a home in San Francisco, and its rich pork bone broth and thick noodles have finally upped the ramen scene in the city.
Rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
Ramen Yamadaya, 1728 Buchanan St., San Francisco. PH: 415.359.9983. Open Monday, Wednesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; weekends, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations. www.ramen-yamadaya.com
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