I’ve never been to Japan, but in my imagination I picture ramen stands to be every where, squeezed into nooks and crannies of tiny alleys or in train stations ready to feed the wary commuter.
If ramen can replenish the beaten soul of the business class, then the new Ramen Underground restaurant in San Francisco’s Financial District is perfectly situated. Despite its name, the tiny restaurant isn’t tucked away in an underground mall but is right on Kearny Street for all to see.
The dark interiors with its stark black walls can seem cave-like, so it’s up to the bowls of ramen from owner/Chef Ken Matsumura to brighten the spot.
Always willing to try the area’s new ramen offerings (this place opened in August), I visited Ramen Underground for an early dinner on Friday. Because the Financial District pretty much clears out after 5 p.m., it’s still easy to get a spot at Ramen Underground at dinner time even though it fits maybe 16 or 17 people.
The menu is split between ramen offerings and donburi, the rice bowls. I focused on the ramen, and despite being given a slip with check boxes to select your options, the waiter told me not to mark it and to just tell him what I wanted.
You start with the bowl of ramen for $8 and choose the broth – soy, miso, shio (salt), spicy miso, vegetable and coconut curry. Then there’s a wide list of additional toppings that mostly come for $1 each, so you can really increase the cost of your bowl with a lot of toppings.
I ordered a miso ramen and added kakuni (pork belly) and a boiled egg. This was in addition to the regular toppings of one slice of cha shu and button mushrooms. The ramen itself had an unusually yellow hue to it. There was a lot of spring to the texture as well.
I thought the noodles were good, but nothing amazing. And the kakuni was actually tougher than the slice of cha shu (I probably should have just ordered more of that). But the miso broth had a nice, rich body to it that I enjoyed.
While Ramen Underground has the whole tiny hole-in-the-wall feel (but in a hip club way), it still seems like one has to travel outside of the city for a real amazing bowl of noodles. Underground is convenient and good in a pinch, but don’t expect anything more.
Rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
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