Ramen Underground out front

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.

Wood panels showing choice of toppings

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.

Miso ramen with a few extra toppings

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

 

 

Ramen Underground on Urbanspoon
Ramen Underground, 355 Kearny St. (at Pine), San Francisco. PH: 415.765.9909. Open Mon.–Thu., 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m.; and Fri.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.

9 Responses to Tiny Noodle Spot for the FiDi Lunch Crowd

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    Love the snazzy new site! Congrats!
    I must say the coconut curry ramen has me intrigued, as you don’t find that soup base too often.

    • Ben Ben says:

      I’m intrigued by the coconut curry base too, but I thought for my first try I should try something more standard.

  2. Karen says:

    dang I was hoping this place would be better. What is up with the SF ramen scene.. so sad. Have you tried Ajisen inside the mall – Premium Pork is the way to go – I often add a side of “Tender Ribs” for an extra $1.50. I know it’s mall food but I like the broth. The pork is good – sometimes it can be a bit dry. But I like the noodles a lot.

    • Ben Ben says:

      I go to Ajisen pretty often, not because I love it but it’s soooo convenient being near the Powell Street BART station. I haven’t tried the Premium Pork or tender ribs, mostly because that does sound like a lot of meat! I like the Ajisen broth, but others seem just average. Service can be a bit lacking when it’s busy too.

  3. Claudine says:

    Yes, sad that the ramen here isn’t better – and even doubly sad that the buta kakuni isn’t cooked enough to be more tender than the chasiu! Gah! One of my biggest pet peeves with buta… 🙁

  4. foodhoe says:

    me too, for some sick reason I want to try coconut curry ramen. will skip the kakuni, although that is hard to pass up one of my favorite ramen toppings. btw, your site looks fabulous on all of my mac devices, but on IE 9 it is possessed!

    • Ben Ben says:

      Yes, stick with the Macs! LOL. Actually, my site loads fine on IE8 at my work office. But I rarely go on my site at work. 😉

  5. hungry dog says:

    Too bad I don’t work downtown, I would love to hit up this place for lunch or an early dinner. I guess I’ll just have to make a special trip down there to try it. Love ramen (though I do love donburi too…decisions, decisions!)

  6. shu says:

    I, as japanese, love ramen, likes American loves hamburger.