The ramen craze has simmered down some, but we're always excited for a new bowl of broth, especially when summer is winter and stiff maritime breezes call for it. So however low-key it was for Mountain View's Shalala Ramen to open up in Japantown (and a soft opening it is), we leapt at the opportunity.
It's a pretty simple menu, with tonkatsu broth and a choice of kuro (soy sauce base) or the slightly lighter shiro (sea salt base). The chashu (sliced pork) in each was flavorful and well-cooked, and the noodles maintained their consistency until the last. A bit of chili paste and some dried garlic -- which are included at every table, as condiments -- made the broths pop. Overall, it's a perfectly fine bowl of ramen and a good value, but lacking in that lusciousness that separates the very good from the great.
Apart from ramen, there are a dozen salads and appetizers (all $6.50 or under) that range far afield, such as five pieces of black pepper koraage (fried chicken) or a chashu muffin sandwich with tartar sauce. Shalala also has Sapporo and Asahi on tap, plus sake.
Aesthetically, it's forgettable, more lunch-hour than date-night. The exterior is fairly anonymous; the interior, more of the same, only darker. They were playing '90s hip-hop at top volume -- perfectly within bounds, although you'd better be down with O.P.P. Still, for the many ramen fiends on the hunt, Shalala is well worth the investigation.
Shalala Ramen, 1737 Buchanan St.