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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Butter Ramen Is a Real Thing: A Japan Center Find

Posted By on Thu, Jun 7, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Healthy Japanese cooking: Sapporo-Ya's butter ramen. - TAMARA PALMER
  • Tamara Palmer
  • Healthy Japanese cooking: Sapporo-Ya's butter ramen.

On a recent late evening in Japan Center, we ducked into one of the only still-open restaurants, Sapporo-Ya, for a healthy bowl of ramen. That plan was quickly foiled once we noticed an option called butter ramen, which should no longer be the secret domain of ramenistas.

Butter ramen is exactly what it sounds like, a bowl of noodles with a fat pat of butter floating on top. It's really a shock to see it when it lands on the table because butter is just not something that's ubiquitous at Japanese restaurants.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

While the Restaurant Is Being Built, Hapa Ramen's Doing More Pop-Ups

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 3:11 PM

  • Gil Riego, Jr.

While we wait for Hapa Ramen's permanent location at 1527 Fillmore to open this summer, preview pop-up dinners will have to suffice. Chef-owner Richie Nakano said things are moving slowly because of permits.

The next one takes place next Tuesday at Wing Wings in the Lower Haight. At this dinner, Nakano will go beyond ramen to offer a variety of smaller items including something sauteed, something fried, and something raw (Nakano says that he doesn't have a menu set because he likes to "fly by the seat of his pants.")

Teaser from the last popup: potato chips and Thai beef salad.
  • Teaser from the last popup: potato chips and Thai beef salad.

Because of the small space, which has about 10 seats for guests, expect to-go friendly plates. The dinner is cash only, and you're free to bring your own beer. "Anyone who's been to our pop-ups before will see a different side of our food at these dinners," Nakano says. "We're trying to simplify things on our end. We used to get technique-heavy, but are now working toward giving guests more of what they want." He's planning future popups once a month; stay up to date with the restaurant's progress by following Hapa Ramen's Twitter feed.

Hapa Ramen Popup

Where: Wing Wings, 422 Haight (at Webster)

When: Tuesday, May 1, 6-10 p.m.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Hey, Ramen Lovers: Semi-Secret Ramen Pop-Up Hits Half Moon Bay on Tuesday

Posted By on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 at 4:30 PM


What: Ramen Night pop up in Half Moon Bay

Where: Flavor Restaurant, 10151 Cabrillo Hwy, El Granada, CA 94019

When: Tue. March 13, 4:30-10 p.m.

Cost: $24 for 3 courses, appetizer + choice of ramen + dessert

The rundown: Since ramen fanatics will travel any distance to find a good bowl of ramen, it makes sense for us to alert San Francisco ramen lovers to the chance for some exceptional ramen at a rare dinner pop up in Half Moon Bay.

Conrad Seto has been hosting semi-secret ramen pop up dinners for the last 2 years. He's borrowing Flavor Restaurant, to showcase his specialty of Hakata style tonkotsu (pork bone broth). So far, it's the best version of Hakata style we've found in the Bay Area. Every detail is spot on, with softer straight noodles and the typical thin "oil slick" layer that traps the heat inside the bowl. Unlike most ramen shops, Seto makes everything from scratch, no canned bamboo shoots, and no South Bay factory made noodles.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Ken Ken Ramen's First Mission Night Market

Posted By on Mon, Mar 5, 2012 at 11:00 AM

As you leave, the Night Market vanishes but for a swirl of dust. - LUIS CHONG
  • Luis Chong
  • As you leave, the Night Market vanishes but for a swirl of dust.

What: Ken Ken's First Mission Night Market

Where: 3376 18th Street (next to Ken Ken Ramen)

When: Thu.-Sat. March 8-10, 6-11 p.m. or later

Cost: Free

The rundown: For three consecutive nights Ken Ken Ramen will be hosting an evening bazaar inside its noodle factory space, right next to the restaurant. Ken Ken promises more than a dozen independent vendors, hawking vintage apparel and custom fashion, and also furnishing craftsmen, jewelers, a life art performance by a Japanese calligrapher, a local Japanese dessert maker, and a few other crazy artists.

This event is inspired by the experience of shopping at large crazy outdoor Asian Night Markets. Certainly a unique event in the Mission, not to be missed. Local vendors interested on this or future events should contact Ken Ken.

The current cast of participating artists includes the following:

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ramen Parlor Adds to San Mateo's Ramen Empire

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 10:35 AM

Pork broth ramen with lobster oil. - LUIS CHONG
  • Luis Chong
  • Pork broth ramen with lobster oil.

While the city's ramen culture is just beginning to flourish, San Mateo's ramen scene is leaping ahead with a modern variant of ramen.

One-month old Ramen Parlor is the latest ramen venture from chef-owner Kazunori Kobayashi, whose San Mateo ramen empire includes the legendary Santa Ramen (at 1944 South El Camino Real), which features traditional ramen styles (soy sauce, miso, and tonkotsu), and the 2010 sensation Ramen Dojo (at 805 South B Street), the Bay Area's first and only "stamina ramen" shop (a derivation of Taiwan Ramen from Nagoya, this style became popular throughout Japan during the 80s).

Ramen Parlor's new seafood-style modern ramen follows the latest trend in Japan, in which flavors are layered to create richer, more complex broths. The leader of this style of ramen is Tokyo-based chef Keisuke Takeda, who uses his French culinary training for his consommé style prawn-based stock. In the US, another example of this trend is Hawaiian chef D.K. Kodama's Dungeness crab ramen with a truffled butter pork-based broth.

Kobayashi pairs robust versions of his standard broths ($9.50, choice of soy sauce, miso, or tonkotsu) with a layer of lobster oil. Each bowl contains two slices of pork belly chasu, bacon bits, chopped white onions, broccolini, green chives, kikurage, sliced shiitake mushrooms, crushed spices for accent (red pepper plus seaweed, sesame or chili powder), and topped with a single garlic shrimp on the shell.

You can add extra toppings ($1-$4.50) to your ramen bowl and/or extra noodles for $1.50; customers concerned about ramen saltiness often chose to add corn ($1). We liked our bowl as is.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Ramen Underground Enters the Light

Posted By on Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 10:15 AM

  • Photos by Luis Chong

Two weeks ago, the FiDi lunch crowd welcomed a new ramen shop. Ramen Underground is the first venture of chef-owner Ken Matsumura, who previously worked at popular Katana-ya for 2 years, and prior to that at more than 10 Japanese restaurants in the U.S. and Japan.

Matsumura's new space shares the same cramped and narrow characteristics of his former employer, with only five two-seat tables plus a two-seat counter, so expect a long wait for one of the coveted seats during peak hours. Takeout service suffers from similar delays, but demand tapers down after one o'clock. And for now, dinner service was not as busy.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Ramen Week Revisited: Hapa Ramen Steps Up Its Game

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2011 at 12:01 PM

The new and improved Hapa Ramen. - LUIS CHONG
  • Luis Chong
  • The new and improved Hapa Ramen.

SFoodie has been a fan of Hapa Ramen since its inception last year. While ramen street vendors are common in Japan, Hapa is currently the only one in San Francisco. We've long adored Hapa Ramen's sous-vide egg, crisp and tender chicken katsu nuggets, and succulent pork cuts, which remain unmatched in the Bay Area -- and its first version of the robust and flavorful pork broth was no slouch.

But the original batch of noodles failed to earn the same level of praise, and service mishaps at its public debut triggered a backlash among bloggers. Subsequently, chef Richie Nakano endured criticism from ramen fanatics. They called his ramen too expensive; dissed the inauthentic, crappy noodles; complained about the measly portions; wah, wah, wah. SFoodie shared some of these misgivings, but undeterred, we pressed forward, believing in the Little Ramen Stand That Could. And it has paid off. On our subsequent visits to Hapa Ramen, it's gotten good. Really good.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More Ramen Week: Kasumi's Revisited

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2011 at 8:47 AM

Heaven in a Bowl. - LUIS CHONG
  • Luis Chong
  • Heaven in a Bowl.

It's been a few months since our initial visit to Kasumi ("Mist" in Japanese), a ramen and yakitori shop hidden in the quiet Lakeside area. We're happy to report that you no longer have to choose between a ramen only lunch or a yakitori only dinner -- both dishes are now available for dinner, and lunch service has been discontinued.

Since opening, the ramen options were simplified to just Shoyu or Tonkotsu. This modified menu suits them -- the ramen was tastier than ever. Each bowl contains all the basics: ultra thin chasu, a half hanjuku egg, naruto, negi, menma, kikurage, nori, plus corn kernels. The Tonkotsu ($9.75) has the fatty and rich porkyness that'll keep ramen fans happy. Remember to add buta kakuni (stewed pork belly) for just $1.50 more -- it's tender and delicious. Though, we should mention that it lacks caramelization. Well, you can't have everything.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ramen Week Continued: Chotto's Rare Miso-Tonkotsu Hybrid

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2011 at 9:32 AM

Chotto's miso-tonkotsu ramen hybrid. - LUIS CHONG
  • Luis Chong
  • Chotto's miso-tonkotsu ramen hybrid.

There's no place SFoodie won't go to sample a good bowl of ramen -- even if it means mingling with dudes wearing Ralph Lauren cargo shorts and flip-flops in 45-degree weather. Knowing this, we headed to popular Cow Hollow izakaya Chotto. On our first trip, the ramen proved elusive because the kitchen ran out of noodles just two hours after opening. Don't worry, we got the goods on the second visit.

Most people are aware of the basic ramen broth types: shio (salty, clear), shoyu, miso, and tonkotsu (pork bone), but not many know about traditional hybrid blends. Even the famous Santouka ramen is a shio-tonkotsu hybrid. Chotto chef Armando Justo's ramen is a miso-tonkotsu hybrid, a mix of rich porky flavors and full-bodied miso without the residual feeling of heaviness. Now we just need someone to make shoyu-tonkotsu and San Francisco will have it all!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ramen Doraku's a Nice Addition to the City's Noodle Shops

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2011 at 11:13 AM

Newly opened Ramen Doraku looks nice, has reasonable prices, and food that's good, if not great. - LUIS CHONG
  • Luis Chong
  • Newly opened Ramen Doraku looks nice, has reasonable prices, and food that's good, if not great.

We slipped into brand-new Ramen Doraku in the Outer Sunset the other day, slurping noodles and chowing on curry. Our bowl of tonkotsu ramen ($7.95) included fish cake (naruto), green onions (negi), sliced black fungus (kikurage), bamboo shoots (menma), bean sprouts, seaweed (nori), half of a seasoned soft boiled egg (hanjuku tamago, steeped in shoyu-mirin), house-made chasu, and an unusual topping of sliced red onions. The egg and succulent chasu were the highlights; fresh noodles of average quality and decent-tasting pork-bone soup merely satisfied our hunger. The lukewarm broth was neither fatty nor oily, but lacked the richness of proper tonkotsu ― disappointing to hard-core rameniacs, perhaps, but irrelevant to diners just seeking a bowl of noodle soup.

Add-ons: more ramen noodles ($1.50 more), a side of chasu ($3.95), and an extra egg ($1), the last two listed as appetizers. Although we yearned for options like buta kakuni, the lack of extra toppings probably means that prices can remain affordable.

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