Himawari Ramen - San Mateo.
I just checked out Himawari Ramen in San Mateo. This place is legit. I went by myself and had a half shoyu, half fried rice lunch set. Everything was pretty good. The soy-sauce broth had a lime(yuzu?) flavor to it, pretty nice.
My only complaint was that I think the fried rice is not freshly cooked to order. I think they just make a batch and give it a quick refry when the order is taken. Otherwise, they make a nice version of Japanese style fried rice.
Himawari is now neck and neck with Santa for favorite ramen joints in the bay area.
Also, if you are in the San Mateo area. Please try Tombo, just a few stores down from Himawari. It's really excellent handmade udon. Really great but noone seems to eat there. Try the octopus balls!
so funny. i just came here to see if anyone had tried this place, and this message was at the top of the list. i had lunch there a few days ago, and had the shio (sea salt broth) butter corn ramen. it was so good. the broth was heavenly. the noodles were good, but not great. could be chewier, i think. i also wanted to try the crab omelet ramen, but i was too full. next time.
btw, i really like tombo too.
I like Himawari too. It is not quite as good as Santa (yes, I like chewier noodles too) but the atmosphere is very Tokyo-like and --so far-- you can get a table no problem. I have only had the cha shu ramen there.
Last week my brother and I stopped by Himawari for the first time on my way back to the City. Downtown San Mateo was buzzing on this warm night. At prime dining time, 7:30pm, Himawari was only half full on Friday. The ramen menu has expanded beyond the initial report from "tanspace" two months ago and has more offerings than listed on the website. Plus, a small card on the table listed two daily specials: mapo tofu and a cold tomato (William felt they needed to come up with a jazzier name than that before he would order it). We ordered some small plates in addition to our noodles. Some of these were ramen toppings available without the noodles, causing William to quip that these were the Atkins versions.
Piri-kara kyuri, $2, was fresh spears of crunchy Japanese cucumber, salted and bathed in a moderately spicy red chili oil. It reminded me of Sichuan cucumbers with less heat. I liked it more than William did, perhaps because it was nice to work some vegetable matter into our meal.
We hesistated to order the asari garlic butter, $6, believing that nothing could top Tanto's version. But for the sake of science, we forged ahead. The clams in the shell were decent, but not as sweetly fresh and beautifully balanced as Tanto's and slightly overcooked.
Teba kara-age, $3.50, was a pair of fried chicken wings, dressed with sweet soy sauce and a sprinkle of chili powder. The chicken was unbattered with crackly golden skin and very juicy flesh. The chili powder accent added just the right pizzaz.
Our favorite of the apps was the buta kakuni, $5, deep-fried stewed side pork. William's been sampling kakuni from different kitchens and was intrigued by what deep-frying might add. Five cubes of braised streaky pork, an inch and a half or so wide, were dusted and fried, then piled on a plate in a pool of sweet soy sauce with some negi and sesame seeds. William poked at a piece with his chopsticks to divide it into a bite-size morsel. Once the gentley crackly crust was pierced , the super soft and tender flesh split apart easily as a stream of melted pork fat oozed out. With a crisp exterior yielding to unctuous seasoned pork fat, then sweet meat and thick rind cooked to the perfect jellied consistency, the first bite of this was amazing. The second, stultifying. It's the kind of dish that you need to share with three or four other people for the wonder of that first taste when it's hot out of the fryer.
Moving on to the noodles, I had the shoyu ramen, $7.50, plus the tamago supplement for $1. I was pleased with how attractively arranged the toppings were, a nicety that some of the other ramen houses ignore. The square of nori was angled out the side of the bowl and the frilly white negi were piled high. Only two thin slices of char shu, which was above average in taste and texture. The delicious egg was cooked in soy and pork flavorings and was a perfect soft-boiled consistency adding some richness of liquid yolk to the soupy mix. The broth base itself, made from pork, chicken and seafood, was brightly flavored and not particularly deep or round. The noodles were somewhat disappointing, and while firm and not turning soft, were not chewy.
William ordered the tan-tan men, $8, a take-off of Sichuan spicy noodles. The gritty textured ground pork topping was slightly sweetened as well as spiced with chilis. The spice level was low-medium and well-balanced. Some bean sprouts completed the picture. The miso soup base was amazingly complex - the menu says that eight kinds of miso go into the soup. This might be the kitchen's strength and I'll definitely order miso ramen the next time I come here. My brother was very happy with this dish.
William found the male servers a little slow and inattentive. I think he just likes the Japanese anime waitresses at Halu better. (g)
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu
3. Tanto (clam ramen)
6. Maru Ichi
7. Gen Ramen
8. Masas Sushi
I just went there for dinner tonight based on forum recommendations. I had the miso butter corn ramen with a side of chicken karaage. Both were very good as well as healthy portions for the price. As someone who goes to Japan yearly primarily for the food, the ramen was good but the chicken was very noteworthy. It's fried just right with a light yet crisp breading that did a good job of keep the chicken juicy and flavorful.
Only change I would make would be to order the chicken without the small salad that comes with it. The dressing ends up bleeding into the chicken and if you're not quick enough, you end up with a piece or two of semi-soggy chicken. Forget the salad, give me one more piece of chicken!!
202 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401
On Melanie's recommendation I tried the asari shio ramen. Nice firm noodles, delicate broth, five clams, not much clam flavor.
Kimchi, spicy marinated cucumbers, edamame, fried squid, cha-shu rice bowl, all pretty good. Large portions and great prices. Good 50s-60s jazz, which I presume from the album covers on the walls is what they always play.