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What is YOUR top ramen list?

In the shabu shabu topic, the discussion is digressing into ramen favorites. However, that is going to get lost there. So what are YOUR ramen favs?

... you might give Melanie some new ideas. Thoughts on places to avoid would be useful too.

Melanie Wong's List


Porthos List


My List

1. Original Ramen @ Ryowa Ramen House, Berkeley

OK, so I only tried one bowl so far ...

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  1. My top 5:
    1, Halu
    2, Halu
    3, Halu
    4, Halu
    5, Halu

    1. Ramen hit its popularity fad with me a few years ago, back when Ryowa MV was really really good (and now they've gone downhill). This is the same with other fads like bubble/pearl milk tea, where the bubble literally has burst and the market quite saturated.

      I remember when I first started getting into this 6 years ago, there weren't as many ramen shops as there are today. Everyone else seems to be trying really hard to cash in on the fad since, or offer their own special bowl but sadly only a handful of those efforts are worth the while.

      I don't have a ranking, but these are ones that I still like:

      Maruichi - from the group of folks who brought us Sushi Maru, Sushi Tomi/Tomi Sushi and Hana. I remember when they first opened they had a rough start. Until they offered kuro ramen this was not worth the while. Earlier this year they had a limited offering of a spicy aka (red) miso ramen that was quite decent. I give them extra points for the latest cold noodle offering which is rather refreshing. The Milpitas branch is not worth the visit.

      Do Henkotsu (Tokushima) - I admit I'm biased with this place, even though I went earlier this week and their standards slipped. I've been going here since they opened in was it 2001 or 2002. I do appreciate what they are doing, which is quite different than the usual place. They even offer their own take of Chinese dishes (stir fried pork with leeks/vegetables etc), and their menu keeps expanding. Niku Iri (must be pork belly strips) or spare rib ramen is always my staple. I fondly refer to this place amongst my cohorts as "bacon ramen".

      Santa - probably been around the longest of all the ramen-ya's. Broth is their forte here. Tonkotsu broth is always great, but I hate the pink ginger. Not too huge on the noodles which are more like cappellini. Their cha shiu is terrible, and roasted pork isn't anywhere as good as other places. My current fave is the curry ramen. The long wait and small kitchen (1 man operation with 2 helpers doing side dishes) = a horrendous wait during peak hours for a bowl of ramen. This bumps it down to #3 and lower if I were meaner. For the same amount of wait, you could drive down to Maruichi, perhaps head over to Himawari, and maybe even Halu and perhaps score a table and perhaps even finish munching on a bowl and still come back to Santa and laugh at the people in line!

      Halu - I think I've only been maybe 4 times tops. Nice place, and while it might be worthy of #1 title, it still falls so short of ramen from other parts of the world.

      If anyone plans on traveling anytime soon to these geographical locations:

      Waikiki - if these two ramen-ya's are still around, hit up Tenkaippin for the chicken kotteri ramen heart stopping goodness, and the one across the street from there (for Sapporo style ox tail ramen). I'm sure there are other good ramen-ya's on the strip or nearby.

      Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum in Japan (Yokohama) - maybe not the best ramen in all of Japan, but if you're a ramen freak you have to check this place out. Multiple styles from various regions/prefectures. Exhibit on first floor, and goodies in the basement.

      The above 2 or 3 world spots might not represent the ultimate best in ramen, but will give you an idea what the Bay Area is lacking. So depending on your perspective, if you like what we have don't travel and eat ramen elsewhere :-)

      1. 1. Santa-I love a fatty, rich broth.
        2. Himawari-Their shio broth is strong.
        3. Maruichi-Not my favorite, but my grandma and I like the booths, kimchee, and watching the noodle maker.
        4. Minca (nyc)-Re-opens for a late night shift and has an interesting menu with some other ramen options.
        Want to try-Do Henkotsu.

        My ramen list on yelp- http://www.yelp.com/list_details?user...

        1. Okay, so my ramen ranking list would be less by shop and more by bowl. Also, I don't really get to SJ so have never gone to Halu. And I think my list reflects more my own personal hankerings and palate than trying to subjective about whose bowl is more traditional, etc. So IMHO:

          1. Asari shio ramen @ Himawari
          2. Original ramen @ Ryowa, MV
          3. Tonkotsu ramen @ Santa (the stewed pork isn't great tho with it)
          4. Crab Omlette with shoyu broth ramen @ Himawari
          5. Shio with stewed pork ramen @ Himawari
          6. Pork ramen @ BY Grill (don't know if they do this anymore)
          7. Miso ramen @ Maru-ichi, MV
          8. Tonkotsu ramen with stewed pork @ GEN Ramen
          9. Miso ramen with extra spicy @ Santa
          10. Tonkotsu ramen @ Himawari
          11. Miso ramen @ Santa
          12. Miso ramen @ Suzu
          13. Kyushu ramen @ Tanpopo

          These are just horrible....
          14. Mabo tofu ramen @ Suzu
          15. Miso ramen @ Iroha
          16. Miso ramen @ Hotei
          17. BBQ Ribs and Kim chee ramen @ Ramen Club
          18. Miso ramen @ Mama-san

          2 Replies
          1. re: vliang

            interesting. i like the mabo tofu ramen at suzu. but it might be because i don't think of it as a "real" ramen but a different dish -- the mabo sauce completely overpowers the broth. i like the noodles there, and i have never had any alkaline effect (that others have reported) when eating there.

            i went to genki ramen when they first opened well over a year ago. i thought the soup wasn't very good and noodles were soft and plain -- overall not very noteworthy. maybe they have changed. i didn't like BY Grill either -- it didn't taste like a "Japanese" ramen -- maybe because of the noodles.

            i like oyaji ramen -- i don't think of it as exceptional, but very good noodles and soup. There are a couple new ramen places on Geary in outer richmond past park presidio. i remember not liking any of them -- again, thick noodles which aren't my type.

            still looking for a good ramen place in san francisco. nothing is as good as santa, himawari or ryowa. i like katana-ya and oyaji. sapporo-ya is not very good and tampopo is just okay. definitely want to try the new sozai.

            1. re: cornflower55

              genki's strength is definitely their crepes

          2. How is this for the perfect ramen-shabu segue?

            "GENKI RAMEN and SHABU" opening soon on the north side of Geary between 3rd and 4th Aves.

            6 Replies
            1. re: TomG

              I was on 3rd ave drinking just the other night and didn't see that. Are you sure it was between 3rd and 4th? I must have been standing right in front of it.

              1. re: umetaro

                Yep! Drinking on 3rd Ave will do that to you. The storefront that previously rented Korean videos. Now has a 30 foot "Grand Opening" banner. Damn I'm glad I didn't say observant, intelligent,etc.

                1. re: TomG

                  Ah, I saw it on my way home. I tend to ignore those "grand opening" banners... the chinese restaurant next to my house has been "grand opening" for the last four months. Also, I'm sure if it said "sushi" anywhere on the sign I would have spotted it immediately.

                  1. re: umetaro

                    Another new Japanese(apparently non sushi)restaurant is scheduled to open in the old WeBeSushi/BY location this Saturday.

                  2. re: TomG

                    Hey TomG,
                    Did you happen to pass by and check out whatever replaced BY?

                    1. re: umetaro

                      We were going to try it last night, the remodel looked inviting, but the menu was suspect, opted for Indian. Will do lunch there latter this week.

              2. It's actually very hard for me to say which ramen places are my favorite because none of the ramen shops in the Bay Area is even closed to be rated near the level of the real ramen in Japan. But if I had to rank them, here is my top 3:

                1) Dohenkotsu
                2) Himawari (just slightly below Dohenkotsu)
                3) Ramen Club

                I actually do not really care for Halu because of its noodles - thick noodles are way too thick, thin noodles lacks chewy texture. I ranked Dohenkotsu #1 because they stick to what they do the best when it comes to ramen - Tokushima style. The problem with the ramen shops except Dohenkotsu in the Bay Area in my opition is that they try to please everyone by offering different kind of soup (shoyu, miso, shio, tonkotsu), and cannot excell on any of them.

                The worst ramen I tasted was from Sapporoya in J-Town. I am yet to try Ryowa, Maruichi & Gen. I will report when I do.

                1. Okay, here's mine...

                  Disclaimer: I was going to say "I like my foods like I like my women," but that doesn't work out so well when everything I eat is salty with a lot of fat content.

                  As much as I'm aware of the superiority of South Bay Ramen (I would kill for a good bowl of tonkotsu ramen with some kakuni on the side. Okay, maybe not kill, but definitely wound), I don't drive out of the city much (drink responsibly, kids!) so I'll keep this list contained to places in SF.

                  1. Katana-ya
                  It's open 'til 2am! They offer a range of broth choices (miso, shio, shoyu, sappari, kotteri) as well as a plethora of sides. My pick for best chashu in the city. I once ordered a combination kotteri miso chashumen and chashudon... I could feel my blood coagulating with each bite. Such fatty, oily goodness.

                  2. Suzu
                  I heard that the owner of Suzu used to work with the Katana-ya owner at what used to be Henry the VIIIth on Geary and Leavenworth. Definite similarities in style. I haven't encountered Melanie's alkaline problem, but I've probably destroyed any kind of sensitivity (physical or emotional, apparently) through the random whiskey binge here and there.

                  3. Oyaji
                  The owner, Hide, is supposedly the brother of the katana-ya owner. They only offer one type of ramen... "oyaji ramen." A name which evokes disturbing images of sukebe salarymen hitting on my girlfriend. There's a nice surprise of garlic chips in the broth, but oftentimes too many extraneous vegetables get in the way of my noodles.

                  4. BY grill
                  The "Kyushu ramen" didn't seem very Kyushu to me. I tried their pork (tonkotsu) ramen and was a bit disappointed, but maybe my expectations were too high? The broth seemed more like it would appeal to a Chinese palate than a Japanese one.

                  5. Tampopo
                  My nihonjin friends love tampopo and I have no idea why. I think it's because they're all from Tokyo and don't have the pork love. The Kyushu ramen there makes me sadder than BY Grill's effort, but their multitude of menu options tend to coerce me back. I heard they recently hired a new ramen cook and the food has gone a bit downhill since then.

                  6. Iroha
                  I eat here when I'm broke and Suzu and Tampopo are closed. Ramen is not their specialty. I've actually had a few other things there and have yet to find their specialty...

                  7. Sapporo-ya
                  This is where I eat when I'm too broke for sushi, I'm not in the mood for any other offerings in the Kinokuniya mall, suzu is closed, and it's too cold to walk up the street to Iroha.

                  8. Sushi Bistro
                  I've only eaten the ramen there once and don't remember much about it. The lack of an urge to revisit the place is probably more telling than any description I could muster. I think their specialties are uramaki and fusion type sushi anyhow. I just looked at their online menu and ramen isn't listed... maybe they don't serve it anymore?

                  Note: I tend to be more of a broth person than a noodle person.

                  1. I'm more of a broth person than a noodle person also, and I prefer my noodles somewhat softer than many on this board. Here are my current rankings...

                    1. Santa, San Mateo
                    It took me a few visits to find the right broth/topping combination, but I love the fatty goodness of tonkotsu broth with stewed pork. Their regular pork topping has gotten better recently but still not special, but at least it's no longer bad.

                    2. Ryowa, Mountain View
                    This used to be my absolute fave but it's really gone downhill the past couple of years. Part of me is shoping it's a fluke and so it's still hanging onto #2 based on past glories. My favorite there is the butter corn ramen. They used to have the best kimchi (I'd eat half the sizeable container while waiting for my ramen) but now it's been replaced with an inferior version :(

                    3. Maru Ichi, Mountain View
                    The ramen has definitely improved over when they first opened. I usually get the kuro ramen but I don't love it. Their kimchi is good.

                    4. Maru Ichi, Milpitas
                    Not as good as the MV location but still okay.

                    5. Himawari, San Mateo
                    I've tried their tonkotsu ramen, their asari shio ramen, and other bowl (don't remember which) but none have really struck my fancy. Now I usually order non-ramen items when I'm there, but I do think their ramen is okay.

                    6. Do Henkotsu, San Jose
                    This ramen is a very different style but I guess I didn't get it (only tried once).

                    7. Halu, San Jose
                    I only went once for their piri-kiri ramen and didn't feel like finishing the bowl. I'd like to try their regular ramen sometime...

                    8. Suzu, San Francisco
                    I only went once (not long after they opened) and felt it was sub-par ramen.

                    9. Oidon, San Mateo
                    I go here frequently for dinner but never again will I order their ramen.

                    I've also tried Ramen Club in Burlingame but it was so long ago that I can't remember :) My all-time fave was at this little streetside stand in Tokyo -- their tonkotsu blew my mind, and it was only then that I began to appreciate ramen.

                    1. Izakaya Sozai (opened last week) now has the BEST tonkotsu-style ramen in the city. Not really a ramen restaurant, it's like a Japanese tapas place - sake and small plates. The one ramen and udon dishes are listed in the menu's "After Sake" section.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: L C

                        I agree with L C. Izakaya Sozai has an amazing tonkotsu ramen that they cook for 2 days and even has a semi runny egg yolk!

                        1. re: sumo3175

                          It is very sad how most places can not do the ni-tamago well. Many places butcher it and give you a sulfurous, chalky mess.

                          1. re: sumo3175

                            so how are people ranking sozai against santouka and orenchi these days (and compared to daikokuya)?

                            1. re: ankimo

                              We got the last bowl of ramen one night at Sozai. Not sure if they stretched their broth for the last bowl, but it didn't come close to Santouka. Not enough pork richness or flavor. I'd like to hear what others think.

                              Sozai Restaurant
                              1500 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA 94122

                              1. re: ankimo

                                I've never tried Daikokuya in LA. For me, Orenchi is now the best in the SF bay area. Sozai (best in SF) and Santa Ramen come 2nd. Santa still has excellent buta kakuni (stewed pork), but my pet peeve is that they only do hard boiled eggs, I prefer soft boiled eggs. I like the tonkotsu broth of Izakaya Sozai, it's Tokyo-style, also they make soft boiled eggs. Himawari comes 3rd. Genki Ramen is much better now, compared to when they first opened (it's the only non-Japanese shop listed, chef is Korean). Katana-ya is overrated, quality is not consistent. And I go to Ramen Dojo when I want spicy ramen.

                                On the other hand, Santouka is a chain restaurant (like a McDonald's). They are the only one in the entire bay area that doesn't make tonkotsu broth from scratch. Note that they call it "Shio ramen", short for "Shio Tonkotsu" (a blend that also contains seafood broth). The broth and noodles are the instant kind. And that layer of oil (melted pork fat) on top is poured afterwards, it's not a by product of cooking pork bones for long hours. But I do like Santouka ramen, i just place it in a different category since it's basically processed food. That San Jose store inside the supermarket is small and sad. Their locations in LA and Vancouver, Canada are superior in food quality and presentation.

                                202 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                Genki Ramen
                                3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

                                Izakaya Sozai
                                1500 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                Ramen Dojo
                                805 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                1. re: ankimo

                                  You must be kidding me. When did Daikokuya in LA become a benchmark for good ramen?

                            2. While it's not quite available yet, the ramen from Richie Nakano, sous chef at NOPA, has been all over the food blogosphere, and my guess is that once it's actually put into action, it will give all the other places a run for their money

                              1. Not a ramen expert, but I do love me some ramen (almost once a week before my low-GI diet!)

                                1. Santa Ramen, San Mateo
                                2. Halu, San Francisco
                                3. Oyaji, San Francisco
                                4. Tampopo, San Francisco
                                5. Ryowa, Berkeley

                                I used to love Ryowa in Mountain View, but I no longer go there.

                                Am up for trying Himawari, since it's not so far from SF.

                                Oyaji Restaurant
                                3123 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                202 2nd Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

                                859 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                                312 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118