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Jun 10, 2005 08:50 PM

Ma Bo Tofu Ramen @ Ramen Rama, Cupertino

  • m

On Wednesday night my brother met me in Cupertino to check out the newest ramen house. Auntie Helen, who has been watching the build-out, came with us. She had already been there twice before. The manager, John, recognized her, greeted her warmly, and offered up a comp of one of the day's specials, a skewer of grilled squid legs with scallions for each of us.

We liked it so much we ordered the other special, grilled pork skewers (2/$2). This was even better. Made with the chewy and flavorful neck meat, the seasoning was perfect with the charry flavor. John said that this type of dish would be served at the adjoining Red Miso restaurant when it opens (in the next few days/weeks).

We tried a couple other snacks as well. The chicken kara-age was pretty bad. I've had this dish nearly a dozen times in the last year and this was the worst. The chicken was hardly marinated and had little flavor of its own. The breading was pasty and soft instead of crisp. And, it was served with kewpie mayonnaise (that's okay) and commercial ponzu sauce (not okay). The gyoza sampler was even worse. The fried veggie gyoza were edible, though not recommended. The pork gyoza reeked of garlic and raw onions. The shrimp and the duck gyoza were virtually indistinguishable from each other, tasting predominantly of raw onion and cabbage encased in an undercooked, soggy wrapper.

I had the tonkotsu ramen, which was decent but very generic. Though ordered "firm", the noodles were softer than they should be. They were abundant though, as has been the case at all the Chinese-owned ramen places I've tried. The roast pork was dry and frazzled around the edges, like it had been precut, though it did have okay flavor. The broth was on the dilute side. The hard-boiled egg tasted only of soy sauce and no other seasonings.

William fared better with the ma bo tofu ramen, topped with corn niblets. The tofu was very fresh and tender, and the spicing had deliciously balanced heat. The miso soup itself was rather weak and needed the boost of flavor from the ma bo tofu blend. This would be worth ordering again.

Ramen Rama
19774 Stevens Creek Blvd.


1. Ramen Halu, San Jose
2. Santa, San Mateo
3. Ryowa, Berkeley
4. Himawari, San Mateo
5. Ryowa, Mountain View
6. Maru Ichi, Mountain View
7. Tanto, Sunnyvale
8. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, San Jose
9. Gen Ramen, Fremont
10.BY Grill, San Francisco
11.Masa’s Sushi, Mountain View
12.Oyaji, San Francisco
13.Maru Ichi, Milpitas
14.Tomoe, San Rafael
15.Ringer Hut, San Jose
16.Tazaki Sushi, San Francisco
17.RamenRama, Cupertino
18.Ogi-San Ramen, Cupertino
19.Kaimuki Grill, San Mateo
20.Tanto, San Jose
21.Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), San Francisco
22.Ramen Club, Burlingame
23.King’s Garden Ramen, Newark
24.Sushi Bistro, San Francisco
25.Lakuni, San Mateo
26.Iroha, San Francisco
27.Manpuku, Berkeley
28.Tanpopo, San Francisco
29.Sushi Yoshi, Newark
30.Suzu Noodle House, San Francisco
31.Oidon, San Mateo
32.Katanaya, El Cerrito
33.Sapporo-ya, San Francisco
34.Tokyo Ramen, Milpitas
35.Hotei, San Francisco
36.Bear’s Ramen House, Berkeley



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  1. Melanie- LOVE your ramen reports, think they're a great service etc, but you really need to revisit your rankings for the top two. I've been going to Santa regularly for 3-4 years and Halu since it opened (I work in SJ) and without question Santa is the better ramen. The noodles have a better texture and firmness and the broth (i like the stewed pork) is more involving than the one note pork flavor at Halu (the broth always reminds me of Mom's pork roast gravy- not a bad thing, but c'mon). That said, the wait at Santa is already like 45 minutes to an hour, so we don't really need to encourage more folks to go, but since you're ranking 'em, give credit where it's due. Anyway, keep up the good work, you're a blessing. Love ya.

    Mrs. Fields.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Mrs Fields

      Which broth do you get with the stewed pork?


      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Santa's stewed pork ramen with pork broth dominates! I was unimpressed by Halu's ramen.

        1. re: km

          What ramen did you get Halu? Most people are not as impressed by their shoyu or shio (I really like the shio) versus their "halu style" which is their twist on a tonkatsu broth.

          1. re: Cary

            I was also un-impressed with Halu, and I'd their Halu style ramen. I do not like the broth and the noodle is way too chewy, the pork is tender though. I like Santa's broth much better. I would rate Santa and Ryowa ahead of Halu.

      2. re: Mrs Fields

        I have to disagree on Santa. I visited recently and it was a real disappointment. I'll post a full review later but with all the recent improvements in the other ramen houses, Santa is no longer one of my favorites.


        1. re: Mrs Fields

          Ramen Rama stands out among all ramen restaurants in the bay area. I ve heard lots of Ramen fans favor Santa, but to be honest, I think Santa is nothing exceptional. They put lots of MSG in their soup to make it so tasty. I ve been there twice. Every time I drank at least 4-5 glasses of water to wash away that MSG taste in my mouth. Ramen Rama does not use any MSG. The soup is the gem. It tastes hearty and has quite a bit of substance in it. The texture of the noodle is just about right, not too soft and not too firm either. I tried the original pork noodle. The pork was tasty and did not have too much fat in it. The price was hard to beat, $6.99. I definitely recommend Ramen fans to dine in Ramen Rama. The best thing about this restaurant is if you don't want to have Ramen, you can order items from the restaurant, Red Miso, next door. They serve those fancy Japanese skewers. I ordered the stuffed squid skewers because one bowl of ramen is not enough for me. The bill is under $10 for two exceptional items. Go try it. You won't be disappointed.

          1. re: Ramen Fan

            Well, it seems to me that when you leave out the salty flavors and remove the fat, you've lost much of the appeal of traditional ramen.

        2. Hi Melanie,

          Your list is great. I'm proud to say that I've been lucky enough to try the ramen at most of your top 10 listed spots. I did notice however that you don't have Hatcho (Santa Clara) listed. They only serve ramen at lunch time, but it is both delicious and quite cheap. If you get the chance to stop by, I highly recommend it! Also, their stewed pork is quite tasty, more sweet and savory when done well.


          2 Replies
          1. re: aquagrl800

            Hi Leslie, thanks! I have had the pleasure of Hatcho's seafood champon, though it was awhile ago.
            Yes, it is quite delicious and unique.

            P.S. I believe Ramen Rama is closed for remodeling these days. My visit there was in 2005.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Ramen Rama and the adjoining Red Miso are permanently closed, replaced by yet another Hawaiian place it seems.