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Pork Ramen and Sake @ Miraku Noodles, Walnut Creek

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  • Melanie Wong Jun 15, 2005 05:37 AM
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Sunday I barted across the bay to have lunch with Don Francesc. We ended up at Miraku Noodles. He marveled that a Japanese restaurant, actually two restaurants, could be tucked among the car dealers. The noodle shop has modern clean lines. I admired the refrigerated case where the sakes and a few wines were on display, as too many places mishandle fine beverages.

After 1pm, we were the only customers. The noodle cook was hard at it in his open kitchen working on his stocks. Soon a waitress shuttled over from the main restaurant to this attached annex to take our orders. She was hard as nails. She confirmed that the "Miraku noodles" on the menu are indeed ramen. The stock comes in two styles, a lighter chicken base or heavier pork base.

I had fun studying the sake menu and was impressed that two special springtime, unpasteurized sakes were offered, in addition to the regular selection. I requested one, but found out that it was only sold by whole bottles and that would have been too much for just the two of us at lunch time. Back to the regular sake menu, we decided to share a masu of Shirataki Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi ginjo ($12). I was pleased when a new bottle was opened for us. Described on the menu as "white waterfall pure flavor" from Niigata, this sake was in wonderful condition and as fresh as can be. Medium dry, this had a juicy succulence to the subtle stone fruit and pear notes, very good balance of sweetness and acidity to hide the alcohol, and a soft and ultra-smooth finish. We were both impressed. Francesc had never tried a daiginjo, so he indulged me by ordering the Tsukasabotan Shizuku daiginjo ($25). Alas, this was out of stock and we had instead a masu of Wakatake Onikoroshi daiginjo ($18). I'd tasted the ginjo of "demon killer" before making it interesting to try a higher grade. This was much drier than the first sake with the alcohol protruding more. It tasted of yeast, melon and pears, but was far less overt than the first sake. A bit of honeyed nuttiness which made it seem a little oxidized and minerally tones added complexity. While it was more interesting to taste and analyze, it didn't offer as much drinking pleasure for me.

Our ramen orders came with green salads and a bowl of edamame. I had the pork-based miso (shown below). The soup was flavorful and enjoyable for the first few sips, but soon I tired of the overt sweetness. I thought Francesc's plain pork was the better choice. The stock was milky and medium-bodied with some complexity but not much depth. The menu described the toppings as featuring seasonal vegetables. I'm not sure what would be considered seasonal about raw champignons, canned corn, bean sprouts, scallions, and baby bok choy. The ring of raw red pepper might be marginally summery. Including the underseasoned omelet strips, these toppings had very little flavor to contribute. The pork was dried out and coarse. Presentation was poor with half the toppings submerged under the surface of the soup. Before taking the photo below, I propped up the noodles under the hidden parts in order to show a little of everything in the picture. The fresh noodles have potential here. They turned soft quickly in the bowl, but might be good if ordered "hard". We also had an order of pork gyoza which were only fair.

The sakes were the highlight of this lunch and would definitely bring us back. I also noticed the care that the chef was heaping on the bubbling cauldron of kombu and other vegetables for dashi. Perhaps the lighter style stocks will provide more satisfaction here.

PERSONAL RAMEN RANKINGS

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.Norikonoko, Berkeley
12.Masa’s Sushi, Mountain View
13.Oyaji, San Francisco
14.Maru Ichi, Milpitas
15.Tomoe, San Rafael
16.Ringer Hut, San Jose
17.Tazaki Sushi, San Francisco
18.RamenRama, Cupertino
19.Ogi-San Ramen, Cupertino
20.Kaimuki Grill, San Mateo
21.Tanto, San Jose
22.Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), San Francisco
23.Ramen Club, Burlingame
24.King’s Garden Ramen, Newark
25.Sushi Bistro, San Francisco
26.Lakuni, San Mateo
27.Iroha, San Francisco
28.Miraku Noodles, Walnut Creek
29.Manpuku, Berkeley
30.Tanpopo, San Francisco
31.Sushi Yoshi, Newark
32.Suzu Noodle House, San Francisco
33.Oidon, San Mateo
34.Katanaya, El Cerrito
35.Sapporo-ya, San Francisco
36.Tokyo Ramen, Milpitas
37.Hotei, San Francisco
38.Bear’s Ramen House, Berkeley

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  1. I'm glad you enjoyed some of the wonderful sake available at Miraku, Walnut Creek and I can guess just which "hard as nails" waitress served it to you - at least you didn't have to argue with her about the bill!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Marie

      She was careful to state the price of each of our selections and point to it on the menu. Clearly she's learned her lesson!

      Link: http://chowhound.com/chowbooks/index....

    2. I'm glad you got to try it. Definitely not top tier ramen and the service can be brusque, but it's the only one I know of on the WC side of the hill, so I'll be going back.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jim m

        Thanks for letting us know about it. There's potential in those housemade noodles. I think they could be good if they didn't cook them so soft. If I were there again, I'd try a different stock. I'm finding in my tours of the top tier ramen-yas that they usually excel in one or two of the stocks. The trick is to figure out which one and avoid the others.

      2. The Jozen Mizuno Gotoshi Junmai Ginjo was arguably the most popular sake of all among our Stanford group of students when I was teaching in Kyoto. The pink bottle retailed for about $10 there and $30 here. They also have a slightly less expensive ginjo (with brewer's alcohol added) in a white bottle.

        Vincent

        1 Reply
        1. re: Vincent Lo

          Thanks for the comment. I wasn't able to find much via google. This sake was very easy to like.

          Link: http://chowhound.safeshopper.com/23/c...