Kahoo Ramen in San Jose
- Melanie Wong Mar 28, 2007 11:14 PM
Armed with KK’s news that the new occupant in the late Do-henkotsu’s space was open for business, I headed there tonight for dinner. We were lucky to get a table at 6:20pm, by the time we left, the place was full. It just opened yesterday.
Our waitress had difficulty describing ramen “with vegetables”, and it turned out to be quite different than what we expected. This is actually a stir-fry of vegetables with strips of fresh bacon. William had the miso version, and I went with shio, and consequently, we didn’t get to try the char shu topping here.
Images of shio ramen with vegetables, fried chicken and miso ramen with vegetables
Peeking into the kitchen prep area on the way to the rest room, I was pleased to see big bags of chicken feet defrosting. Unfortunately, none of their rich collagen texture or chicken-y depth could be found in the thin shio stock. Nor any distinctive salting, and for the first time ever, I reached for a salt shaker to add to the ramen. The noodles were fine textured, and even though ordered “hard” were not firm at all and turned soft quickly in the bowl. Though the floating bits of fat make this bowl look rich, it was anything but. Also, the heavy sprinkle of sesame seeds didn’t do much for me.
William’s dark brown miso stock was better with more flavor punch and a meatier taste, but still pretty average. Also, his vegetable and pork topping had bands of dark brown carmelized onions and the wonderful aroma of a hot wok, whereas mine were closer to boiled than stir-fried in character. His noodles had picked up much more flavor from the stock. They were also cooked closer to al dente and had more bite. We suspect that a trainee who still needs more time in grade did my bowl, whereas his order was prepared by a more experienced hand.
The star of the meal was the fried chicken, five big hunks of boneless thigh meat for $5, served with shredded cabbage, tomato, a wedge of lemon, and a squiggle of kewpie mayo. So juicy and tender with a lightly battered crust over the skin. The marinade was quite subtle and not over-soy sauced.
I’ll be back to try the shoyu stock with the regular toppings (char shu, egg, seaweed) after Kahoo has some time to get its sea legs. For now, I’ll place it at #20 based on the performance of the miso bowl. If I’d only tasted the shio bowl, it would be somewhere in the 40’s.
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Santa, 805 S B St, San Mateo
3. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (ownership change?
)4. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
5. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
6. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
7. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
8. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
9. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
10.BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
11.Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
12.Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
13.Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
14.Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
15.Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
16.Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
17.Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
18.Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
19.Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
20.Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
21.Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
22.Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
23.Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
24.Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
25.Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
26.Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
27.Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino
28.Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
29.Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
30.Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
31.Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
32.King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
33.Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco
34.Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
35.Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
36.100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
37.Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
38.H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont
39.Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
40.Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
41.Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
42.Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
43.Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
44.La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas
45.Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
46.Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
47.Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
48.Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
49.Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
50.Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
51.Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
52.Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
53.Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
54.Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
Thanks for the fast turnaround, Melanie! I didn't even know that Do-henkotsu had closed and sadly never got to try their food.
Kahoo's fried chicken does look tasty; sorry to hear the ramen offerings weren't as satisfying. Can you say more about the general landscape of their menu? Obviously, there's the ramen but just curious what the rest of the menu looks like...
A word about the rankings . . . they're based on the best individual bowl of ramen I've had at each spot. A place can have one good ramen style (e.g., miso) and everything else bad and still rank high. Halu's top spot was originally earned by the house specialty, Halu made with the thick noodles. However, the last 2 times I ordered this, the broth was a bit off. Once it was not salty enough and the next time was missing the floating fat globules. The menu now offers the option of less salty or less fat, and either the standard offering has changed or some mix-up happened to my order. That said, the seasonal ramen offerings here and the shio ramen continue to keep it at the top of my list. The shoyu ramen is weak here, for that stock, Santa is the best.
Thanks for the uber fast report, that's turnaround!
Great advice, it sounds like this place needs time to settle in and let the broth receipe and batches mature over time.
Do-Henkotsu, and Maruichi were memorable but yet forgettable first dining experiences, but definitely improved over time. I remember I thought Maruichi was terrible the first month they opened, pre-Kuro ramen.
It's been 2 years since I was last there, but I have to say that the fried chicken was almost identical to Do-henkotsu's. Maybe some of the staff are still there. Maybe even the old gray-haired owner himself at the big wok for now, let us know.
It appears that Kahoo is actually a multiple joint venture, not just Ryu-san of Tanto's project, but also including the guys from Rokko and at least one or two other restaurants in addition.
Ate here last Friday with friends. I ordered the shio ramen and the chicken wing (teba) mini bowl.
The mini rice bowls are $2 each and are appetizers. There were two modest pieces of chicken wing mid joint, grilled to perfection with a sweet soy sauce marinade (plus some garlic I think) over a small portion of white rice, and topped with finely chopped green onion. The chicken wing was excellent, though maybe a little bit on the sweet side. There was not much grill flavor, but was surprisingly light and satisfying.
Next came the shio ramen. After eyeing it for a few seconds, a few thoughts came to my mind. Presentation looked almost 95% identical Santa ramen, the way they put the bits of kaiware on top, the look, color, and overall feel, the bamboo shoots/menma visual texture, and yes, even the noodles. The shio broth looked fattening from the bits of fat in the soup, but beneath it was a very mild almost clear but subtle broth. Taste wise was a bit like a lighter version of Santa, maybe less flavor and less fattening.
Fans of toro, uber fat/collagen/artery clogging/kotteri tonkotsu soup broths will find this bland/boring/lowlight, but I just so happened to appreciate this more subtle flavor, which made it less filling, more satisfiying. The best part is that I didn't feel thirsty afterwards or feel like I had some minor MSG attack, let alone feel gluttoned and sickened.
The only minor drawback I had was that the noodles seemed a bit too thin, but they were cooked well and not too soggy. Also the broth while was barely sufficiently salted, didn't have that classic rock salt flavor. I wonder what kind of salt this place uses, and whether they import the salt from Japan (a really good rock or sea salt would be nice, maybe Okinawa sea salt? Or heck even Kosher salt would be most excellent)
I think this place has potential. Give them more time and maybe they'll experiment with another flavor/broth.
re: Melanie Wong
I hate that pink shizzle myself. I don't think they serve that at Kahoo, even though presentation wise for my shio bowl they copied Santa. It was absent from my shio bowl and the shoyu bowl my friends had..
Chashu? It was much much softer than the roasted pork at Santa, more similar in texture and consistency to the fatty pork at Maruichi (ie the kind you get when you supersize your bowl to Maruichi over regular) minus the insane sweetness and the excess fat. The fat is still there, maybe parts of it melted into the soup, but my bowl had more lean cuts. The leaner part of the meat separated rather easily with chopsticks and teeth. Your bowl/batch might vary.
re: K K
you know, i'm still working on real writeups for my bay area ramen visits. but i'll let the cat out of the bag on this one. seems like everyone has been trying the shio or vegetable ramen or something, but i'd say for a true indicator of how good an assari-kei ramen shop is, you've really got to go with the shoyu.
in that sense, for what it's worth, kahoo has an EXCELLENT bowl of shoyu ramen. very much in the spirit of cutting edge shoyu ramen shops in japan. there's an undercurrent to the soup that is very subtly wafu in nature... as they use dashi in the stock. the tiny bits of abura add a nice modern finish but the soup itself remains very light, and most importantly, slightly sweet with lots of dimension and subtle things going on. also, the chashu is halfway between buta-kakuni and straight up chashu; it's not marinated like kakuni, but is in fact a cut of meat that is very fatty and tender and comes out in small chunks rather than slices. highly innovative, maybe not for the bay though since it seems half your ramen shops have buta kakuni or "stewed pork" available as a topping in some form or another.
based on the original review (and looking at what other diners were eating) it seems like the shoyu really is the way to go. i'd pretty much put kahoo atop all of the ramen i had last week; even though i, too, am partial to tonkotsu ramen, i try to rate places based on how well they realize their aim with whatever style of ramen they serve. in that sense, i think kahoo really busted out of the gate with full guns blazing, at least when it comes to the shoyu ramen. maybe it'll be even better in a few weeks or months, but i'd go ahead and try it today, as it was definitely one of the best shoyu bowls i've had in california...
Really? My Japanese friends thought the shoyu ramen was rather weak at Kahoo when we went. I even had a taste of the broth and it tasted almost like the shio but with coloring. Then again both broths were subtle and light, but the shoyu was way more subtle/bland (at least the spoon sip I had off my friend's bowl).
Perhaps you went when the broth had been cooking in the vat for enough time for the flavors to sink in, versus the lunch period on the dot for us when they had opened.
Kahoo is the newest of the bunch you tried. Santa is arguably the oldest of the bunch with probably one of the deepest cult followings. Maruichi I think opened around 2003 to 2004, ditto with Halu, or Halu (aka Surfer Ramen) opened before Maruichi.
re: K K
i went just before it closed during the lunch hour. the shoyu isn't super savory or anything, but it doesn't really need to be imho. it's complex, which is the thing that i appreciate most, and also the hardest thing to find in stateside ramen. there's that initial tang of dashi upon the first sip, which kind of turns into this mellow sweetness on your tongue. given that they're new, they might not be all that consistent yet, but when i went it was pretty spot on. it was also my second lunch of the day (after a lunch set at ryowa), so hunger definitely didn't color my appreciation of it. although maybe ryowa's awfulness did lol.
on this outing, i also tried santa, halu, maruichi, and himawari. based on what i've been reading, it seems like bay area ramen fans generally think there's better ramen in L.A. while we do have santouka (and a couple of other noteworthy places), i actually think the bay area has it pretty good. on average, there are some fairly unique places up there as opposed to your generic shoyu/miso/shio ramen joints, maruichi and halu being exceptionally notable. i think you guys kinda overrate santa, though. their tonkotsu broth is very flavorful, maybe among the best in town even, but the yellow egg noodles bug me and the broth is missing a certain porky essence to it; it kind of reminds me a little bit of chinese seafood soup or nagasaki champon, not that that's necessarily a bad thing.
Thanks a bunch for your comments on Kahoo. That style of shoyu ramen is indeed hard to find. I've had it at only two spots locally, and one has closed due to retirement. I'm looking forward to trying the shoyu stock, sometimes simple is best.
Looking forward to the rest of your report!
Do you have a picture of the shoyu ramen? Is it a thick, dark broth (as opposed to Tokyo style's light shoyu broth) Based on the pictures of the ramen with "vegetable", they look very much like the original Do-Henkotsu's ramen with stir fried vegetables. Also, is the chef and older gentleman with gray hair (but younger than the original Do-Henkotsu chef)?
The reason I ask is because I went there a few weeks before it closed. It was still as good as before, but there was an "extra" chef in gray hair there. He seemed to be "apprenticing" with the old Do-Henktosu owner/chef. So it is possible that some of the recipes where kept with the new Kahoo. I guess I'll have to try it out again to find out for sure.
Do-Henkotsu was one of my favorite places (more so than Santa) while it lasted. It did have one of the unique ramen flavors - broth, bacon chasu, and the noodle - in the bay area. Hopefully some of its flavor stays around longer at Kahoo.