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Sep 12, 2007 04:47 PM

Good ramen noodles in SF?

Just got back from a trip to NYC. Had great meals at Del Posto, 11 Madison Park, and The Bar at the Modern, but the best meal of the trip was a transformative bowl of ramen noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Actually, I should say meal(s) since I made the trek down to the Lower East Side (from the Upper West Side, could it have been any farther) two days in a row just to have lunch there again. Incredibly flavorful (but not salty or greasy) broth, chewy noodles, wonderful braised pork and luscious slabs of pork belly, and a beautifully poached egg...all artisanal ingredients beautifully combined.

Of course now I'm back in SF, and am craving a decent bowl of ramen. From past posts it seems like the best ramen is located from San Mateo down to San Jose. Is there a decent to good place for ramen in SF proper? And why doesn't someone do great eats like David Chang of Momofuku here? Granted, the bowl of ramen (which was very large) cost $14, but a $14 gourmet meal is a cheap one in my book!

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  1. I couldn't find it via the search function but there's a ramen ranking list by Melanie Wong that breaks it down to a 100.

    I like Tanpopo in J-town.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      Well, I'm really fond of Genki, on Geary and 3d or 4th. Good broth, kind of milky, not overly salty, delicious in a word.

      1. re: Bodegadawg

        I've found their broth to be on the flavorless side - indeed not much salt but not much of anything else either.

        1. re: Bodegadawg

          i will definitely try this one, since it's only a few blocks from where i live, and can easily scoot over there for lunch one day

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            thanks for digging this up, i tried to search for it, but couldn't find it! will definitely check out the sf places, although there aren't too many of them

        2. Try Oyaji near 32nd and Clement. The ramen is to die for. It comes with extremely tender pork and some egg, with these crazy shakers of spices that I personally don't bother with since the broth is so flavorful. I recommend you order with extra pork if that's what you're into. Just to warn you: it is a tad salty, but it's freaking delicious.

          2 Replies
          1. re: iwantmytwodollars

            thanks, this one is also not too far from me, so I'll definitely check it out. I'll be curious to taste the broth...I like flavorful broth, but if it seems like it's been seasoned w/too much salt or msg, that's a turnoff.

            1. re: rcinsf

              I would say Oyaji's ramen is, unlike some places, more about the broth than the noodles. I think The Drunken Master makes it himself from pork bones, etc. The egg is not poached but hardboiled and sliced. The meat is sliced char sew (I am so spelling that wrong, but you get the idea). Hope you can enjoy it.

          2. Stayed in Styvesant Town a few months ago and walked past Momofuku at least a dozen times... it was 95 degrees at the time so ramen didn't seem the food of choice, but now I wish I had.

            Do a search for ramen on this board but set the parameters to include 2-3 years ago, there were lots of discussions about SF Ramen, I still haven't found what I'm looking for, but I live 2 blocks from Genki and it usually satisfies. Good luck in your search.

            1 Reply
            1. re: misterchinn

              Next time you pass by, you should stop in for a bowl of ramen. I was there a couple weeks ago, the weather was warm outside (but not 95 degrees!) Sit at the counter by the cooks (where it's even hotter!) and watch them put together your bowl of ramen. Then you'll understand why it's so good. They had a container set aside just to hold these perfectly poached eggs which they place on the ramen. Just to see the care they take in assembling the dish and its components is wonderful.

            2. IMHO, Katana-Ya on Geary and Mason is as good as Ramen gets in the city. If you want to go all out, order the rich broth with salt and cha-shu.

              430 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102

              9 Replies
              1. re: osho

                i second osho's opinion. if you're looking for top level ramen, then everything offered in SF will disappoint you (katana-ya currently being the top contender). there may be two or three places between san mateo and san jose that would do... otherwise you'll have to go down to LA.

                btw... ramen that's not greasy and salty? might as well eat saimin or pho...

                1. re: uchinanchu

                  i just saw some pics of momofuku's ramen. i'm not sure where you can get that style of ramen in the bay area... it doesn't really seem like a japanese style ramen. at least i've never seen peas in ramen before. it looks very fusion-esque.

                  in any case, i think the ramen people like in the bay area will probably be either too greasy or too salty for you.

                  1. re: uchinanchu

                    yes, the ramen at Momofuku is more fusion-y, and not an "authentic" ramen, but it's really delicious. And I think that the broth doesn't need to be salty, I think salt (and msg) are used because it's an easy and cheap way to flavor the broth. I saw them making chicken stock at Momofuku, and I was amazed at how much chicken was in the pot! That's how they get a flavorful broth! It's more expensive but worth it!

                    1. re: rcinsf

                      i'm not so sure it's an attempt to cheaply "flavor" the broth so much as a palate preference. some of the good ramen i've had has been too salty for eating companions even though no extra salt or MSG had been added during the cooking (in most cases, the salt comes from the katsuo and konbu in the dashi that's added to the pork stock). additionally, i've noticed that japanese folk seem to have a higher salt tolerance than most... which is weird because watching people douse a bowl of rice with shoyu makes me shrink in sympathetic dehydration.

                      1. re: rcinsf

                        Salt and msg are not used because it is an easy and cheap way to flavour the broth.

                        The basic varieties of Ramen are outlined in this link below:


                        1. re: osho

                          Thank you for clarifying this for me. I obviously am not familiar with the culinary history behind ramen, so this was quite enlightening.

                    2. re: uchinanchu

                      A third for Katana-ya, pretty my favorite bowl in the city proper, but as mentioned, not as good as the San Mateo and San Jose area options. If you have the time or means to make the trip and if the ramen is more important to you than the convenience, I would recommend heading south.

                      1. re: uchinanchu

                        Sadly, there is a tendency these days to skimp on the richness of broth and the salt .... hence the rec ...

                        1. re: osho

                          yes, as I noted above, using salt and msg are cheap and easy ways to "flavor" the broth. But when I saw how much chicken they used to make the stock at Momofuku, I understood why it was so flavorful without being salty.

                    3. I had ramen for the first time yesterday at Tanpopo and had the miso ramen. I loved it but , granted, it was my first bowl of ramen. What am I looking for; what is the essence of ramen?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: WCchopper

                        If you get a chance, look for a Japanese movie, "Tampopo" from the '80s. It's a wacky comedy about a "cowboy trucker" (yes in a Japanese film but it works) who helps a young widow open the best ramen shop in town...with lots of odd semi-related side plots. There's several explanations of what makes good ramen. It's comedy but it's surprisingly a good description of makes good ramen. It even has a great explanation of how to eat ramen.

                        For the shorter answer -- ready for subjective interpretation -- it's the broth, the noodles and condiments (egg, bamboo shoots, pork, etc.) and the interplay and variations (miso ramen).

                        If you need an analogy - think how pizza is analyzed -- crust, sauce, toppings (condiments) and the interplay and complete deal. For ramen the broth is like the crust (the platform), the noodles like the sauce and the condiments like the toppings. With both there's variation, personal preference and subjectivity.