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Jun 8, 2006 08:25 PM


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I've been to katana-ya on geary @ mason a couple of times now. Their hours are 5pm - 2am every day. From what I can remember of the menu they offer sushi, udon, ramen, and probably a bunch of other things I can't recall right now.

They offer miso, shio, and shoyu ramen (no tonkotsu, unfortunately). You can also choose a topping, but I was born to eat pork so I never have no idea what else is available other than chashu (char siu? cha siew? chashao? ch'a shu? argh! roasted pork! damn both you and your cohorts, wade-giles!).

I've tried the miso and shio ramen so far and I can positively say that it's better than most of the other places in the city. To add some context to that, the only places I like eating ramen at in SF are Suzu, Oyaji, and BY grill.

I have yet to try the sushi there, but the selection seems pretty basic and the itamae is very friendly. There were no "specials of the day" posted anywhere but they just opened 10 days ago and it may take some time for them to feel comfortable ordering anything non-standard or of unusual quality. I did get to taste a ceviche dish the itamae made and it was quite nice. I've only had Peruvian ceviche before, but I was usually a few pisco sours into it, so it's a bit difficult for me to compare... it was certainly different though. No fruit, but it had salmon, saba, tomatoes, vinegar, and onions if I'm not mistaken.

I've no idea if this place is associated with the katana-ya in el cerrito, but it is the same guy that was involved with katana-ya in the sunset, henry the VIIIth, and niko niko sushi.

Oh, and they don't have their liquor license yet, but plan on getting one soon. So it's basically BYOB for now.

Good lord, that's a lot of text.

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  1. Hey umetaro, thanks for keeping an eye on this opening. I had a chance to try it Saturday night when a parking space opened up before my eyes on Mason.

    Since you've tried the shio and miso, I went with the shoyu (soy sauce) made with pork/chicken stock and the extra bbq pork for $9. A regular bowl is $6.50. Other toppings available are kimchee, spicy negi onion, chicken karaage, or spicy tofu.

    This time I forgot to ask for my noodles cooked "hard". They were much too soft midway through the bowl, but they did soak up more of the flavor from the stock this time. I still like the cut of pork used here and the way its seasoned. I was glad that I ordered more of it. The stock was familiar this go-round, quite meaty and deep in flavor despite its relatively thin body. It didn't have as much fat globules floating on top, yet still had the oil slick around the rim. The salting was more assertive this time and I liked it a bit better.

    I'll bump up Katanaya to #13.

    (across from ACT)
    430 Geary (@ Mason)
    San Francisco
    Open daily
    11:30am-4:30pm; 4:30pm-2:00am


    1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
    2. Santa, 805 S B St, San Mateo
    3. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley
    4. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
    5. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
    6. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
    7. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
    8. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
    9. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
    10.BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
    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.Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
    18.Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
    19.Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
    20.Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
    21.Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
    22.Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
    23.Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
    24.Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino
    25.Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino
    26.Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
    27.Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
    28.Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
    29.King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark
    30.Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco
    31.Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
    32.Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
    33.Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
    34.H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont
    35.Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
    36.Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
    37.Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
    38.Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
    39.Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
    40.La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas
    41.Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
    42.Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
    43.Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
    44.Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas
    45.Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
    46.Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
    47.Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
    48.Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
    49.Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley



    9 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      WHAT?!? They're open for lunch now!

      I will probably be eating there every day from now on. I just told my co-worker last week that I'd kill for a bowl of decent ramen in the downtown area at lunchtime. I guess this means that I have to go kill him now.

      Oh, did I mention that this is part of my new trinity of nighttime eating? Start off at katana-ya with a bowl of ramen, walk around the corner for some bul dalk (fire chicken) and beer at the only bul dalk restaurant (I think the name of the restaurant is either "korean restaurant" or "fire chicken") I've seen outside of Seoul, then walk half a block up to post and taylor and get some sushi and shochu at ryoko's. It still works even if you reverse the order. In fact, the reverse way would probably give you less of a hangover the next day.

      1. re: umetaro

        Thought you'd be excited about that! Yep, the take-out menu lists those lunch hours and I confirmed with the staff that it's open for lunch.

        Katanaya's menu lists chicken or pork/chicken stock available as soy, miso, or salt. Have you been ordering the miso or the shio ramen with the chicken stock?

        Thanks for posting about the chicken place too!

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Y'know, I think the take-out menus have more options listed than the in-restaurant ones... I'm going to stop by tomorrow and check that out. I couldn't go today because I'm trying to finish off the kalua pig leftovers I cooked yesterday.

          I may have had just the chicken stock for the shio ramen. when I took my first sip of the broth, I was thinking that it tasted like chicken noodle soup... but way better.

          1. re: umetaro

            I went back and took a closer look at the menu. The chicken stock is listed as sappari (さっぱり) and the chicken/pork stock is listed as (こってり). Sappari is another one of those words like kotteri and assari (あっさり) that describe the general... weight(?) of a dish? Sappari meaning something like "refreshing," kotteri "thick/rich," and assari "light/clean." I have a difficult enough time as it is describing umami to people (My only solution so far is to yell "glutamate receptor!", kick 'em in the shins, and run), so differentiating assari from sappari is most likely beyond my limited palate/vocabulary.

            1. re: umetaro

              Thank you, kotteri et al just became known to me with the Himawari discussion tangent.

              So the chicken/pork stock is described as kotteri (if I've matched up the characters correctly)? Do you find the chicken stock "refreshing"? Is there an option of using either of the two styles of stock with the three flavors (salt, miso, soy sauce) or is each flavor made with only one kind of stock?


              1. re: Melanie Wong

                The chicken stock was definitely "refreshing," but of course I was drunk at the time so take that into consideration. The menu makes it seem like you can combine any flavor with any stock. I've yet to test that out though.

                1. re: umetaro

                  Ha, I'll be interested to hear whether you're still as fond of Katana-ya and the chicken stock at lunch time when you're sober . . . or not.

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  Wondering if anyone has current insight into the breakdown of the broths here. The menu lists several options and combinations of a "meat" broth. Like before, shio, shoyu, and miso. Now they have an option of rich or light. Additionally, you can ask for spicy.

                  I ordered shio, light, and mildly spicy. I liked that the broth was thin and drinkable and found it very tasty, with an addictive kick. My friends tell me the regular spicy here is extremely spicy, with a layer of chili oil on top.

                  I went for the Katanaya special, which included two tasty kara-age, two gyoza (ok), two slices of pork (a little tough), a lone bamboo shoot, seaweed, and plenty of corn. The deep fried chicken was my favorite topping, but I wished they would put the fried items on a separate plate, to keep them from turning mushy. The texture of the gyoza suffered noticeably from being added to the soup. I didn't specify noodle doneness but they came out with a medium firmness and stayed fairly firm throughout eating.

                  I tasted my friend's shio, light (not spicy) broth and found it to taste just like simple dashi broth. So now I'm wondering what sort of broth was in my bowl, as the spiciness dominated the flavor and left me unable to distinguish it.

                  1. re: DezzerSF

                    I know this is an ancient thread. Prices have gone up quite a bit since 2005 but the quality is just as good, this is the best Ramen downtown. The quantity of broth seemed a little less to me, and the cha-shu was tough as reported above. I had the Katana Ya ramen and it was as brilliant as ever. Mushy fried chicken, gyoza with lots of seaweed and bamboo strips.

                    430 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102

      2. Had a good bowl there yesterday. They have an intimidating variety of mix-and-match options. I got kimchi with miso and soba noodles. Great depth of flavor to the broth. It's surprising to find such great food at such reasonable prices right there in tourist / theater central.

        They have beer, sake, and shochu.

        1. I was there a week ago too, and wasn't at all impressed. I had the katana-ya ramen with salt broth. This is a grab bag--pork, fried chicken, egg, seaweed. Okay, but everything was bland. I left a half bowl of broth.

          I did try asking for noodles cooked firm, and for a thicker broth. Our server looked at me like I was crazy. They also were eager to push us out the door and fill the table, even though we were still drinking our tea.

          Cheap and convenient, but I'm not in any hurry to return.

          1. Ok, I went here 3 times. Twice by myself now just to sit down and evaluate it. I took my gf the other time.

            I think we agreed that this place is beyond overrated. I don't want to get ramen elitist here, but it's pretty obvious many San Franciscans who have never had the joy of enjoying Santa, Halu, Santouka, and other favorites down south think that because this place made the 7x7 list that it's the most godly ramen place in the world.

            I'd say this place ranks maybe midway around the 20-some ramen places I've had already. It's decent. I think that the combos they have where they throw everything into the soup is stretching it. It's desperate. Fried chicken, pot stickers, whatever, come on. That stuff belongs outside of the ramen broth. If your broth can't be thick, sophisticated and savory, then don't try too hard by throwing everything in. There's a reason Santouka and others keep winning awards in the South Bay. Their broth is truly amazing. Katana-Ya? Meh.

            430 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102

            The San Franciscan
            1525 North Main St., Walnut Creek, CA 94596

            312 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

            675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

            9 Replies
            1. re: dmo580

              I think Santa (as well as Katana-ya) has slipped over the years. My last time at Santa, the $4.50 stewed pork was cold and tough and the egg (also extra) was cold, overboiled, and chalky.

              I'd add Orenchi & Kahoo to your list of South Bay options. Though the original chef at Kahoo is no longer there.

              1. re: drewskiSF

                "My last time at Santa, the $4.50 stewed pork was cold and tough and the egg (also extra) was cold, overboiled, and chalky."

                The first day several years ago and every time I've ordered those extras at Santa, they've been that way.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  is that just for the newer El Camino spot or also for the original B St location? it's been years, but i don't remember it like that at the old Santa.

                  1. re: drewskiSF

                    At the original location on B Street the very first time I tried Santa ramen.

                    Santa Ramen Japanese Restaurant
                    1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA

              2. re: dmo580

                Is there significantly better ramen in SF? What the Peninsula and the South Bay have to offer is not very relevant to me.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I was pleasantly surprised by Saiwaii Ramen on Irving. Was expecting to like the ramen at Izakaya Sozai but thought it was kind of flat.

                  Izakaya Sozai
                  1500 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                  Saiwaii Ramen
                  2240 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                  1. re: sfbing

                    Agreed, Saiwaii is quite decent.

                    1. re: Windy

                      3rd. They started out with some pretty bland broth, but listened to diners comments and it's pretty decent now. Have only tried the tonkotsu.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    There is now Ajisen in the Westfield food court basement.

                2. The staff was lovely and accommodating of my dining partner's shellfish allergy, brought him vegetable broth instead of soy or miso choices,which they said contained dried shrimp. Not the ramen I remember from Japan, but a nice, chewy noodle. Definitely Americanized; you'd never get corn in your ramen there. Where was the kamaboko--every real ramen contains those pink fishcakes! We snagged a couple of seats at the counter, but by the time we left there was a crowd of Japanese outside waiting for tables. Guess word has gotten out.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: whs

                    actually, corn is a popular topping in some regions of Japan and especially for Sapporo style ramen. the use of kamaboko / naruto (the spiral version) will also vary by region / style.

                    this webpage has some information on the major styles of ramen in Japan

                    "Moving east across Japan, Wakayama is where one may start to see the use of naruto as a frequent ramen topping. These little pink and white slivers of surimi (whitefish paste) are oft considered emblematic of Japanese ramen, although their usage is far from widespread."

                    1. re: drewskiSF

                      Thanks for the information--my ramen style is more Tokyo/Yokohama focused.

                      1. re: whs

                        well Tokyo has 1000's of ramen shops so is probably the ramen capital of the world. i'm jealous you got to live there for a time :)

                        1. re: drewskiSF

                          My earliest ramen memory is at my grandma's house in a village outside of Yokohama--the ramen guy would deliver steaming bowls of ramen by bicycle in wooden boxes draped over the back tire. The ramen was delivered in ceramic bowls, and the miracle was that nothing was spilled.