Ramen Club Palo Alto
Does anyone know when the Ramen Club in Palo Alto is opening? Also, I assume the owners are the same people who have Ramen Club in Burlingame, but is there any relation to the people who run Maruichi/Hana/Sushitomi/Sushi Maru/etc.? I ask this because portions of their menus are similar to the point where plagiarism could be argued.
They even have aka miso AND kuro ramen! If there's no connection between the two restaurants then Ramen Club is being pretty ballsy in their attempt to steal some of Maruichi's turf.
One of the yelp listing photos does indeed show a weird black paste in what appeared to be an almost pale pork (tonkotsu) broth, which it sounds like you need to stir it to make it at least look kuro tonkotsu.
Maruichi's kuro ramen, the kuro part is because of kuro mayu, or black sesame oil in a hybrid soy sauce and pork broth mix. So I'm not sure where that black paste idea came from for Ramen Club PA, but certainly doesn't seem as interesting (one can only hope it is black sesame paste)
Limp nori? Oh my that's pretty bad attention to detail.
If it is any consolation for all you ramen fanatics, Maruichi Mountain View, when they first opened, was rather mediocre and blah (although nowhere to the level of RCPA). Sounds like they're having Chinese restaurant opening syndrome, where service and food quality issues definitely need to be ironed out. I say the sink or swim will happen in 4 to 6 months. For Maruichi, the improvements came by way of the introduction of Kuro Ramen. RCPA just needs to focus on getting the basics down first...
I lunched at Ramen Club in Palo Alto yesterday. They opened on Sunday, April 20, at 11 am.
The menu includes kuro, miso, tonkotsu (printed as 'tonkosu', but the chef pronounces it in the usual way), a house special, and aka miso. There is a wide range of sides, including a bunch of sushi rolls, the usual gyoza, and chawan mushi. In front of the counter are banners advertising ramen, udon, and soba, although there is no udon or soba on the menu. Strange.
I ordered aka ('red') miso broth, a mentaiko (spicy cod roe) topping, and chawan mushi. More about this below.
On the table are a container of washable chopsticks (good thing on Earth Day), gyoza sauce, sesame, red pepper, and a pot of kimchee.
The kimchee was limp, mild, and watery. I didn't know such bad kimchee could be had in the Bay Area.
Broth: not spicy at all. Aka broth usually has some chili oil on top. This did not. Lots of miso. Some garlic. A sort of unpleasant beefy, salty flavor. I added about thirty seconds of shaking from the red pepper shaker. That helped somewhat.
Noodles: the high point. The menu says they make their noodles daily. They are the wavy kind, and mine were cooked to that full point where they are still resistant to the tooth, but not at all crunchy. These are reasonable noodles.
Toppings: my word, what a pathetic display of ramen ignominy. A rectangle of limp nori, half a hard-boiled egg, and a surprising amount of pork shoulder. That's it. The egg was cold at the yolk and overcooked in the white. The pork slices (cha shu) were somewhat flavorless but unusually abundant.
Extras: under the limp nori blanket was the worst mentaiko I have had. A pale salmon color, and nothing spicy about it. I miss the ubiquitous mentaiko sellers of Fukuoka, admittedly, but other ramen shops manage to sell a quality product.
After fifteen minutes wait, my tab came, with my chawan mushi listed below the ramen. It took a little while to explain that I was still waiting for the chawan mushi. There was a huddle of most of the staff at the cash register, where they threw out accusations and denials about what was expected. Finally, I called to them and said that I didn't really want it after all.
In the end, the head chef came over to me and told me that he had read 'cha shu' instead of 'chawan mushi'. That explained why there was so much meat in my bowl. He gave me the tab, without the chawan mushi. And he said, without a hint of irony, 'no extra charge for you'.
Maybe Ramen Club will improve after a settling-in period. It has a long way to go.
I just got back from lunch at Ramen Club in Palo Alto, and it was decent -- definitely still had some opening-month kinks to work out, but overall it was quite acceptable, especially for a casual lunch place.
I had the Kuro Ramen lunch special with fried rice and gyoza ($8.95). The fried rice was fairly tasty -- not too oily, but only had egg (no veggies, etc). The gyoza were fine -- deep fried and crunchy. The ramen was good, but the presentation was a little strange in that the black paste that makes kuro 'Kuro' was at the bottom of the bowl and not evident until I gave the whole thing a good stir (also to break up the noodles). The soup was topped with lean sliced pork, nori, and half an egg. The broth was slightly on the salty side, but still tasty.
So, all in all, I thought it was about as good as Maru Ichi in Mountain View, but not nearly as good at Ryowa. If you're close by and craving ramen, it's worth stopping in.