Ramen Halu 7th Anniversary -- Lobster Ramen
I took some out-of-town friends to Ramen Halu today for lunch. Unfortunately, that's the first I heard of their special anniversary Lobster Ramen, which is served for dinner only, and will no longer be available after tomorrow (they started serving it May 1; I had checked their site in late April in preparation for my friends' visit, and there was no mention of it at that time). I would have loved to try this, so I'm very disappointed.
I hope someone will be able to try it tomorrow and report back! Maybe somebody already has?
Friday evening on my way back north was my chance to get in on the lobster ramen anniversary special. My brother joined me there at 5:30pm when it opened for dinner. We had been worried that the place would fill up quickly for the start of the weekend, but it was still last than half full when we left. I guess that the heat wave dampened the lust for ramen. I’ll also mention that Ramen Halu has good aircon to cool down.
We started with a cold appetizer of Ban Ban Ji, a classic Sichuan dish. Besides the pretty presentation, this turned out to be a good rendition. Maybe better and more faithfully executed than at many Chinese restaurants. The chicken was just a bit overcooked for my taste. However, the sesame sauce was very spicy and just delectable dabbed on the shreds of boneless, poached chicken breast and thin shavings of cool cucumber.
Then the Lobster Ramen special, $15.
The first part I noticed was the small heap of fried leeks and shallots resting on some clear vermicelli-like strands, an island of crunchy things rising above a sea of briny chicken and pork stock. The fried alliums added not only crispy texture but also roasted, carmelized sweet and savory flavors. So deeply colored, but remarkably, these crispy bits showed no hint of bitterness. The surface of the stock was dotted with a scatter of solid pork fat grains and chopped scallions. Then to one side, the chunks of tender and sweet lobster were perched above the surface on the underlying tangle of whole wheat noodles. While the menu description implied the lobsters were Pacific, mine had a piece of claw meat, so likely not.
William’s initial reaction to this broth was that he preferred the rich and heavy stock of the Halu house ramen. For me, the stock for the special ramen tasted heavily of roasted onions and didn’t connect to the sweet lobster. However, for both of us, as the temperature of the bowl cooled from steamy hot to comfortably warm, we picked up more nuances in the stock giving it much more complexity and harmony to appreciate. William soon changed his mind and said that this stock was indeed quite rich with the backdrop of lobster underneath the meatiness. He liked the clean, unmuddled statement, not easy to achieve at such levels of intense stock concentration. It took me a little longer to taste the flavor contribution of boiling down all those shells and lobster heads, but then the subtle thread of lobster-y goodness appeared providing a marine note of luxury to the multi-dimensional brew.
Usually, I leave quite a bit of soup behind in my ramen bowl. But this one was so good, I didn’t want to waste a drop. Here at the bottom in the last few drops, you can see the tiny bits of shell fragment and lobster meat fibers that bypassed the filtration.
Tonight, May 17, is the last chance for lobster ramen.
re: Melanie Wong
I loved this!
Nuanced and harmonious is the prefect way to describe the stock. As everyone has said, it didn't scream LOBSTER!, but it made itself known as a soft, unmistakable end note. Which worked really well, as a stronger lobster taste may have overwhelmed my favorite part -- the toppings.
I was worried that the fried leeks and shallots may be bitter, but they weren't at all. When I saw the cellophone noodles, I thought it was kind of an odd, probably inconsequential inclusion. Then when I actually tried them, I thought "I don't remember reading shark's fin among the ingredients ..." Of course, they were too small and slender for shark's fin, so I thought maybe they were some kind of jellyfish -- that's how startling the texture was of what I assume was the "chun sa chan" (although by the time I got to the bottom of the bowl -- more on that later -- they had softened up to more of a noodle-like state). The crunchy sweetness of the leeks, shallots and chun sa chan perfectly matched the toothy sweetness of the lobster meat.
The whole wheat noodles stood up well in the mix, without muting the flavors, as a thicker noodle might have done.
I also worked the leftover soup. The harmony noted in the first few sips was only increased by the dribs and drabs of the toppings that had fallen though the noodles to the bottom of the bowl. I got has much of the broth out as I could with the spoon, stopping short of actually lifting the bowl and finishing it off by drinking (which I might have done if I hadn't ordered the okara as a starter).
As much as can be said about piping hot soup on a 90+ degree day, this was an incredibly refreshing bowl of ramen!
re: Debbie M
Thanks for all the detailed reports, I really wished I had the chance to go taste it.
I think the clear "noodles" are cyrstal seaweed, a type of seaweed product I've seen only 1 other time, in the seaweed salad at Viet Express/Lemon Grass in SJ. They have a pleasant crunch but hardly any taste, and only if I eat them alone did I detect a slight briney fragrance/taste.
Thanks for posting about this! I was already planning to be in the South Bay, so the time worked out great. The broth wasn't as lobster-y as I'd hoped - I thought it would be a distinctly shellfish-y broth, like Santouka's, but it seemed more meat and shallot. The chunks of lobster were sweet and perfectly cooked, and the noodles were great - silky whole wheat noodles with visible flecks of brown. The bowl was topped with sheets of toasted nori and a flurry of fried shallot.
It was a great day for noodle soups in general for me - I'd originally planned to go to Komala Vilas for lunch but took the wrong exit off 880. Somehow I magically ended up at the 99 Ranch complex in San Jose, where my gut feeling told me ASJ was located. I've been wanting to try their spicy beef noodle soup forever - it was a really good bowl of beef noodle soup. Deep, beefy broth, super tender meat, excellent chewy noodles.
1) Ramen Halu Lobster Ramen
2) ASJ Spicy Beef Noodle Soup
1698 Hostetter Rd, San Jose, CA 95131
375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
I loved this - the noodles were so good, I forgot about the lobster for a while. Daveena and I were discussing whether they might be part white flour and part whole wheat -- I just had whole wheat spaghetti for lunch, and it wasn't nearly as supple as white spaghetti, or as these noodles were. But the ramen noodles were flecked with bran, and distinctly more flavorful than plain white noodles.
The dark broth was pretty complex. It didn't seem very seafood-y (although once, as I dipped my head towards the bowl, my nostrils got a hit of salinity), but it didn't shout pork or chicken, either. Just a very harmonious, rich mix. Incidentally, I haven't tried their tonkotsu ramen but Daveena said she'd found it too rich and salty. This broth was hearty, but nothing you'd mistake for gravy; and the salt balance was just fine.
Do they do this every year? I'd love some more.