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Santouka Ramen will open in Bay Area?

saw a hiring ad. in bay spo, but not much detail info....

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  1. According to a small sign posted at the food court in Mitsuwa Market in San Jose, they will be opening up in the space they temporarily occupied last year: http://eat.tanspace.com/2008/09/21/sa.... Hopefully, this installation will not be temporary.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Dave.Pitinga

        I'm pretty sure it's a permanent opening - i.e. they're actually opening a store here. In fact, I just called Mitsuwa San Jose and spoke to a guy who said they will be opening in a couple of weeks in the location indicated in the link above. While we had a hard time understanding each other, he clearly said that Santouka Ramen is (and I quote) "not temporary."

        Anyone know how Santouka Ramen compares to Ippudo?

        1. re: hong_kong_foodie

          I like Santouka better - I love the distinct seafood-y note of its broth, the ultra-fattiness of their special pork, and the texture of the noodles. To be honest, I wasn't blown away by Ippudo (noodles too thin and soft for me), and am in the minority that prefers Setagaya when the ramen wars rage on the Manhattan board. Santouka's my favorite though - I always go when I visit my folks in SoCal - am pretty excited about them opening nearby.

    1. September 17th - target opening day as per one of the clerks..

      3 Replies
      1. re: j q rizz

        Yes, they have models of their ramens and other dishes on display now. The grand opening will be September 17-19. The opening is also posted on the Mitsuwa website: http://www.mitsuwa.com/topnews/eindex.... I'm looking forward to a bowl of that shio ramen that they are famous for.

        1. re: Dave.Pitinga

          Here's a few pics of the booth almost ready to open. I loved their special pork ramen when I had it in Torrance, probably the best I've had so far.

          1. re: DezzerSF

            Just had the ramen in Torrance about a week ago. Always love this place when I'm in SoCal and am so happy it's opening here, though I wish they'd have a few more branches a bit further north. Halu is going to be shaking in their boots and poor Kahoo ramen in the same shopping complex -- don't know what they'll do. :-) I was in Mitsuwa yesterday and it looks as though they will have a ton of seating just like in their complex in Torrance. Only wish we could get another restaurant or two inside...

      2. So did anyone make it to the grand opening today? I'm planning on going tomorrow for dinner.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Humbucker

          Just came back from a very satisfying meal at Santouka Ramen. It was definitely good and clearly better than anything else we currently have in the bay area, but they're still working out some kinks and learning how to deal with the endless deluge of customers.

          In terms of the ramen, the tonkotsu broth was milky and well flavored with a seafood-based sweetness, the noodles were firm and chewy, and the prices were very reasonable (e.g. $8.50 total for a large bowl of ramen, if I remember correctly). The only thing that was a miss - and a big one, to be honest - was the chashu, which was a bit tough and definitely not the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cuts of pork that Santouka is famous for. But of course, this was day one, and if what we had today is any indication of what is to come, we can certainly expect some really good ramen from this shop.

          One important piece of advice: GET THERE EARLY. They are open everyday but close early at 7:30pm (and really start cordoning off the line at 7:15pm) so if you show up any later, you might not be able to get the ramen!

          1. re: hong_kong_foodie

            Typical new Asian restaurant opening syndrome, there are always glitches.

            I remember Kahoo when they first opened, their soy sauce ramen literally had almost no dashi in it, making it taste pretty bad wacky. After a few months they ramped up quick (that was when the former Do-Henkotsu/Tokushima Ramen 2nd chef was still there, he went back to Japan earlier this year I hear)

            And Maruichi Ramen Mountain View...when they first opened, it was not that good. Wasn't until they introduced the kuro ramen thereabouts, when they finally got things together.

            But it sounds like Santouka's glitches are a lot fewer and better than the competition.

            Santouka is definitely excellent ramen for what we can get our hands on. I was lucky that I had a preview of it through last year's Hokkaido Fair (which I suppose was a soft test launch to see response), and got it also as instant noodle form from my brother in law (who got it as a gift from Japan 7-Eleven). http://static1.px.yelp.com/photo/7aWP...

            Since we are all bored of the Santa's, Halu's, Maruichi's, and Ryowa's by now, I'm sure this is a very welcome addition to the Bay Area (and about time). Too bad this is part of a food court, and not a standalone ramen house with later hours. Looks like they've upgraded to porcelain type bowls instead of the styrofoam type that was used during the Hokkaido Fair.

            1. re: hong_kong_foodie

              I had the special pork (toroniku) ramen on the first day as well and found the chasu just as buttery as what I had in Torrance. The rich porky broth was very creamy with big umami taste. The only miss was the softer than ideal noodles, but I attribute it to opening day jitters.

              1. re: DezzerSF

                Adding photos of the toroniku ramen.

          2. Grand opening of Santouka Ramen in the Mitsuwa Market Thurs 9/17/09. It's on the Left once you're inside. We got there at 5:10pm no line, but by 7pm the line was really long.

            CASH ONLY!!

            Look at the plastic food in the glass case so you can look at the food & read the description.

            They are famous for their Shio Ramen (salt) w/ the creamy, fatty, milk-color broth.
            #1 salt flavor ramen Reg (Medium) size $7.95
            #2 small $6.95
            #3 Lg $8.95

            rice w/ salmon row (sic) $3.99
            Rice w/ leek $1.99
            Rice w/ natto $1.99
            Rice w/ pork $2.49

            Ramen & Salmon Roe Rice Bowl $11.94 - I'll try next time.
            flavors of ramen you can pick: salt, soy sauce, soybean paste

            Extra pork soy sauce flavor Reg $9.45/S $8.45/L $10.45

            etc., etc.

            They ran out of rice by 5pm. I got the Reg (medium) size Salt Flavor ramen $7.95 and really liked it. Broth is flavorful, noodles are nice & chewy, but not too chewy. There's no bean sprouts, but a few bamboo shoots, 1 red Japanese pickle (yes, u can eat it, just be aware there's a pit!), some wood ears thrown in the broth.

            Friend's friend said first 100 ppl get FREE ramen or something like that. That was earlier. Supposedly it'll be Fri & Sat too. Just GO & expect long lines!!

            CASH ONLY!! One ATM by the tables.

            Hokkaido Fair going on now thru 9/20/09

            Curry bun by Pullman Bakery $2.80 or 2 for $5
            milk flavor ice cream - vanilla or pear. Pear was nice & refreshing, not too fruity tasting. $2.75 CASH ONLY
            I saw the Minamoto Kitchoan Japanese Sweets on the Right side of the Entrance! Fukuwatashi senbei cookie $2.5 - same as SF. Rabbit cake box $20, loquat jelly $4. Saw a box of chocolate cinnamon cookies reg $10, 40% off $5.80 - should have bought - cute box!
            black sesame cookie w/ chocolate reg $10, 40% off $5.80 or so. Should have bought!

            1. Just got back from Santouka. I had a large bowl of the much vaunted shio ramen with extra pork. I wanted to get the toroniku ramen that comes with the special pork on the side, but they're having some supply problems right now and only the ramen is available, so no sides or set meals.

              I thought the ramen was just okay, but I have somewhat idiosyncratic tastes. I would say that the broth was very balanced tasting, in between Maru Ichi's unremarkable tonkotsu and the powerful smokiness of Ramen Halu's. Personally, I prefer the stronger, off-balance flavors of miso or sesame based ramen. I couldn't quite detect the seafood sweetness that others refer to. Also, the noodles got a little too soft after sitting in the broth for a few minutes. I did like the way they cut the chashu into thickish slabs, as opposed to the thin rounds found elsewhere. At every other ramen place I've been to a regular bowl is more than enough to satifsy me, but the large at Santouka was just right.

              My favorite ramen is still Kahoo's kotteri (or their tantanmen when I want something REALLY thick and hearty), but I'll give Santouka another try for their miso ramen and their toroniku.

              As a side note, I wonder if some of the savoriness of Santouka's broth has anything to do with that big box of ArmourĀ® Lard I saw when I peaked into the kitchen...

              5 Replies
              1. re: Humbucker

                I've heard rumors that Santouka's broth is made in Japan, frozen, then shipped to the U.S. branches...

                1. re: Wendy_san

                  I'm a devotee of Santouka here in LA...can't wait to compare the two when I'm in San Jose in two weeks. On that note, I'd love to host a dinner for a few friends at a great izakaya in the South Bay. Is there anything good? if not Japanese, any other awesome Asian that can compete with SoCal?

                  1. re: burglover

                    South Bay's best bet that is 100% Japanese is Hoshi in Santa Clara for izakaya fare. Might not be as good as the stuff exilekiss writes, but it's probably the best we have up here. The competition in Sunnyvale and Cupertino focus more on fusiony styles.

                    You can also try En in Santa Clara or Sumiya in San Jose for izakaya and yakitori respectively.

                    1. re: burglover

                      I like Tanto in San Jose, which is mentioned in the following article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/m.... I believe that their clam ramen scored high marks from Melanie Wong at one point in time.

                  2. re: Humbucker

                    Finally, it seems that the six-month period of statistical observations is over at Santouka and they are no longer rationing roasted pork jowl on a daily basis. So one can get a bowl of "toro shio" for dinner (they used to run out daily around 1:30-2 PM). Of course, ramen is probably not the best food metaphor to use for that dish, which is more like a fondue or shabu-shabu for melting the fat remaining in the roasted pork jowl, once the patron adds it to the piping hot broth (Shio? Tonkotsu? Both? Who cares; it's good.). This just might be the best bowl in the SOSF area, though the young crew at Orenchi in Santa Clara is also turning out a great product, as hkoide noted in a recent posting.

                  3. How does Santouka compare to Halu in noodle style? I love the thick Halu noodles, and I recall Santoukas in West LA and Costa Mesa using a thinner style. What about our Bay Area Santouka?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: david kaplan

                      SJ Santouka uses a thin noodle as well.

                      1. re: david kaplan

                        The SJ Santouka most likely uses the same noodles that the Southern Cal. locations use. I saw the boxes that the noodles came from and they had a Los Angeles address on them.

                      2. Sunday, 9/20/09, 6:30 dinner report. Short line to order, we were behind 29 active orders, so we waited nearly 35 minutes for our bowls. By then, the line was much longer.

                        Shio ramen was DELICIOUS. Broth had a depth of flavor and lasting interest, noodles had bite to the end of the bowl, cha shu was amazingly rich-tasting (not just fatty), toppings created wholeness.

                        The seating area was so crowded that we had to carry our trays through to the second annex-area, next to the video shop. I am happy the opening weekend was so successful, and I am sure Santouka will get their menu filled out soon.

                        ***** my bay area favorite! Go and enjoy.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: anyhow

                          Now if only Ippudo would open a location in the bay area as well sigh...

                          1. re: anyhow

                            The joke is that this is "food court ramen". Just goes to show a chain from Japan can do so much better than the individual noodle haus places up here :-/

                            1. re: K K

                              I agree. Not to get too far into philosophy ... what are we going for when we go for ramen?

                              Santouka has made me reconsider ramen and, thus, to recalibrate what makes a restaurant meal desirable. Santouka delivers the fully careful preparation of a dish that seems simple. I've never carried a bowl of ramen to a folding table in a video store before. Yet, I've never experienced a finer bowl in any other setting.

                              If you choose to try the ramen here, I hope you like it too. You may prefer another shop. I am hooked on Santouka for now.

                                1. re: mahaprana

                                  I believe it's 11:30am to 7:30am everyday of the week, but pls bear in mind they run out of a lot of things towards the end of the day. I think this is in part due to the fact they just opened, but it's still something to keep in mind if you go anytime soon.

                          2. I haven't eaten there yet, but I walked through Mitsuwa a few evenings ago at about 4:30 p.m. and Santouka had a sign in their window stating "thirty minute wait - sorry". Is this the average waiting time to get a bowl of ramen?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: teela brown

                              It didn't take that long during my lunch visit. But judging from the amount of seating that's been added to handle the crowds, I wouldn't doubt the wait can reach that at peak hours.

                              Edited to add: I was there this week. I'd wait a little longer to try it. This bowl wasn't as good as the one served during the traveling road show last year. Sloppy work, need to work on quality control and cooking the noodles properly.

                              675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Melanie, my first visit the noodles were softer than ideal. But when I returned, I asked for the noodles hard and they were fine. Did you make any special requests?

                                1. re: DezzerSF

                                  No, I didn't make any special requests. I haven't been back to Santouka yet for a rematch, but I will ask next time.

                                  1. re: DezzerSF

                                    Oh, wished I remembered your advice Dezzer. (See my earlier post below.) My noodles were soft too, and I should have asked for firmer like you suggest. Is ramen noodles in Japan softer? I like the firmer and thought that was more the norm?

                                    1. re: singleguychef

                                      Not sure about Japan, maybe someone else can chime in?

                              2. I'm almost reluctant to try the Santouka ramen here, because I was able to try Santouka at one of the shops in Tokyo a year ago and I am almost expecting to be disappointed by the domestic reproduction.

                                In any event, I believe that even a "pretty good" ramen shop is good for the area, b/c more competition will weed out the weaker ones (of which there are MANY) and force the long time favorites to step up their game.

                                1. Unfortunately Santouka is exactly 32 miles away for me, and in the opposite direction from work to boot. But try I have managed to make it down a few times and for me, the #9 - toroniku with shio broth - is definitely the winner. Every bit as good as what I've had at their SoCal locations. The broth is rich without being cloying, salty but not too much, and has a wonderfully clean taste to it. Noodles were plenty firm for my tastes. And I love the deconstructed nature of the bowl - stewed pork (6 pieces), bamboo shoots, mushrooms and negi on a separate plate.

                                  Obviously, it's the special pork that draws the big crowds - they sell out every day - and it's worth the hype. Dip it in the broth and the fat melts, leaving a wonderfully buttery and flavorful morsel of pork. The entire experience is the only ramen I've had outside Japan that can compare to Santa, pre-move. Maybe even a little better, but certainly just as good. With the decline of Santa, I think Santouka now edges out Halu as the best in the Bay Area.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Deeg67

                                    I tried Santouka for the first time last week during the holiday break and I totally agree that the toroniku is amazing! It really is so buttery in texture and when you order the regular ramen you get five pieces (when you order the toroniku ramen as part of the set with rice bowl, you get less pieces). I also got it with the miso broth, which was very enjoyable.

                                    It was quiet when I first got there around 11:30 a.m. on a weekday, but by 1 p.m. it was starting to fill up with a line. I have to say, though, that on this day the ramen noodles itself wasn't up to snuff. For some reason it was on the soft side, so now firm or chewy like how I usually like it and how I remember it at Santa Ramen. So broth and ramen is comparable to Santa, IMHO, but the toroniku definitely stands on its own at Santouka.

                                    Too bad it's so far for me to go again and see if the noodles might be better on another try. I wonder if they'll open another branch closer to San Francisco or Berkeley?


                                    1. re: singleguychef

                                      Noodles have been firm for me 2/3 times. The one time I asked for firm, they obliged.

                                      1. re: singleguychef

                                        I've eaten there twice and once my noodles were firm and the other time a bit over-cooked. This looks like one area where they lack consistency. I'm going to take Dezzer's advice and ask for firm next time.

                                        The first time I went I asked if I could have a set with the Toroniku ramen and they said the sets were only with the regular (non-Toroniku, non-Extra regular pork) ramens. It's good to see that they're expanding their options.

                                        All of their US branches appear to be in Mitsuwa food courts. Maybe if you can get Mitsuwa to open something further north Santouka will tag along? ;-)

                                    2. San Jose Santouka is now serving cold noodles ( http://radiusedcorner.blogspot.com/20... ), if you get there early enough.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                                        San Jose Santouka is serving kimchi ramen, in limited quantities.