Sapporo Ramen @ Ozumo in Oakland
Last month I stopped at Ozumo for lunch on my way to a shopping trip to the Berkeley Bowl. I’d checked the online menu and discovered that unlike the SF original, prices for lunch including ramen seemed within reason.
Stepping inside from the rainstorm on Broadway and Grand, my wide-eyed wonder at Ozumo’s striking interior surely resembled Dorothy’s first visit to Oz. On learning that this was my first time here, the hostess gave me a little tour on the way to my table in the far back corner, pointing out the two rooms that can be used for group functions.
Here’s the sushi counter, just past the robata grill.
My table was near this room divider sake display. I had an extra large two-top, that would be a good spot for shuffling papers in a lunch meeting.
Chilled to the bone, I asked for some hot tea . . . and would later find a $4 charge for a teapot of sencha on my bill. Servers really should provide some warning about this.
I started with an order of Kurobuta gyoza, $4. While I prefer a smoother, softer pork filling than found here, these were delicious and so nicely browned. I did find the dipping sauces provided a bit odd, just red chili oil and nutty sesame oil, both plain. No soy sauce, vinegar, garlic or ginger in sight.
Sapporo ramen, $9, requested with “firm” noodles was quite a credible rendition. The freshly cooked chashu, three slices of delicately seasoned pork belly, was excellent. Trimmed of the rind, the fine striations of sweet fat and lean in the bacon cut made for meltingly tender texture. No effort went into the egg, just a hard-boiled half with no seasoning and slightly overcooked. Other toppings included well-plucked bean sprouts, some daikon sprouts for greenery, marinated bamboo shoots, and a few slices of fish cake. Adding some negi would have provided needed bite in aroma and taste. The stock had a nice meatiness, good shoyu flavor, and restraint with salting, yet fell down on complexity lacking the taste of the sea. The skinny noodles were firm as ordered, but turned soft too quickly on sitting even though the stock was not served that hot temperature-wise. Also, the noodles were compacted together and seemed as if the chef failed to give them a lift in the stock.
Ozumo Oakland weighs in at #18 on the ramen rankings. There’s good potential here and I’ll return to try the miso and Nagasaki champon bowls.
Lastly for those who keep tabs on restrooms, the ladies room is gorgeous. For self-improvement during this personal time, Japanese language lessons are piped in.
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Santouka @ Mitsuwa Hokkaido Festival, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
3. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
4. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
5. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
6. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
7. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
8. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
9. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo (post-move)
10. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
11. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
12.Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
13.Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
14.Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
15.BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
16.Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
17.Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
18.Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
19.Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
20.Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
21.Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
22.Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
23.Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
24.Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
25.Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
26.Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
27.Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
28.Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
29.Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
30.Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
31.Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco
32.Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
33.Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
34.Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
35.Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
36.Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
37.Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
38.King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
39.Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
40.Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
41.Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
42.Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
43.Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
44.Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
45.King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
46.Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco
47.Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
48.Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
49.Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
50.100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
51.Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
52.H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
53.Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
54.Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
55.Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
56.Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
57.Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
58.La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas
59.Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
60.Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
61.Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
62.Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
63.Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco
64.Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
65.Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
66.Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
67.Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
68.Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
69.Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
70.Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
161 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
2251 Broadway Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612
One thing worth knowing about Ozumo is that they have a "Sushi Monday" deal where, Monday nights, you can have as much sushi as you can eat for $40. Advanced reservations are a must. They used to have signs advertising this, and they've taken them down. I'd thought that meant they'd ended the promotion, but we stopped by after a lunch at Pican next door and asked, and it is still on.
We went once last year, and we enjoyed it, though, like Melanie, we were a little miffed by the $8 charge for two teas. They were pretty generous with giving us a good variety of sushi. The deal included a few appetizers as well (vegetable tempura, yakitori and a few others - nothing special). After a (long) while, they gave us some fairly rice-heavy items, which I think was a not-too-subtle message that we'd eaten enough sushi. Overall, we were pretty happy with the experience and will probably do it again.
re: Martin Strell
We went back for sushi Monday this past Monday. It was not as good an experience as the first time we went, about a year ago. The first time we went, the sushi chef sent many of his creations our way. He told us that what he was giving us was not typically part of the sushi Monday deal, and I guess he was right. This time, we got to choose from a list of about 13 different kinds of sushi and about 5 different rolls. Nothing very out-of-the ordinary. Sushi was good, but not great. We also were offered six appetizers, but the one Jing really liked from last time (a steak yakitori, I think) was no longer offered. Our waiter was attentive but pushy on the drinks to a point that made me uncomfortable. Not sure we'll be back for sushi Monday again. Yume in Alameda for sushi is so much better, and we can eat well there for not much more money.
I had a similar tea experience at the one in San Francisco. Upon being seated, I was asked by the server if I would like tea. Thinking it would be a cup of tea on the house or for a minimal charge, I agreed and was brought a tea pot that I believe was fairly expensive. Looking back, I should have spoken to management, as the tone the server took asking me was very similar to when they ask you about your water preference.
Then I'm glad I mentioned it so that future customers will be aware and make a conscious decision. This was a pretty hefty charge added to a $9 bowl of noodles. That said, I was a Maru Ichi for $8.50 ramen this week and tea is not complimentary. The difference is that the server tells you that there's a charge.