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Jul 8, 2010 12:26 PM

hapa ramen (ferry building) report [San Francisco]

Following up on previous Hapa ramen post: .

I went today to the Hapa ramen stand at the Thursday SF Ferry Building market. Arrived at 11:05; had bowl in hand at 11:20. I ordered the slow-cooked pork shoulder ramen, which came with a couple of beans, corn, some thick-ish bitter greens (collards?), nori, and a few scallion rings, for $10. I added an egg for $1.50 extra.

The photo does not convey how shallow the bowl and how small the portion was. The broth – not that hot to begin with – cooled quickly, and there was too little to submerge the noodles and keep them warm. Part of the pleasure of ramen is the hot broth into which the noodles can be pushed down, warmed up, lifted out, then cooled off in the mouth, but not with this shallow bowl of warm broth.

The broth is a roughly even mix of dashi, chicken-bone stock, and pork-bone (tonkotsu) stock, according to the chef. I tasted mostly dashi, with the fishiness of bonito overpowering the meat flavors. The tonkotsu added fattiness, so the effect overall was oily dashi. I liked the tender pork shoulder, which was quite sweet but worked well with a leaf of the bitter greens in the same bite. Good noodles: firm and thick, the way I like them. I would have liked more scallion to balance the fishy stock. The egg was a bust: even the white was fairly runny, so it as well as the yolk partially dissolved and thickened the broth. I think they had unpeeled cooked eggs in a warm-water bath, which they cracked to order into the bowl – the traditionally cooked ramen egg, itself braised in a soy-based stock with a firm white and thick wet yolk, would have been much more successful, imparting more taste while not interfering with the soup.

Overall, it didn’t come close to my favorite bowls of ramen in the US or Japan. Scant, warm broth is a big barrier for a bowl of ramen to overcome, even if all else were perfect. I see how a bigger, brothier bowl would be difficult to handle in a serving set-up requiring disposable dishes, but maybe the Ferry Building really isn’t the right venue for ramen.

Hapa Ramen
ferry building, San Francisco, CA

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  1. Taking this from then to present, I tried Hapa Ramen at its Ferry Plaza stand a couple months later (October 2010) with much the same impression. But a recent visit was much more to my liking.

    Here’s the scene in 2010 at the Ferry Plaza stand,

    The menu and babe in arms,

    The Housemade pickled long beans, kimchee, and cured baby turnips (radishes?) were available for to add to one’s bowl.

    I ordered the Big Daddy with everything: Fried chicken nuggets, pork belly, Swiss chard, green onions, watermelon radish strips, delicata squash, sous vide egg with homemade egg noodles and pork-based stock spiked with miso. The serving ware was now a deeper paper cup-bowl.

    The chunk of braised pork belly was wondrous. But dunking fried chicken in soup seemed just wrong to me. The various veggies detracted from the overall meatiness even though each was quite delicious in its own right. I was not a fan of the sous vide, jiggly, unseasoned egg either. The skinny homemade noodles were soggy and overcooked. The soul of ramen’s the stock, and this was pleasant enough but lacking in concentration and focus.

    The farmers market pickles had been one of the highlights of this first encounter. So I was happy to find a disguised picked plate a week later at a Meatpaper event at SFMOMA’s rooftop garden.

    Hapa Ramen's pickle mise en place, included pickled pig skin (cueritos).

    Hapa Ramen's secret was disguised on an arty pickle plate with pancetta dust and manchego foam.

    Zip forward to September 2012, I enjoyed more of Hapa’s pickling expertise, the sake kasu pickles reported on here,

    Then, the latest taste of Hapa was a chilly February day at Ferry Plaza. I was lured there by a tweet promoting smoked chicken ramen with a grilled chicken thigh, $10.

    But, alas, the grilled chicken was already sold out by the time I ordered, and I had a hybrid ramen with the smoked chicken stock and topped with pork leg confit. I was glad that I’d declined the additional topping of toasted garlic and miso chicken schmaltz as this was already plenty fatty. This smoked chicken stock offered the viscosity, intensity, and deeply meaty complexity that was missing in my first ramen experience with Hapa. The pork leg confit was on the dry side and didn’t do much for me. Pickles were no longer gratis.

    The other highlight of this ramen bowl turned out to be the reformulated egg noodles. Skinny, crinkly, these were cooked to a tee with a firm, snappy texture. Even more notable was their egg-y flavor, not just acting as a blank carrier for the stock.

    With improvements in the noodles and stock, Hapa Ramen enters the ramen ranking at #20. As a take-out operation currently, the weaknesses are the topping combinations and presentation.

    Hapa Ramen has an occasional pop-up at Wing Wings that I’ve not had a chance to check out yet. It also has plans to open a brick-and-mortar in the Mission.

    1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
    2. Tsujita, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
    3. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
    4. Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
    5. Santouka, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
    6. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
    7. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
    8. Gaku Japanese Charcoal Grill, 5152 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
    9. Yonsei Ramen Shop @ Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland
    10. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
    11. Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
    12. Ramen Dojo, 805 South B St, San Mateo
    13. Shalala, 698 W Dana St, Mountain View
    14. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
    15. Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
    16. Alexander’s Steakhouse Lounge, 10330 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino (closed)
    17. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo
    18. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
    19. Ramen Tenma, 487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
    20. Hapa Ramen, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco
    21. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
    22. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco (closed)
    23. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
    24. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
    25. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
    26. Ken Ken Ramen, pop-up at The Corner, San Francisco (closed, moved)
    27. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale (closed)
    28. Sobo, 988 Franklin St, Oakland
    29. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
    30. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
    31. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
    32. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
    33. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
    34. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 5120 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
    35. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
    36. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
    37. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
    38. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
    39. Ippuku, 2130 Center St, Berkeley
    40. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
    41. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
    42. Shimo Modern Steakhouse, 241 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg (closed)
    43. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
    44. Ramen Misoya, 3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
    45. Chubby Noodle, 570 Green St, San Francisco
    46. Ame Restaurant, 689 Mission St, San Francisco
    47. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
    48. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco (moved)
    49. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
    50. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
    51. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
    52. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
    53. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
    54. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
    55. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
    56. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
    57. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
    58. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
    59. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
    60. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
    61. Saiwaii Ramen, 2240 Irving St, San Francisco
    62. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
    63. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
    64. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
    65. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
    66. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
    67. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
    68. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
    69. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
    70. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
    71. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco (closed, moved)
    72. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
    73. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
    74. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
    75. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
    76. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
    77. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
    78. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
    79. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
    80. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
    81. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
    82. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
    83. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
    84. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas (closed)
    85. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
    86. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
    87. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
    88. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
    89. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
    90. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
    91. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
    92. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
    93. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
    94. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
    95. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
    96. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
    97. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley

    5 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Wauw! That is an impressive list. Have you tried Ramen Shop in Rockridge/Oakland? I am curious where it falls in your ranking.

      1. re: foodeye

        Sorry, no, I have not. You'll find many opinions of it in this thread.

      2. re: Melanie Wong

        this is probably an odd question - but since finding out that gluten can no longer be part of my diet - I am missing out on the whole ramen experience - have you ever seen a place offering them with rice noodles? Or I guess I could order without the noodles...that just seems so sad though....

        1. re: takuhead

          Sorry to hear this. No, I've not seen any noodle substitutions at ramen places. For take-out, Hapa packages the noodles separately from the broth, so you could make your own substitution. But since soy sauce often has wheat in it, you might still be exposed to gluten at many ramen spots.

          1. re: takuhead

            Luke Tsai reported in EBX that Sobo in Oakland has introduced gluten-free ramen.

            Here's my post on Sobo. The noodles were the weakest part of the bowl, so I'd have no trouble giving them and trying something else.