Yu-Raku, San Mateo (Japanese-Chinese restaurant w/ Ramen)
Has anyone tried Yu-Raku? It's a Japanese-Chinese Restaurant with Ramen. I saw some pics from BunRab on their blog 10/4/10:
104 S El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94401
104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94401
I had lunch at Yu-Raku today. We had Mo Bo Tofu and Buta No Kakuni (braised pork belly), both of which were served over rice with two sides Gyoza and Harumaki (Spring Rolls). The food is exactly what you would get from typical Chinese restaurants in Japan (we call it Chuka Ryori in Japan). If you are looking for traditional Chinese food, you would be disappointed, but if you had and enjoyed eating Japanese style Chinese food in Japan, then this place is a gem. We were there around noon and all the customers were Japanese. There were two lunch specials today, both ramen (choice of shoyu, miso and shio) with choice of side dishes. Yu-Raku ramen on the regular menu looks pretty good, so if I make it back to
San Mateo, I will have to give a try.
104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94401
Had a chance to check this place out recently a few times. I've been to Yokohama Chinatown in 1999, but at the time everything I saw (displays outside the restaurant) looked familiar yet foreign and outrageously expensive to me, and not even Cantonese. Can't say I actually ate in YC at that time either.
So from what I understand, the chef at Yu-raku is Japanese, grew up in Shanghai and married a Shanghainese woman who is also fluent in Japanese. Their family owns Chinese style Japanese (chuka ryori) in Japan and supposedly in Shanghai, and this chef does have the experience. And it really shows.
Bottom line, you will either like it, or you will not. I actually found myself really enjoying the various offerings, even though it is not Cantonese, not PF Chang Panda Express either, and not authentic Northern Chinese or Sichuanese.
(Yaki) Gyoza - really good, surpassing most run of the mill or "famous" ramen shops. More presence of vegetables in the gyoza, and that is not a bad thing. The filling wasn't well compacted but rather loose, either deliberate or intentional, but this was enjoyable even without dipping in the gyoza sauce (ponzu?)
Koumi Teba Age - salt and pepper fried chicken wings. Four to an order. Hearty tasting but not fattening aweful greasy gulity like some of the Chinese supermarket deli's. A much smoother execution. Excellent.
Kimuchi moyashi buta itame - well this dish is not on the menu but I custom ordered it. Under appetizers there is a dish that's basically "mountain" or mixed veg (yasai buta itame) stir fried/sauteed with pork, but I requested a twist with kimuchi (kimchi), pork, bean sprouts (moyashi) and pork, since I had something like this last year in Taipei at an Okinawan izakaya. The result was still pleasing. Definitely good beer food, and maybe this might be added to the menu.
Yu-raku Cha-Han - a very interesting take on fried rice that I've never had before. When it arrived, all I saw was a pile of goop. Supposedly it was snow crab ankake (basically looked like egg drop soup, thickened with cornstarch), smothered as a layer on top of a bowl of fried rice. Easily outsmokes the cha han / yakimeshi you get on the side at Ryowa Ramen (what a joke that rendition is). A dash of white pepper and this bowl tastes supreme.
Tantanmen - yes this place also offers a variety of ramen noodle bowls. This being a chuka ryoryi, it is practically a no brainer to offer them. However I didn't try the shio, shoyu, miso broths (and the other various kinds). Gomoku ramen looked interesting, but perhaps for another time. All I can say is that this is the best Japanese tantanmen I've had to date. The worst part is that portions are on the small side for almost everything. :-(. I don't know if this is a compliment or not, but a few years ago I tried a limited edition tantanmen instant noodle imported from Japan 7-Eleven, and it was sooooo good. I found that after coming back from Taipei at the San Mateo Nijiya, but now they no longer stock it. Yu-Raku's tantanmen (aka Japanese Chinese take on Sichuan dan dan noodles) tasted exactly like those instant noodles (in a good but I'm sure very strange way given my wording). The sesame broth was just right, minced pork so soft and puffy, like an excellent Taiwanese rou zhou that would also do well in Taiwanese lu rou fan (minced pork rice). The noodles...I hear are made in house, and while similar to instant noodles in texture, had just the right bite (yellow curly noodles). While this is a very different approach to Sichuan dan dan noodles (or the ones in Hong Kong for that matter), it is still very enjoyable. That broth was heavily addicting....in fact the whole package.
Chicken karaage - an interesting rendition, perhaps good if you are on a fried chicken fix. Underneath the crispy skin was a layer of I don't know what....almost like a melted marshmallow texture....fat? Goo? Who knows....squeezed the lemon wedge over it and it was all good.
They have Yebisu beer too. Never thought I'd say this...but Japanese Chinese food is great beer food.
It is so wonderful to have a specific niche of Japanese Chinese here. Hana in San Jose, I'm afraid doesn't quite measure up despite their best efforts, although the styles are slightly different. I'm curious if there are places that do chuka ryori in Southern California or New York for that matter (if the J-food CH experts are reading this).
Basically don't come here just for ramen. Try different things. And there is no sushi here for sure.
104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94401
re: K K
the menu offers a combo special special for lunch. one item from column A (rice plate, ramen, udon, etc.) and an item from column B (gyoza, chicken karaange, egg roll, japanese style, etc) -10.50
i tried the miso soup with chicken karaange. pleasantly surprised.
-broth very flavorful and unique
-ramen serving very generous. not just typical one tiny serving. ramen chewy, about right.
-chicken karaage best i've tasted.
*very tender, juicy, chicken skin left on, not fried black, just light brown. maybe frying with the skin on leaves the meat moist.
*3 large pieces, not a few nuggets.
*one order karaage (6.25), 3 piece good deal.
-yu-raku cha han (9.50 fried rice with snow crab sauce) not a fried rice fan so not a good judge.
-fresh with bits/chucks of chewy snow crab
good value here. ramen is excellent! patrons mostly japanese so food must be good.
Went back again tonight. The ebi chili/chirri (aka Japanese style Sichuan chili prawns as mentioned a gazillion times on Food Network's poorly dubbed Iron Chef original TV series whenever Chen Kenichi had scenes or appearances, his father was supposedly credited with introducing this dish to Japan) was amazingly soft and tender, mild spicy kick, with hints of sugar, vinegar, perhaps ketchup (or a sauce made to taste like one), and of course thickened with some cornstarch type agent. At $11.50 it is a decent portion for one person but definitely expensive, compared to paying a little bit more and getting a proper sit down Cantonese seafood entree (it is a different ballgame altogether). Absent of course are the presence of Sichuan peppercorns, but still a great dish to have on cold days like these. Definitely way tastier and smoothly executed than the cornstarched thickened type stir fry dishes at the not so great restaurants in Chinatown...
Wondering if anyone’s been here lately? My brother and I tried it on January 3, so about the same time as the earlier posts to thread when it was new. Here’s what we tried:
Tori Karaage, $6.50 - Deep-fried chicken, boneless thigh meat with skin on. Very light, crispy batter. Well seasoned, juicy, delicious, guess this proves I’m in the camp that prefers skin on dark meat for karaage. A great start to the meal.
Ebi Chili, $11.50 - Sauteed shrimp with garlic chili sauce. Our least favorite of the dishes, the sauce was a bit too sweet and thick with cornstarch in the balance washing out the other flavors.
Yu-Raku Cha Han, $9.50 - Egg fried rice with snow crab ankake sauce. Our favorite of the dishes, nice smokiness of wok hay, loose textured, non-greasy rice. For some reason the texture of the slurry of crab sauce wasn’t a problem. Great execution.
Gomoku Ramen, $12.50 - Soy sauce flavor broth with sauteed scallop, squid, shrimp, quail egg, green pea, and pork strips. And a dollop of brown gravy. Priced on the high side, yet packed with proteins. But, I found the flavors muddled and don’t think I’d order this style again here. Plus I’d ask for the noodles to be cooked hard, as these were decidedly mushy. This bowl rates #34 in the rankings.
Sesame Ice Cream and Red Bean-filled Eggroll, $3.50 - Not the greatest black sesame ice cream, rather light in color and flavor. Eggroll was fried well, very light crust and not greasy, but I wouldn't order this again.
Our server, actually I believe she’s the owner, brought us separate tableware and utensils to share each dish without our having to ask. The table got pretty crowded fast, but still that was a nice touch. More importantly, she was very gracious and welcoming, answering our many questions about the dishes.
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Santouka, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
3. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
4. Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
5. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View;
6. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
7. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
8. Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
9. Ramen Dojo, 805 South B St, San Mateo
10. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
11. Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
12. Alexander’s Steakhouse Lounge, 10330 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino
13. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo (post-move)
14. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
15. Ramen Tenma, 487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
16. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
17. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco
18. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
19. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
20. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
21. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale
22. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
23. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
24. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
25. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
26. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
27. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
28. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
29. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
30. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
31. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
32. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
33. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
34. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
35. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco
36. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
37. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
38. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
39. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
40. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
41. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
42. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
43. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
44. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
45. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
46. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
47. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
48. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
49. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
50. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
51. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
52. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
53. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
54. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (name change to Dan Izakaya)
55. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
56. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
57. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco
58. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
59. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
60. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
61. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
62. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
63. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
64. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
65. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
66. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
67. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
68. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
69. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas
70. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
71. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
72. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
73. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
74. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
75. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco
76. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
77. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
78. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
79. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
80. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
81. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
82. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94401
re: Melanie Wong
We go here quite a lot, love the chuka ryori taste. (as opposed to Usagi, the new-ish yoshoku place in San Mateo--which is also pretty good for that kind of food, made me a bit nostalgic for Chika, the yoshoku place that used to be in San Mateo).
I have to say I think Yu-Raku is really very good. The pan-fried gyoza have lots of flavor and are cooked properly (crisply bottoms)--I watched them being handmade. The kara-age is crispy, fatty thigh meat and came buried in scallions and a little nanban (vinegary) sauce--quite good and addicting, I keep thinking about it. The hiyahsi-chuka (cold noodles) I was prepared to hate since they make their own sort of "creative" sauce, heavy on the sesame flavor, but it was terrific. The best thing on that menu for me is their kanitami --an awesome soft omelette, smooth on top, creamy below, full of real crab, and glazed with a cornstarch/sugar/vinegar/soy sauce mixture that is a bit more vinegary than most, the entire omelette laid over a mound of rice to soak up the sauce. You eat it with a spoon. Stunning dish. There's a bunch of salads, they are good, esp the shredded chicken one with spicy sauce, just not destination dishes like the kanitama.
re: Tabetai yo
Good to see a post from you! And now you've got me thinking about that fried chicken (kara-age) again. Now that it's summer for real, maybe I have to go back for the hiyashi-chuka. Would love to see Japanese style Chinese noodles made by in the Chinese way (think I got that right!).
Could you please say more about Usagi? A friend who lives in San Mateo had mentioned it, but it will be a while before I get over there.
re: Tabetai yo
When you watched the Gyoza being made, did you notice if the wrappers were also freshly made by hand or not? Fresh, handmade wrappers are really essential for the ultimate Gyoza experience. Also, I believe the dish would be called "kanitama" rather than kanitami -- sounds great!
Typo.dude.I could get hung up on handmade vs not gyoza wrappers but I really couldn't care a whit. They were thin enough.
I only went to Usagi once-they are super nice and sincere, tiny bit overwhelmed maybe. We had kids specials with hamburg , chicken rice, ebi fry, some other stuff, done in a super kawaii presentation. Flavor wise it was ok, not fab but ok. Rice was weird and not good, with bits of tomato??? in it. We had the mentaiko spaghetti, really good but not with. Mayo, they used cream but it was good, katsu kare that was excellent with crispy katsu and fukushinzuke as well as rakkyo for pickles, and kani cream korokke, large portin (3 or 4) in a tomato sauce and they were great. We'll go back again + try omu rice. Cute place. Sincere chef-he came out and chatted.
re: Tabetai yo
Yeah Yu-raku isn't a place that many fans who are into popular pork bone soup ramen restaurants, would appreciate. It can get fairly quiet on weeknights, but lots of Japanese speakers and expats.
The general approach here is fairly calorific "soul food" but more so comfort food. It's definitely more expensive than the typical Chinese restaurants around San Mateo, but the food is good in a different way. There's a lot more ramen on the menu now, including asari butter shio, and champon (the only pork bone soup ramen here). I thought the Gomoku ramen was very true to form, in the fact that it basically combines ramen with a Japanese Chinese style seafood stir fry, and you get the best of both worlds. In comparing their Gomoku ramen with the ones on youtube (search in hiragana) it's at least comparable to some extent.
Usagi is actually very good, considering it's headed by executed chef Shoichi Shiono (who came up with the receipes at Kappo Nami Nami) and for what he has come up with menu-wise and execution, is quite noteworthy. The food is semi-upscale yet totally casual. They recently added wafu pasta to the lineup, but some items like the spaghetti clams needs more work. Curry-rice and omurice are very very good.
Given that downtown San Mateo's Japanese restaurants are more Chinese-fied these days (the most popular one is run by Mainland Chinese that specialize in silly name giant rolls, basically big portions at very good value), Yu-Raku and Usagi fill a wonderful niche in a generic landscape.
re: K K
re: Tabetai yo
I like Tani's Kitchen (Daly City) curry rice better than Usagi's in general, particularly the sauce, super piping hot and they give you a lot of it. It's even more evil when you get chicken karaage as the meat(vs chicken katsu)! Superb tamago-yaki as well.Apparently nanban chicken curry rice at Kitchen Kura in SF is no slouch either.
Usagi's curry rice sauce is more viscous, not as deep in flavor, and nowhere near as piping burning hot in temperature, but still decent for San Mateo. Agree that the omu rice at Usagi is great, particularly when Shoichi is cooking...he knows how to make the perfect delicate fluffy textured scrambled egg exterior. The chicken tomato fried rice (interior) is drier than versions I've had in Taipei but overall very pleasing.