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Jan 2, 2012 08:32 PM

Saiwaii Ramen- is there better ramen in SF?

I went to Saiwaii Ramen for the fourth time today and am really really liking this place. I get the tonkotsu ramen with spicy garlic and stewed pork add ons. I would say spicy garlic is a must and stewed pork +/- on your personal taste. Major pluses are: minimal lines, friendly owners, reasonable, and for us city dwellers don't have to drive 30mins-1hr to San Mateo and San Jose (ie Santa, Himawari, Santouka). After trying Katana-Ya, Tanpopo, Izakaya Sozai, Oyaji, Hapa, and Suzu and I've yet to find a ramen bowl in the city I prefer, though still need to try Ajisen and not sure if Namu is even worth it. Only interested in tonkotsu. Anybody actually tried Saiwaii and prefer another ramen place in the city?

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  1. Ajisen is a so so chain. And Namu is closed until their new spot opens. They aren't a ramen shop though.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      Windy: although not a ramen shop, I was under impression Namu had tonkotsu ramen that has discussed on these boards.. but maybe I'm wrong?

      Dezzer SF: thanks for the recs... will report back

      1. re: doubledeuce80

        When they were open, they made a few bowls of ramen a night, which is what got press. But regardless, Namu is closed for good on Balboa. No idea what the menu in the future restaurant will be like.

        1. re: Windy

          Namu is doing a ramen popup at Four Barrel this Friday. Details including prepay tickets on their website.

        2. re: doubledeuce80

          I tried the Namu ramen once and I wasn't wowed, I hate to say. The flavors were muddied if I recall. Also the noodles were a bit softer than I would have liked. At $15/bowl, I expected clean flavors, perfectly cooked noodles, at a minimum. Since you've tried so many places, are there any that offer an exceptional non-pork broth based ramen? Not sure what that is called, but the broth is clear, like dashi.

      2. Try Ramen Underground and Kirimachi. Please report back.

        5 Replies
        1. re: DezzerSF

          I found Sawaii better than Underground (but I haven't been back recently to Underground). I plan to try Kirimachi. Note; I'm not one of those tonkotsu folks that Ken likes to chide. ;-)

          While I like Sawaii, I still prefer the South Bay shops.

          A recent disappointment at Sawaii was the departure of the sushi che from Yo's.

          1. re: jman1

            Yoshi Fujuita is now at Grandeho's Kamekyo on Cole a few days a week. He was the opening sushi chef there 10+ years ago.

            Grandeho's Kamekyo
            943 Cole St, San Francisco, CA 94117

          2. re: DezzerSF

            The one to watch will be the new chef starting at Nombe although press is saying he'll be working with beef rather than pork.

            439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

            2491 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            Saiwaii Ramen
            2240 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Beef, interesting. Thanks Melanie, I'll have to check it out.

            2. I haven't tried Saiwaii so cannot speak to it but do love Katana-Ya. Have you tried Ganki Ramen's Ma Po Tofu Ramen? Very tasty indeed.

              1. You have got to try kirimachi on Broadway, worth every penny. Save yourself 30min-1hr driving to south bay and 45min waiting to get a table. It is probably the best ramen in SF.

                450 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                1 Reply
                1. re: rameNut

                  So tried Kirimachi and it's one of the best tonkotsu ramen I've had in SF. Strong points: noodles firm, chewy, with great texture, soft boiled egg included (ie no extra charge) with runny yolk and white cooked to perfection, and char-siu had a really nice flavor. The two gentleman running Kirimachi were also super friendly and we sat around talking ramen for about 30 mins after my bowl (I went at opening on a Monday and was only on there). Concerns: I thought the broth had a good flavor, but would echo what has been mentioned above that it is lighter, less fatty, and "healthier" tasting broth then I'm used to. I imagine most will view this as a positive, but for me ramen is a a sort of comfort food and I like the greasy/fattiness (ie if i want something healthy i look elsewhere). I found myself adding a little extra salt/seasoning to the broth which is unusual for me. Also, i am a huge stewed pork belly fan and Kirimachi does not have this option, which is another small minus. At the end of the day Sawaii tonkotsu with spicy garlic and stewed pork belly is my favorite bowl of ramen in sf, but Kirimachi is a close second. I think the regular tonkotsu (ie non-spicy) Saiwaii and Kirimachi are equivalent, with Kirimachi being lighter/healthier and Saiwaii fattier/saltier. I live in North Beach and will be frequenting Kirimachi often.... thanks for the rec chowhound!