Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, SF
From their FB page: We began soft opening our SF Geary location at 5120 Geary Blvd San Francisco TONIGHT (Fri 7/20/12)!
Fri 7/20/12- Thurs 7/26/12 Dinner ONLY 5:30pm-10:00pm
After 7/26/12: Hours Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:00pm 5:30pm-10:00pm Sat 12:00pm-10:00pm Sun 12:00pm-9:00pm
Men Oh Tukushima Ramen
5120 Geary Blvd, SF
My Union City report:
Last month I had a chance to try Men Oh Ramen in San Francisco, an outpost of a Japanese chain from Tokushima, for Sunday lunch. I’d been particularly interested in Men Oh from the start when I’d first heard about the branch in Union City, as one of my early ramen experiences was the Tokushima style ramen at the late Do-Henkotsu in San Jose. From deep in the taste memory banks I can recall thin, brittle-textured, firm yellow-ish noodles that the owner imported from his home region and a flavorful pork bone and shoyu stock that was less thick and gravy-like than its counterparts at Ryowa and Halu.
To start, an order of agedashi tofu, $4.50. Good job with delicate, lightly crisp coating on the rectangles of tofu and somewhat complex saucing.
Then, the Tokushima ramen, $8.95, with pork bone and soy-sauced based stock. As “slew” noted, the sloppy and unappetizing presentation looks nothing like the illustrations in the restaurant or the website.
The pasteurized egg’s served on the side for the diner to crack and add to the bowl at the table. Unfortunately, the soup stock is not served hot enough to turn the cold white fat on the roast pork translucent nor to coddle the raw egg, as shown here,
Even after stirring in the egg for greater contact with the soup, much of the white remained uncooked slime. Ick.
The chashu pork and chewy stir-fried pork belly toppings were tasty and served up generously. I’d ordered an extra topping of kakuni (stewed pork belly), served on the side, that turned out to be overly lean, coarse-textured, stringy, and dried out. I flagged down my waiter to point out the problems and questioned whether it was from the belly. He took it back to the kitchen to try to find a satisfactory piece. Then saying that it all looked like the same, he took it off the bill.
Moderately intense, medium-heavy and not that salty, the emulsified caramel-colored soup stock lacked focus. The highlight of this bowl turned out to be the “housemade” noodles. Thin and quite firm, the near brittle texture is the one element that would be comparable to Do-henkotsu. The trial that went into developing the noodle recipe are discussed on Men Oh’s website. Stepping to the back of the house, I asked the staff to point out the machine for making the housemade noodles, as nothing of that sort was visible in the open kitchen. The only answer was silence.
Men Oh Tokushima Ramen enters the ramen ranking at #33. The newer Los Angeles location has garnered some praise. I suspect that San Francisco/Northern California is getting second-rate cooking again.
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
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, Cuper
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. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
21. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco (closed)
22. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
23. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
24. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
25. Ken Ken Ramen, pop-up at The Corner, San Francisco (closed, moved)
26. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale (closed)
27. Sobo, 988 Franklin St, Oakland
28. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
29. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
30. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
31. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
32. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
33. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 5120 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
34. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
35. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
36. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
37. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
38. Ippuku, 2130 Center St, Berkeley
39. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
40. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
41. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
42. Ramen Misoya, 3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
43. Chubby Noodle, 570 Green St, San Francisco
44. Ame Restaurant, 689 Mission St, San Francisco
45. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
46. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco (moved)
47. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
48. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
49. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
50. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
51. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
52. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
53. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
54. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
55. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
56. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
57. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
58. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
59. Saiwaii Ramen, 2240 Irving St, San Francisco
60. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
61. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
62. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
63. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
64. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
65. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
66. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
67. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
68. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
69. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco (closed, moved)
70. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
71. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
72. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
73. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
74. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
75. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
76. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
77. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
78. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
79. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
80. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
81. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
82. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas (closed)
83. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
84. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
85. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
86. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
87. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
88. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
89. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
90. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
91. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
92. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
93. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
94. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
95. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
re: Melanie Wong
When I read here about Waraku's opening, I figured that management's attention must be on the new place.
It's doubly sad because the place is plastered with the San Francisco magazine February article proclaiming it one of the 21 best bowls of noodles in the Bay Area. Far, far from it.
When the bowl of Tokushima ramen was put on the table in front of me, I took one look at it and thought it must be a joke. Compare the photo I uploaded in my post above, and the photo on the website shown here.
Forgot to mention in my comparison of this bowl with my prior experience with Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen in San Jose, the stir-fried pork belly at Do-Henkotsu was more strongly seasoned and had some extra complexity from singing in the wok. Not here.
After reading earlier posts about inconsistencies here, I was doubtful.
Takoyaki as a starter was a pleasant surprise; this 'not typical' version has a hot 'n crispy exterior and a soft creamy center that delighted me. I would return just to enjoy it again; it is reminiscent of a bite-sized hush puppy without the cornmeal batter; or, not. Nevertheless, it's fried, it's hot, it's good. More tako/octopus would add to its perfection but since I'm not eating octopus, I enjoyed it for its hot-crispy 'n creamy bits.
The tonkotstu broth was steamy with porky richness-nicely seasoned; the egg had its soft runny yolk; the pork belly and the char siu were both melty and toothsome; and the ramen hit the right notes to satisfy my appetite.
I had the tonkotsu broth leftover for 'next-day'soup; adding cubes of a left-over baked potato with a can of clams, chopped green onion and a dash of togarashi.
Had dinner last night with four others... No wait for the table.
Three had the Tokushima style, while the others had tonkotsu... Unremarkable. At least they could've made the Tokushima style ones look like the bowl on their site... Plus we didn't get any bean sprouts as the picture(s) implied...
I'll stick to the peninsula and south bay ramen joints, unless this one improves dramatically.
Only impressive thing was the side of chashu don that a friend ordered... It was quite a large portion, and we wondered if they just didn't have the right bowl size... ;)
From their FB page: We are pleased to announce the Grand Opening of our SF Geary location on August 4th, 2012. To celebrate our grand opening, we will be having a 2 day 50% off Special on August 4th and 5th at the San Francisco location. Ramen noodles (Tokushima, Tonkotsu, Spicy Tonkotsu) will be half price! (Except side orders and drinks)
I hit the special today. Mostly a positive experience. I too don't really get the whole raw egg thing, and the soup wasn't served piping hot, so only some of the egg white cooked in the broth. Not concerned so much with the food safety angle but to my inexperienced palate this doesn't seem to add much taste or texture-wise. It may thicken the soup somewhat but I still prefer having a discrete egg in there. Thought the pork slices were very good though and the broth had a good flavor.
Returned for a 3rd visit this weekend, and had the medium spicy tonkotsu ramen again. Unfortunately, not nearly as good as on my last visit. Broth not very hot, and not as flavorful as last time. Also, they forgot the boiled egg and chili. Hopefully they will become more consistent in a couple months.
Second visit to Men Oh was much, much better. I had tonkotsu ramen, medium spicy, with extra green onions, and an order of the home-made gyozas. This time, the broth was steaming hot, not lukewarm like my first visit. Still liked the Ichiran-style straight noodles. Broth was flavorful and intricate. Gyozas were very good too. I think my first visit on their 2nd day in business, right at opening time was just bad timing on my part. So much improved this time around. Will now be on my regular SF ramen rotation along with Miki and Kirimachi. Picture below is of their medium-spicy tonkotsu ramen.
Tried it today. Had their signature Tokushima ramen, and added a seasoned boiled egg to see how they do it.
Not overly impressed unfortunately.
It's a nice looking ramen-ya, modern and cool decor. Friendly but very inexperienced staff.
The good: The noodles were good: thin, yellowish & straight - reminded me a lot of Ichiran's noodles. Soft-boiled seasoned egg was good as well. Butabara pork belly was very good.
The bad: really didn't care for the broth. First problem is that the broth was not hot enough. A bowl of ramen should come out of the kitchen with some hot steam, this was nowhere near hot enough to be steaming. Broth was gravy-like in both texture and taste, and even looked like gravy with its caramel color. Very heavy and a bit too salty. Could not really detect much pork bone flavor. Pretty one-dimensional flavor profile. The raw egg added to the gravy-like texture and heaviness without adding a whole lot of flavor. Could not finish it.
This was my first time having Tokushima style ramen, so I have nothing to compare this bowl to. Maybe it's just not my style, or maybe this shop is just not very good.
Will be back (maybe tomorrow) to try their tonkotsu ramen, and will report back.
Hmm, I've been to Men Oh 3 times since it opened and it's my go to right now in SF (which admittedly doesn't say a lot). I was there last month and ordered the Tokushima ramen again. My bowls have come out more composed than Melanie's and the broth has been hot enough to swirl in the raw egg. I've attached a pic of my most recent bowl.
Although I am new to eating eggs (used to hate them), I like the thickness and richness the egg lends to the broth. I prefer the Tokushima to the tonkotsu at Men Oh b/c of the more complex broth.
I have only been there at peak lunch or dinner rush when there's been a line and my first visit was during the grand opening.
My biggest complaint is with the inexperienced and confused service and the lag time with assembling the noodles in the back of the house. They have their mis en place in place but it's like molasses back there. It would be understandable if you were getting an artfully composed bowl, but...
The younger girl waitress is nice but horrible at serving. She frequently forgets tea, water, etc. and told us they were sold out of beer as we watched other tables order beer. We flagged somebody else down to get a beer later.
Definitely hit or miss with the service but I've liked my noodles there thus far, for what it's worth.
My service story is that I asked for change for the parking meter and offered up two dollar bills (enough to buy an hour). The server said he could only spare 50¢ and that he runs out of change as it is and has to get it from neighboring stores. He suggested I go to the corner store. Not a good customer service strategy on either front.
re: Melanie Wong
I agree. I feel like they need some basic training. Anybody with any common sense should notice that they run out of change, that customers need to feed meters, and solve the problem by increasing the amount of change they keep on hand.
I think Men Oh has potential but the service and inconsistency make it hard to put on the regular haunts list.