Kotetsu Ramen in Santa Clara
Last week was the grand opening for Kotetsu, located in a strip mall at 2089 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050.
Service was wonderful -- should be the standard in all restaurants!
I went on Saturday near the end of the lunch service. First impression was that many of the servers wore Shalala t-shirts. Second impression was of short menu - 3 ramen choices: tonkotsu-shoyu; tonkotsu-shio; and vegetable. Gyozas and other sides or appetizers.
Ordered tonkotsu-shio ramen and gyozas. Ramen broth tasted muddy and strong-flavored in a bad way. Noodles (ok spring and cut short), spinach, bamboo, nori square, and half an egg (cooked properly I think). I will never order that bowl again if I return.
Gyozas were light in flavor and the half of the skins ruptured on their plate.
First week? Different style for me? Cannot say. YMMV
Kotetsu has the same owner as Shalala in Mountain View. I had a chance to try it in February, dropping in at lunch time. The $9.95 lunch special was a ramen set combining Kotetsu shiro ramen with chashu salad over rice. Kotetsu seems to have adopted “kuro” meaning black for the tonkotsu+shoyu tare and “shiro” meaning white for the tonkotsu+shio tare as standard names for the variations on its pork bone soup base. Here’s what the set looked like:
Ignoring the out-of-season pale tomato, I quite liked the chashu salad. Chunks of roasted and leaner pork mixed with savory scallions, and diced tomato squiggled with Kewpie mayo made up the topping. Served over steamy hot rice, everything quickly hit a moderately warmer than room temperature point that softened the otherwise stiff pork.
The shiro stock was medium-heavy and glycerined in texture. While I did not detect any off flavors, I was expecting more complexity and depth from a hybrid stock. The stock seemed flat and rather simple, paling in comparison to Santouka’s pork-based shio stock. The medium-thick noodles, ordered “firm”, wound up gummy.
The single slab of rolled pork belly chashu was deliciously fatty and bursting with porcine richness if somewhat underseasoned as well. The egg was particularly good with a light soy sauce tint and near-runny yolk, matching Orenchi’s. Other toppings included julienne of wood ear fungus, stalky spinach, green onions, a sheet of nori, and white sesame seeds. Presentation is not a strong suit here.
The lunch special is a good deal. The ramen tastes good enough, and might be better yet on a day when the noodles are cooked properly. At this stage, it’s not up to Shalala’s standard. Kotetsu enters the ramen ranking at #30.
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Tsujita, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
3. Tatsunoya at Mitsuwa Kyushu and Okinawan festival, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
4. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
5. Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
6. Santouka, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
7. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
8. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
9. Gaku Japanese Charcoal Grill, 5152 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
10. Yonsei Ramen Shop @ Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland
11. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
12. Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
13. Ramen Dojo, 805 South B St, San Mateo
14. Shalala, 698 W Dana St, Mountain View
15. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
16. Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
17. Alexander’s Steakhouse Lounge, 10330 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino (closed)
18. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo
19. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
20. Ramen Tenma, 487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
21. Hapa Ramen, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco
22. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
23. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco (closed)
24. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
25. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
26. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
27. Ken Ken Ramen, pop-up at The Corner, San Francisco (closed, moved)
28. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale (closed)
29. Sobo, 988 Franklin St, Oakland
30. Kotetsu Ramen, 2089 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
31. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
32. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
33. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
34. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
35. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
36. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 5120 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
37. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
38. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
39. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
40. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
41. Ippuku, 2130 Center St, Berkeley
42. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
43. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
44. Shimo Modern Steakhouse, 241 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg (closed)
45. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
46. Ramen Misoya, 3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
47. Chubby Noodle, 570 Green St, San Francisco
48. Ame Restaurant, 689 Mission St, San Francisco
49. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
50. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco (moved)
51. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
52. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
53. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
54. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
55. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
56. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
57. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
58. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
59. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
60. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
61. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
62. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
63. Saiwaii Ramen, 2240 Irving St, San Francisco
64. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
65. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
66. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
67. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
68. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
69. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
70. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
71. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
72. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
73. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco (closed, moved)
74. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
75. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
76. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
77. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
78. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
79. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
80. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
81. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
82. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
83. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
84. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
85. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
86. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas (closed)
87. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
88. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
89. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
90. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
91. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
92. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
93. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
94. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
95. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
96. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
97. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
98. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
99. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
Tried the tonkotsu shiro and rather enjoyed it. The presentation has changed since Melanie's picture. The bowl now comes with two thin slices of chashu fanned across the side of the bowl. Very tender. My noodles, without any special request, were firm. The amount of noodles seems slightly less than the average bowl at other places. I felt a dashi like flavor being too prominent the first couple slurps of the broth, but couldn't really detect it after those initial tastes. The broth is not bad, really thick and clouded with fat (the menu also has a lighter option that I did not try), but it doesn't quite linger after tasting it.
Kotteri gut bomb. There is also a "Kotetsu Light" version on the menu which comes with thin noodles.
I started with some gyoza ($4 for 6). The gyoza are made in house and are pan-fried which I prefer over deep fried versions. These were meaty and flavorful with a straightforward filling of pork, chives, and spices in a nice thin wrapper. Some of the best gyoza I've had in awhile.
The Kotetsu Ramen (kuro/shoyu) came out quickly as I was eating my 2nd gyoza. It had a decent presentation highlighting the two chashu slices (draped over the edge of the bowl) along with some spinach, woodear mushrooms, seasoned egg, nori sheet, green onions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. I still don't get the nori sheet which is already sogging up during delivery.
As Kirk mentions, the broth is now pretty thick with plenty of bits of fat floating around to help you envision your arteries clogging with each slurp. For me, at least, it was too much of a good thing; I didn't finish the broth.
The noodles were good; thick and wavy with a nice chew to them. The thin slices of draped chashu were fatty and tender and were served cold; a dunking in the broth helped with that and probably made the soup a little fattier as well!
The egg was slightly overcooked with the yolk gelatinous and fully set vs. the runny goodness I crave. Still much better than Santouka's consistently chalky, over-boiled egg.