Tatsuno-ya Ramen @Mitsuwa [San Jose]
Thanks for posting about this. I had a chance to try the tonkotsu ramen Sunday afternoon. The ramen chefs who came from Tatsunoya in Fukuoka had some fluency in English and could easily understand my questions. The stock takes 20 hours of simmering pork bones in just water. No other seasonings other than the perfect salt level, resulting in a simple but very luscious and richly porcine stock with a creamy texture and white-ish coloration of emulsified fat. Because of import restrictions, the pork is sourced domestically and the skinny Hakata-style noodles were made by Sun Noodles in Southern California.
I ordered the bowl with extra chashu, $12.90 + tax = $14.03. This smiling team assembled my ramen order.
Served in a disposable Styrofoam bowl, I wish that Mitsuwa would invest in some reusable tableware for the next guest ramen-ya.
The fatty chashu was sliced quite thin. Very soft and buttery in texture, the roast pork belly melted in the mouth.
The thin, straight noodles were cooked firm and had a nice bite initially. But they softened in the hot stock on sitting.
The toasty nori seemed to be seasoned, adding a bit more flavor contrast to the pork stock. Other garnishes were simple: blanched and plucked bean sprouts, circles of Tokyo negi (wider in diameter and sharper in flavor than scallions), and a dab of red spicy paste. The Japanese miso was blended with Korean gochujang to make the spice paste. This added some piquancy and fermented depth when stirred into the stock.
In essence, this is an American product created using Tatsunoya’s traditional technique and recipe. I can’t help but wonder what it would taste like made with Japanese sourced ingredients instead.
That said, it’s still a wonderful bowl of noodles if a bit skimpy for the price. The direct porkiness of the stock was almost a blank slate. Every other flavor in the bowl seemed amplified and more vibrant against this backdrop. The roasted character of the chashu, the negi, the nori, and even the sprouts came through truer and in greater contrast then when paired in a more complicated soup stock. That’s the part I’ll remember for a long time.
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. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
31. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
32. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
33. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
34. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
35. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 5120 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
36. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
37. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
38. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
39. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
40. Ippuku, 2130 Center St, Berkeley
41. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
42. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
43. Shimo Modern Steakhouse, 241 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg (closed)
44. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
45. Ramen Misoya, 3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
46. Chubby Noodle, 570 Green St, San Francisco
47. Ame Restaurant, 689 Mission St, San Francisco
48. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
49. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco (moved)
50. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
51. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
52. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
53. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
54. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
55. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
56. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
57. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
58. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
59. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
60. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
61. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
62. Saiwaii Ramen, 2240 Irving St, San Francisco
63. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
64. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
65. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
66. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
67. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
68. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
69. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
70. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
71. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
72. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco (closed, moved)
73. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
74. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
75. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
76. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
77. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
78. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
79. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
80. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
81. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
82. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
83. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
84. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
85. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas (closed)
86. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
87. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
88. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
89. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
90. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
91. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
92. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
93. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
94. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
95. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
96. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
97. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
98. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
re: Melanie Wong
Your point about the styrofoam bowl and photo of it is well-taken. The reality is that perfectly serviceable ceramic bowls are very, very cheap, and could easily be put in and used in all their ramen promotions. Seeing that great bowl of ramen served in styrofoam was sad, and having a proper bowl would have made a difference.
Doesn't even need to be ceramic. Re-usable, non-breakable plastic would be fine and less wasteful. I looked at photos of Tatsunoya's earlier appearances in New Jersey and Los Angeles, and looks like they had real bowls in both places.
The demonstration kitchen used by visiting ramen-ya doesn't have much space for washing dishes, but I bet they could figure something out.
Is Tatsunoya a force in Japan's ramen circles?
re: Melanie Wong
Well, plastic would be an improvement over styrofoam, but it is not really that much cheaper than the cheapest ceramic bowls. Could be that breakage is a problem, I don't know.
Tatsunoya is a name I have heard of, but it is not really on the ramen cutting edge, in Tokyo at least. But, anyway, the more "tonkotsu" ramen gets popular, the less people will confuse it with "tonkatsu".
re: Melanie Wong
This is an awesome list. Since Fogust is almost upon us, I'm going to start exploring offerings in the Excelsior. I'll go to some of the places on your list so I'll have fresh examples of excellence in my mind when begin my endeavor. While I know I won't find a world-class mecca in the E, all I want is ONE good stock.
Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit, larochelle has phoned home!
As you point out, it's ramen season year-round in San Francisco's foggy clime. There are lots of new spots opening up that I haven't tried yet though the track record in the City is not that great. But the best way is to taste and judge for yourself. You might start by going back to Roku (yeah, not in the Excelsior) and focusing on the ramen.
re: Melanie Wong
Will do, I really liked Roku. For some reason, I've been craving them on the night they're closed.
Tuesday was my 2 month anniversary of "retirement", I'm just now starting to get my sea-legs back. Plus we've got the new brunch kitchen trained and now we're working on improving the menu so I'm less depressed.
So now I have the time and inclination to go out in public - tonight we're going to Mama Ji's - dim sum & belgian beer within walking distance of my home! I hear they got a guy from Koi Palace, is that true?
This is a guest appearance through this coming Sunday. What I read about the visits in prior years in New Jersey and LA is that there were long lines. Granted, I was not there during prime meal hour, but there was no line at all and one of the ramen guys was out in front of the booth hustling folks to try it. At the same time Santouka had a steady stream of customers. I think Mitsuwa messed up with posters showing two sets of dates. The ramen started a week ago but that wasn't well promoted. Then the rest of the festival starts today.
You should definitely try it, if you're a tonkotsu fan. I brought my own tupperward so I could take the rest of the soup stock home with me. I knew that if I got extra chashu, I wouldn't be able to eat the whole thing. I had about a cup and a half of stock in a pint container. It set up in the fridge after a couple hours cooling to a jelled, near solid state with about a 1/4" layer of fat on top. I heated it up later to polish off in lieu of dinner, and I think I appreciated it more just sipping it by itself without noodles.
I believe this is the first time they've come to San Jose. I hope they get a good enough turn out to come back next year. They skipped LA this year.
re: Melanie Wong
Tried it twice this past weekend - excellent both times. The meat was perfectly tender - something so many places don't seem to have. I personally liked the noodles more after letting them soften up a bit in the soup.
One other cool thing Mitsuwa had this past weekend, which I think was unrelated to the fair, was Saba Wagyu. The price seemed pretty reasonable - $40 / lb for shabu cuts.
It's not well promoted. Last Saturday I already ordered my favorite ramen @ Santouka and ate it. While walking to the grocery aisle, I noticed this special event and darn, I wish they had posted that in the entrance. So I ordered another bowl to squeeze it in.. It's very good, I just wished they're using real bowl vs styrofoam version.
OK - what I am getting from these post is if I go over today - Thursday, July 25 - I should be able to get some Tatsunoya Ramen - I don't have to wait until the weekend and fight the crowds - coming from the North Bay. Although I am an "All American Boy" my family roots are from Fukuoka and my second cousins live in Kurume so I am excited to try the ramen.
I arrived today about 1 pm (had to stop at the San Jose Tofu
and Shuei-do for manju first) there were about 15 people in line but the line moved fast. My knowledge of Ramen is limited - I thought this ramen was really good! And piping hot - I wish it was a cold night instead of 80° weather - I was quite pleased as one could tell by the empty bowl. Very happy that I took the 75 minute drive to San Jose. Of course I left my camera in the truck and was too lazy to go out and get it - fearing that the line might be longer. When I finished, I did go into the market to pick up a few things and noticed that there were only 2 people in line - I must have hit the end of the Thursday lunch crowd.